By GAELLE BLAKE, Director of Permanent Appointments and Construction and Property

Hybrid teams… Hybrid working… Hybrid workplaces… Are these all terms you’ve been hearing more and more recently, but feel unsure about what they truly mean?

The pandemic has forced us into a revolutionary new working world

As early as May this year, Gallup reported that the number of people working from home due to COVID-19 had increased by 46 per cent. Even those of us who had never previously worked anywhere else but our offices were forced – by government restrictions and growing concerns around the virus – to be quickly set up with the relevant technology to enable us to continue with our work from home, despite being in lockdown.

But more recently, in some countries, we’ve been seeing workers starting to return to the office – whether that be once a month, once a week, or even more frequently where it is safe to, and where there is a desire to.

This way of working is called ‘hybrid working’– and refers to the practice of working partly in the office, and partly remotely or from home. The same goes for the terms ‘hybrid working model’ or ‘hybrid teams’; these mean that a workforce are split between those who predominantly work remotely, those that predominantly work in the office, and those that split their time between both.

Many employers will be offering more flexible, hybrid working arrangements

At the start of the pandemic, we may have assumed that continuous remote working was nothing more than temporary, and that we would soon return to our ‘normal’ lives; for most of us, that meant working in the office every day of the working week. But for many, that level of ‘normality’ may not be returning. One of the reasons for this is that employers have seen just how successful remote working can be – with one California-based company noting a 47 per cent increase in employee productivity since they began working from home, as reported by Forbes.

In addition, many professionals’ priorities may have shifted significantly as a result of the crisis; perhaps valuing the flexibility and balance remote or home working brings them, as opposed to office-working. As a result, working in the office full time just may not be preferable for some anymore, with many seeking more permanent flexible or hybrid working arrangements going forward.

And as my colleague Nick Deligiannis, our Australia and New Zealand Managing Director, recently discussed, given the success we’ve seen over the last few months, “it seems inevitable that many organisations will adopt more flexible working policies, allowing at least an element of home working to continue.” Having said that, Nick also discussed how the virus and the changes it has brought to our working lives has made many professionals aware of the fact that remote work just doesn’t suit them, with many keen to spend at least some of their week working in the office.

So, as we begin to form a ‘new normal’, many are realising that we can’t and won’t simply switch back into life as we knew it before. Widespread home working certainly wasn’t the norm before the pandemic – it was forced upon us in a way none of us could have anticipated. But actually, in the new era of work, working from home – or working from anywhere, for that matter – is going to become much more common and embedded into our professional lives. The hybrid working model is therefore something that many organisations will be adopting, providing their employees with the option of where they will be based, given their circumstances and their preferences.

Six tips for working in a hybrid team

Whether you’re based remotely or in the office, there are six things you should do to ensure you are working successfully as part of a hybrid team as we enter this new era of work:

1. Communicate your work schedule to your team and manager – with colleagues based in different physical locations, it’s important that everyone you work with knows and understands when you will be available. By defining clear working hours, you will avoid missed communications and being contacted at unsuitable times.

2. Ensure you are clear on your team’s schedules too – in the same way that you don’t want to be called five minutes before you run out the door to catch your train home, or 10 minutes into putting your toddler down for a nap, neither do your colleagues. In order to build positive working relationships, everyone must be understanding and respectful of their team’s time.

3. Be mindful not to encourage a ‘them and us’ culture – if you work predominantly in the office, it may seem quick and easy to more strongly connect with your fellow office workers, and see the remote workers as a different ‘part’ of your team. But it’s imperative that you do not segregate between the teams nor associate yourself with any members more closely merely due to location, as this will only create a divide in the team, and therefore encourage a ‘them and us’ culture.

4. Discuss how colleagues like to communicate best – bear in mind that each of your colleagues may like to work in different ways. For example, some may not enjoy on-the-spot phone calls, preferring time to process questions or requests when they come through via email or instant message. Alternatively, some people would much rather a direct conversation via phone or video call. Taking some time to discuss with your team how they like to communicate will ensure you’re building trusting, respectful relationships – whether you’ve met your colleagues in person or not.

5. Ensure you attend face-to-face meets where possible – it’s important to build your relationships with co-workers even more so by meeting them physically in-person, as well as regularly communicating with them virtually. Whether there is a social event or a work meeting, try your best to attend these occasions when you can, as it will go a long way to furthering your relationships.

6. Be present in team video meetings – it’s vital that you are not working on other tasks while your teammates are presenting or talking during team meetings. After all, you wouldn’t turn your attention elsewhere if you were in a face-to-face meeting, would you? So, don’t let things slide during video meetings.

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