Are managers ready to handle hybrid teams?

Dealing with split teams is a tricky game to master

Are managers ready to handle hybrid teams?

Around this time last year, four in five leaders believed that they’d let employees work remotely at least some of the time even after everything blew over. Most leaders were confident they can sustain productivity in a hybrid workforce. The study found that a mere 13% of bosses voiced their concerns about employee productivity. Three in five (61%) of leaders said they had implemented more frequent manager-employee check-ins to manage performance. However, about a third of leaders (29%) said they didn’t take any measures to track productivity.

Whichever group they were part of, there were no major issues with maintaining output while working remotely. Leaders were more concerned about other issues, reported Gartner. These included:

  • Maintaining corporate culture (30%)
  • Creating a fair work environment between remote and office-based staff (13%)
  • Providing seamless employee experience (13%)

Read more: How to lead remotely when you’ve never done it before

What managers feel about remote work

Beyond those concerns, leading a hybrid or fully remote team will likely boil down to personal preference. Hefen Wong, director, development & organisation transformation at Government Technology Agency of Singapore shared in a discussion that they’d recently ran a pilot run to guide leaders on managing hybrid versus virtual teams. They found how the apparent diversity of leadership styles impacted remote working.

Some people really enjoy the presence of being in a room with their teams, Wong said. And that experience changes when you move to a virtual setting. “Maybe people aren’t responding to you by turning on their video or participating in the chat,” she said. “Or managing your own anxieties around like timelines or employees not being as responsive as they used to be. Versus people who I guess really enjoy flexible lifestyles and also provide the same type of autonomy or flexibility to their teams. I think we're really seeing the diversity of leadership now and the impact of it.”

Read more: Are you a ‘bad manager’? Here’s some warning signs

How to sustain engagement in a hybrid workplace

What’s more, Pi Ken Wong, chief HR and communications officer at Allianz Asia Pacific found that the impact also hits different in a prolonged pandemic. At the start when we didn’t know fully understand what was going on, employees were especially engaged and teams were leaning into each other to stay connected in hopes of figuring out the situation.

“Employees who normally didn’t engage with you wanted to engage with you because they expected the company to have more information,” she told HRD. “They expected the company and HR to basically tell them what to do and we actually had a higher level of people adhering to what you want them to do – compared to normal.”

Things became more complicated as time wore on and we found ourselves cooped up for longer than expected. “Then the pandemic became a little bit prolonged and you’re supposed to stay home longer than you started,” she said. “That’s when we have to really think about how to sustain that energy.”

The spike in productive levels from the early days of the pandemic may easily wear off – and this impacts managers too as many look forward to the day they can head back into a physical workplace. “We do have a lot of managers who were a bit like, ‘oh, just wait until the pandemic ends. I’m not really into the virtual thing. I’ll just wait until I can see people’,” she said. “So they’re doing the very minimum at that point. But then at some point you realise you can’t do that anymore and it really has to be a hybrid approach.”

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