Creating Structure for Hybrid Teams

Successful leaders in the modern world must be capable of adapting to new and shifting environments. If you’ve led teams and organizations, you know this statement to be true.  

Just a few years ago, the U.S. workforce overwhelmingly reported on-site each day – with less than 5% of all working days being from home or a remote location1.  At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this swung drastically in the opposite direction – with 61.5% of organizations engaging in full-time remote work2 . The average workplace is now a blend of the two – with 82% of employers adopting a “hybrid” work model of both in-person and remote work expectations3.   

But a hybrid work environment can be a double-edged sword for leaders. On one hand, it offers considerable flexibility to your employees – leading to benefits such as improved work-life balance and engagement. However, hybrid work can lead to significant organizational challenges if implemented poorly – such as decreased team productivity and output.  For hybrid teams to thrive, leaders must create structure. 

If you are a hybrid leader – or seek to be one in the future – consider these best practices to help your team thrive.

Determine a hybrid work model that best fits your team.  

First, there is no “one-size-fits-all" approach to hybrid work. Some common hybrid work models include4: 

  • Fixed Days Hybrid Model – Employees have designated days for remote work and designated days for in-person work. 

  • Core Hours Hybrid Model – Employees can choose their work location, but are required to be available in-person during specific hours 

  • Team Rotation Hybrid Model – Teams alternate between remote work and in-person work on specific days or weeks 

As a team or organizational leader, you must determine and implement a model that best fits the unique context in which you operate (industry, job function, geographic location, etc.) – no two teams will be alike.  Consult with your organizational leaders and team members to determine a method that makes the most sense. But to maximize employee engagement, consider the following: Studies show that a structure of 2-3 days per week in-office is optimal for most teams5. 

Establish clear communication expectations. 

A hybrid work model can create significant communication challenges for leaders. Approximately 50% of workers report their productivity being negatively impacted by ineffective team communication6. Poor communication also impacts levels of trust in both the leader and team members. Therefore, it is critical to set clear expectations and create a balance between synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (self-paced) communication. 

For leaders, assigning communication channels can be a simple and direct method to set expectations and promote individual and team accountability. With my team at the Leadership Initiative, this looks like the following: 

  • Planned project meetings, weekly huddles and brainstorming sessions held in-person (preferred) or via Microsoft Teams video call 

  • Department announcements, project reports and proposals, and other high-importance items via email  

  • Impromptu conversations, questions and meetings held in-person and via Microsoft Teams  

  • File sharing and collaboration via Microsoft Teams and OneDrive 

Maximize your time in-office.

With years of experience in both in-person and virtual meetings, we can now definitively say that in-person should be the preferred method for eligible teams and organizations. Studies show that in-person meetings provide many benefits, including6: 

  • Increased productivity 

  • Better collaboration 

  • Higher engagement 

  • Stronger employee relationships 

Leaders using a hybrid work model can use this to their advantage by structuring their team’s work accordingly. At the Leadership Initiative, we utilize a fixed hybrid work model where our entire team of six is in-office together on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We intentionally schedule project meetings during these days for the reasons mentioned above, optimizing remote work days for individual tasks and focus-time. 

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.