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What Your Hybrid Employees Want You to Know

At Insight Experience, we have used a hybrid working model since our inception. We have had 20 years of experience in building a cohesive and productive team of employees — those who drive into our home office and those with a spot on the map that is far from it. As vaccination rates continue to rise in the U.S. and around the world, many companies have started the process of preparing for a hybrid work environment. For some companies, this is a new and even somewhat daunting state of affairs. 

In order to shine some light on the experience of remote employees and provide guidance for other leaders looking to build hybrid teams, we asked our telecommuting employees for honest feedback about their experiences.

 

What do you think enables you to work remotely when your colleagues are working together in the office?

  • “I think the social aspect of [the company] helps. It’s great to work with a group of people who are so communicative and invested in helping me feel less remote — even when, geographically-speaking, I am.”

  • “The nature of my work is pretty autonomous, so that lends itself to working remotely. I’m fairly introverted, so I don’t necessarily feel like I’m missing out on the social aspects of being in the office. At times, I know it would be so much easier if I were there and, instead of working from assumptions that may be slightly off base, could clarify: ‘Is this what you mean?’ I strive for precision in my language in order to eliminate confusion. And instead of relying on email exchanges or comments in documents, I make a habit of saying, ‘If this isn’t right, call me."

  • “A number of things come to mind here, including:

    • Familiarity with the content and context of the work. It helps to have enough experience to know what is important and what is not. It allows for better alignment of priorities and helps me know when it is necessary to ‘triage’ the work.

    • A comfort level and understanding of individual co-workers’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to know when to push and when to step back and trust that their work will get done.

    • Active communication, using multiple tools. This includes Zoom calls, email, Pivotal Tracker, Slack, text, conventional phone calls, etc. It’s important to recognize that my colleagues have different preferences around how they communicate.

    • Consistently communicating the things you are working on that may not be part of a particular project. This helps to better ‘paint the picture’ of everyone’s workload/capacity at any given time during a project’s timeline.

Lessons learned: Clear communication protocols, coupled with opportunities to bond as a team, are critical to success.

 

Is there anything that frustrates you about being remote?

  • “I do not have the ability to simply spin my chair around and see if a co-worker has time for a quick question. Slack works well, but I miss aspects of the quick face-to-face interactions.”

  • It can feel a little lonesome when you’re dialed in to a call and don’t get the jokes. Sometimes it’s as simple as not having the right technology for great conference calls, and other times it’s because you missed the story that was told before the call started. Either way, it’s important to avoid taking it personally, and you can always remind the folks in the office that you’re on the other end.”

  • There are the inevitable points of miscommunication or the misreading of a situation that can cause frustration. These often arise from when some people have a different view of what is happening on a particular project, and they forget — or decide not to share — a viewpoint or piece of information until it is too late. This can lead to the duplication of work, mistakes in how time and effort are allocated, etc.”

Lessons learned: Being virtual when a team of co-workers are in the same room can lead to genuine frustration. Consistent and frequent communication and clear strategic alignment, particularly as projects are launched, are vital — for employees working together in the office and those working remotely.

 

What advice would you give to remote employees working on a hybrid team?

  • “If co-workers are waiting on you to finish a task on a project, let them know when you are done, no matter how many automated systems or pieces of tracking software are in place. Notification right from the source is tremendously helpful.”

  • I’ve been working remotely since 2000, and I’ve seen so much change during that time. New technology makes it easier to feel connected, but you must make an effort for that to happen. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone to create those connections.”

  • You can never overcommunicate. Even though you may think the other people on your team know something, they may not (and vice-versa). Taking a quick moment to communicate, which technology makes so easy, often pays big dividends down the line in either saving time or making the project go much faster or smoother. Five to ten minutes now may, in the end, save hours — or days! It doesn’t take a high-priced Harvard MBA to know that is a good ROI.”

Lessons learned: Teams should lean into technology and create processes and mechanisms to allow for the efficient flow of communication.

 

At Insight Experience, our hybrid working model has allowed great flexibility and work-life balance for our team — and continues to do so. We strive to improve communication channels and create informal opportunities to bond with virtual team members. Simple things, such as picking up the phone instead of sending a message via Slack, can make a meaningful difference.

But what can make the biggest difference is asking your team these same questions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in how to structure hybrid teams. Continually re-evaluating processes and seeking input form the team can go a long way.

We here at Insight Experience wish you the best of luck as you prepare for a hybrid work environment.


Krista Campbell  is a Senior Associate Consultant  and Julie Danielson, coauthor, is an Associate with Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadershipbusiness acumen, and strategy execution.