Working from home offers a lot of flexibility for employees. They can do laundry during breaks, make a hot lunch (even leftover fish!), and spend more time with their kids or pets. All the perks of remote work appeal to many people. However, the mix of in-office and remote employees can make staying on top of productivity challenging for managers of hybrid teams.
While many individuals report being more productive when working from home — no distracting chat, fewer interruptions — ensuring productivity in a hybrid environment is trickier. Here are a few ways to address this issue and come out on top while still offering flexibility to team members.
Give Your Team the Right Tools
One of the benefits of the digital world is being able to use tools that facilitate productivity. Since the dawn of the word processor, the tech industry has continually provided systems that increase the efficiency with which work gets done. Customer relationship management systems ensure marketing, sales, and billing can all see the up-to-date customer information they need to perform their roles. Spreadsheets speed accountants’ calculations, while payroll software lightens the load for human resources departments.
Cloud-based solutions kick all these capabilities up a notch, providing access to needed resources to any authorized individual with an internet connection. This is particularly critical for hybrid teams, whose members are working in the office and elsewhere. Cloud-based file-sharing systems maintain version control, allowing everyone to stay on the same page.
Speaking of which, there are arguably few tech aids that more directly boost a hybrid team’s productivity than a project management or product manager tool. Teams use these systems to assign project tasks, hand tasks from one team member to another, the store needed documents, and track overall project progress. Any member of the team can see at a glance what they’re responsible for, where various deliverables stand, and who’s next in line. These “same-page” features make such tools essential for the effective functioning of hybrid teams.
Set Measurable Goals
As important as it is to keep tabs on individual tasks, it’s even more important to set overall goals. Goal setting increases team productivity by letting team members know what they are working toward. The clear direction keeps individuals focused on doing the work that matters instead of getting sidetracked by minutiae. Team members manage their time better because they’re not squandering their workdays or completing nonessential tasks.
When team members are striving toward a clearly defined goal, they’re motivated to do the work needed to get there. Goals provide purpose and direction, and making them measurable enables employees to see distinct progress.
Avoid amorphous goals like “We need to increase sales.” Instead, aim to boost sales by 20% in Q1. Then identify the short-term goals that will help you achieve the larger one. You might decide to make X more sales calls per week, send X more proposals, or re-contact X cold leads. This mix of large and small goals allows team members to stretch themselves while seeing concrete progress that will encourage them to keep striving.
Get Communication Right
Most people don’t want to feel like they’re being micromanaged in their jobs. Getting daily check-in calls from their boss will feel intrusive and distrustful, and it sure won’t do their productivity any favors. Employees were hired for a reason and should be allowed to complete their assigned work how they see fit. While that level of responsibility and follow-through is great, it doesn’t mean communication goes out the door completely.
When your team works in a hybrid fashion, you can’t count on hallway conversations to keep everyone up to speed. That’s one reason you use a product management tool to facilitate collaboration and keep everyone informed of project progress. But that’s hardly the sum total of your team’s communication requirements. You have to both make them aware of larger company strategies and ensure they get quick answers to questions that pose roadblocks.
Since your team’s communication needs vary in granularity, employ a range of communication methods best suited to each message. Brainstorming ideas for your content calendar will probably be most productive if team members participate via a video call. But for routine updates, don’t waste your team’s time in a virtual or in-person meeting when an email will do. When a team member requires a swift answer to a question in order to move forward, encourage them to use your instant messaging platform. But if their message isn’t time-sensitive, an email is less likely to distract colleagues and will allow them to work with maximum productivity.
There’s a lot to like about a hybrid work environment. Flexibility helps people better balance life with work. Not having to commute to an office gives people valuable time to do what they love. And the autonomy to get the job done without office-related distractions makes it all worthwhile — and frequently more productive.
Of course, there are some drawbacks, like a potential drop in productivity when team coordination is involved. However, with strategic use of tools, clear expectations, and effective communication, it’s possible to mitigate any loss of productivity. Your employees will thank you for it, and your business will, too.