Best practice for running a team of remote and office-based workers
“The next generation of the modern workplace is a seamless blend of physical and remote working, focusing on productivity and employee wellbeing.”
One of the most prominent changes to arise from the ashes of the global pandemic is the hybrid workforce.
However, with changes come challenges. For leaders and managers, navigating the needs of a hybrid team is unprecedented territory. In the year ahead, it will also be a top priority.
Planning new flexible working hours guidelines, supporting the retrofitting of home offices, equipping teams with fit-for-purpose technology and implementing new policies to accommodate remote, mobile and office-based teams are all tasks you may be facing in the months to come.
Taking a strategic step back and looking at the bigger picture of managing such a scenario, here are five tips for successfully managing a hybrid team in a digitally transformed world.
1. Technology, technology, technology
Technology is not just your businesses’ lifeblood; it is the beating heart keeping everything moving. As elementary as it sounds, thoroughly scoping, planning and acquiring the technology your people need is a critical starting point. Both for mobilising your hybrid team and leading it successfully.
Meetings made painless
The biggest change in the professional landscape is the way your people meet and collaborate. With less possibility for fast face-to-face catch-ups, the number of meetings we conduct online has surged.
Therefore, the software you choose must meet a wide range of needs. It must accommodate both brief check-ins and longer collaborative sessions. It must work across multiple devices. Ideally, it may accommodate file-sharing, the creation of groups, enable access control and comply with high security standards. No small task, but one that will be top of your list.
If we do it, there’s a device for it. This doesn’t just apply to corporate property. Hybrid workforces set the scene for your people bringing their own devices (BYOD) to access work emails, messages and documents. Implementing a clear policy on devices, security and usage will be priority this year and beyond.
Within the Microsoft 365 platform, there are a whole host of applications that can help you with this. One of the most useful examples for managers is the Intune toolset. Whether it’s device management or application management, you can use Microsoft Intune to successfully manage and maintain any device within your corporate device roster.
You can also ensure that applications effectively partition corporate and personal data on users’ personal devices. By doing this, you can avoid friction points with end users, while still protecting your corporate data with non-intrusive and secure device policies.
For optimal user experience, ensuring the technology you’ve rolled out can be accessed across a wide range of devices and browsers is also not to be underestimated. Small shortcuts such as QR code popups for downloading mobile apps are practical details that people will appreciate.
Fit-for-purpose enterprise apps
Challenges come with adopting multiple apps and software to introduce across your business. This is especially true for larger-scale organisations.
Managing licences and multiple suppliers, integrating old and new systems, keeping software updated and thoroughly training your people are just some of the necessities of implementing new programmes across a hybrid team.
Opting for a suite of mobile-friendly, cross-device, cross-browser enterprise apps and consolidating suppliers where possible can make rollout, implementation and daily usage as smooth as possible for a workforce on the move.
2. Too much security is never enough
At Content+Cloud, we know that after people, data is your most valuable asset. Accommodating a hybrid workforce inevitably adds a host of security considerations for any business. The good news is that those already adhering to cyber security best practice may require only minimal changes to keep this new breed of workforce – and your business – as safe as possible.
Balancing high security with ease
BYOD culture, a more mobile workforce transporting devices containing sensitive information and the need to communicate across multiple private networks are just some of the new circumstances influencing your approach to cyber security. While keeping defences high is vital, so too is easy access to documents, apps and devices.
Optimal measures for achieving this include multi-factor authentication, single sign-on (SSO) to programmes such as Azure Active Directory SSO and, where possible, single sign-on to other software as a service applications.
New landscape, new threats
New measures demand refreshed awareness. So, offering updated training on the cyber threats related to remote usage is part of the territory of hybrid working.
Arranging skills and awareness refreshment sessions in 2021 will help your business remain as safe and efficient as possible, while getting the most from your cyber security investment.
You may want to consider Cyber Essentials, which at its most basic level is completely free and government-backed. By undertaking this certification, your users will be given training that will help your business protect against phishing attacks, hacking and wider external cyber threats.
3. Level up your communication
The problem with communicating is that most people believe they do it well. It’s only when something goes wrong that discrepancies are exposed. On the plus side, this identifies where improvements can be made to ensure you and your teams are on the same page when it comes to briefs, deadlines, roadblocks and other essential activities.
Distance demands clarity and flexibility
Managing a hybrid workforce leaves little margin for error when it comes to clear communication. More than ever, your people will need a clear view of the tasks you assign, their order of priority and how often to update on progress and challenges.
Selecting the right communications technology – from emails to scheduling and instant chat -is one of the most pivotal decisions you’ll make for your hybrid team. But we all like to communicate in different ways, so offering variety can be a plus.
The basis of any effective enterprise communications suite should comprise of the following:
- Instant messaging and file sharing
- Video conferencing
- Enterprise social networking
- Scheduling software
- Project management tools
Consistency is key
People thrive on routine and assurance and hybrid teams are no different. Whether they’re at home, on the move or in the office, your employees appreciate structure and consistency when it comes to communications.
It demonstrates a diligent approach to task management and shows your team that you’re aware of their tasks, challenges and are available to assist when needed. Don’t shy from setting up regular structured sessions, from weekly work-in-progress updates to more lengthy monthly check-ins.
Use automation where it’s viable. This could be for meeting invites and setting agenda points. Or even chatbots to speed processes and provide easier access to information when you’re away. In a nutshell, don’t underestimate the power of well-structured and consistent communication. It will be an important tool for keeping your hybrid team engaged, motivated and connected.
There’s no place like intranet
For a hybrid team, intranets could play their most vital part yet in promoting connectivity, communication and inclusion. In this respect, they act as a virtual meeting point and even your teams’ professional home.
Personalising the space that greets them upon switch-on offers convenience and presents the tools they need quickly and concisely. More importantly, it can offer confirmation that your people are not purely employees but are valued members of your businesses’ community.
There are a whole host of effective intranet options for today’s businesses to select from. In a digitally transformed world, a user-friendly and personalised intranet could go some way to plug the gap left by the physical office environment.
4. Lead by example on work-life balance
The dangers of overworking are not lost on any of us. Through the years, scientific research has highlighted connections between overworking and an increased risk of heart attack and sleep deprivation. In turn, the latter has been associated with obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
From a personal perspective, losing control of work-life balance can place significant strain on relationships and take attention from leisure time, hobbies, friends and family.
Recognise and sidestep the pitfalls
It’s easy to see how greater flexibility, whether in terms of schedule or location, can exacerbate the problem of overworking.
Becoming engrossed in a task after hours is easier with no commute dividing work from leisure. Lockdown has only added to the problem, obliterating all things extra-curricular, from social commitments to gym sessions. Identifying these catalysts and addressing them early is key to helping your people avoid overworking.
Enlist technology to help. Tools such as Microsoft Workplace Analytics identify how many times users have worked out-of-hours. It also shows how much time they allocate to single tasks and what percentage of their time is spent collaborating. These metrics can be used to identify and cut out bad habits, boost productivity and make it easier to step back and prioritise important tasks.
Another feature that can help is Microsoft’s newly rolled out Cortana integrations within Outlook. Working in tandem with Microsoft Workplace Analytics, Cortana provides intelligent insight into your working patterns.
It will make suggestions on the best opportunities for focus time and breaks and can create task lists designed to optimise time management. It also allows you to book out time in your diary to help prioritise your workload, tasks and most importantly, time to step away from the desk.
Actions as well as words
Clear policies, leaders who effectively manage workloads and infusing company culture with a positive attitude to work-life balance are ideal ways to tackle the problem of overworking.
Doing something as simple as introducing overworking as a topic of discussion in regular one-to-ones can make a difference to its visibility and management.
Another way to demote overworking is to introduce practices that avoid infringing on people’s private lives. These could include requesting delays on the sending of out-of-hours emails, refraining from instant messaging when ‘do not disturb’ signs are on and sanctioning turning off emails during focus time.
It could even be as simple as setting your default meeting times to 45 mins rather than a full hour across your organisation. Microsoft has also rolled out notifications during Teams meetings to give five-minute warnings before they end.
It may not seem like a lot, but a little does a long way when it comes to work-life balance in the world of hybrid working.
Take overworking from badge of honour to negative habit
In the workplace of yesterday, it may have been considered negative for managers to leave the office on time.
Thankfully, in the more enlightened present, one of the most meaningful contributions someone in a senior role can make to promoting work-life balance is to lead by example.
People turn to their managers for guidance and structure. Not only this, they observe and take an interest in how others achieve success. Sometimes the smallest of gestures can have the greatest impact. If your teams see you effectively prioritising, knowing when a task can wait and logging off on time, they’re likely to follow suit.
5. Skills need upgrades too
Like technology, your people’s skills need upgrading regularly to meet the demands of a changing world, ever-evolving technology and cyber crime tactics.
Working in isolation across multiple locations can dull the importance of development. Don’t let it. Make it your priority to keep your people learning, evolving and growing.
Lunch and learn through collaborative apps
Look at any team and you’ll see an incredible range of skills and experiences. As a manager, you can leverage the communication technology your business has invested in to encourage the sharing of these skills.
Schedule regular lunch and learns or short educational sessions. Create environments for members to showcase their skills, or even tips for everyday technology hacks, for example. However you approach keeping your people trained and engaged, you can be sure your teams and wider business will expect learning and evolving to be on your agenda this year.
Take advantage of online training
Something that is often overlooked by managers is the treasure trove of free online tutorials and training sessions that often come with enterprise technology.
For example, Microsoft has an entire space allocated to Microsoft 365 training that users can access any time, anywhere. This includes tutorials, templates, tips, cheat sheets and infographics.
Bite-sized materials like this help people use your business apps faster, better and more confidently. Encouraging your people to allocate time to independent learning could be a great fit with the flexible nature of a hybrid team.
Join the discussion on hybrid team management
On Wednesday 10th March, we gathered a team of subject matter experts, people leaders and change management specialists to host Digital Revolution: Adopting Hybrid in the Modern Workplace – now available on demand.
Via a series of bite-sized sessions, they’ll cover a variety of contemporary business challenges and solutions, including:
- Managed Desktop – your gateway to the cloud anywhere, anyhow, anytime.
- Effective comms and collaboration with Microsoft Teams.
- Using Office 365 to transform the employee experience.
- Ask the expert with interactive Q&A sessions.
You’ll leave with actionable insights and enjoy on-demand access to other resources, created by our senior team, including Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals.