If we learned nothing else from the past two years, it’s clear the ability to adapt to changing work environments is critical to success.

It’s no longer just enough to understand management techniques when employees have carved out home offices and built new routines for working remotely.

For many, this adjustment started rapidly with little more than an online home connection and a laptop. Now, companies must proactively employ strategies to support a remote working environment for hybrid or fully virtual teams. How can you modify processes, communication, and expectations to maintain or even boost productivity without sacrificing employee engagement, retention, or company culture?

Start with these five tips to move your team from merely surviving to thriving!

1. Set standards and expectations.

Collaborate with your team on determining standards and expectations. According to The Gartner Group[1], working with your team to determine their own work/life harmony, as long as outcomes are met, can boost engagement and quality results. Consider less formal dress when appropriate, flexible work hours, and overlapping time zones if team members are collaborating. By collectively agreeing on standards and focusing less on traditional business mores, teams are able to work around distractions in a more focused and productive way. It’s a perfect time to rethink what’s important. Don’t cling to old conventions that may no longer serve you and your team.

2. Establish physical space and promote collaborative tools.

Put yourself in your team’s shoes. What do you need to do your best work? Are you giving them quiet, uninterrupted work time? What does regular team communication look like? For the team members in the office, do they have dedicated or shared workspace? How about a place to make calls or video conference with the rest of the group? Assigning a minimum number of days in the office is not helpful if the office itself hinders the team’s ability to collaborate.

3. Plan effective communication.

By now, your teams are likely familiar with video conferencing tools like Zoom or Webex, but make sure they also have tools for informal individual and group discussion like Microsoft Teams or Slack. These platforms often have built-in extensions that allow for team collaboration and group efforts. Other tools such as Microsoft SharePoint, Google Docs, and Mural can help your employees thrive. These locations can store agendas, status updates, presentation materials, Kanban boards, and other tools to keep your team and their work on track.

Beware of Zoom fatigue. Many teams find it beneficial to schedule consistent stand-up meetings early in the week to identify any team needs or project impediments. This gets everyone on the same page, keeps team members informed, and helps to set the tone and expectations for the week. These regular check-ins connect and inform without eating into productive work time.

4. Build trust and empowerment.

Set the example by modeling the behavior you expect. Provide support for your team – checking in on them rather than checking up on them. The Harvard Business Review published an article discussing the struggles leaders faced managing teleworkers across industries. Many of their concerns were rooted in anxiety over maintaining team motivation over time, self-confidence about managing remote teams, and experiences from their own managers who exhibited concerns over team productivity away from the office. This anxiety spills over to employees, spurring feelings that their boss doesn’t think they can do their job effectively, they are expected to be constantly available, and other stressors that could impair productivity and emotional wellness.[2] Focus on results. Prioritize empathetic communication and listening. Keep your team well-informed about matters that affect them.

Empower your employees with opportunities for learning and purpose. Providing training opportunities, even while remote, will help engage team members. Consider leadership mentoring programs, employee resource groups, and informal get-togethers to enable connection and collaboration toward organizational goals.[3]

5. Promote team wellness.

Enable connection and collaboration. Emotional and social growth opportunities are as much a part of team member empowerment as professional development. Proactive offerings such as meditation, sleep, and fitness programs can equip all employees with tools for holistic well-being. If you don’t limit focus to just managing anxiety and depression, you make mental health a priority for all, empowering them to create, contribute, and collaborate in a sustainable way.[4]

Survey employees about what stresses them out at work so the team can work to reduce that stress, rather than just managing it.[5]  Reminders to stand and stretch periodically isn’t the only part of your team’s health. By fostering mental and behavioral health, leaders improve team productivity, collaboration, retention, job satisfaction, and reduce sick days.[6] Does your team know where to go for support? Enable them to be their own best advocate! Encourage them to invest in their well-being and the team as a whole will benefit from greater attention, better attitudes, and fewer absences. You might not see them as often, so be attuned to changes that might signal burnout or depression or – a common indicator of anxiety – anger.

A successful hybrid team includes well-equipped, prepared individuals who are given the right environment and tools to successfully manage their work and share knowledge. And that starts with leadership and managers setting the tone!

Interested in learning more about solutions for common virtual and hybrid team challenges? Edwards Performance Solutions offers a two-hour workshop targeted for managers, executive leadership, or anyone leading a team. Form a foundation of techniques and best practices for leading virtual and hybrid teams to success! Click here to learn more.

[1] www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/making-hybrid-work-more-permanent-set-some-ground-rules
[2] https://hbr.org/2020/07/remote-managers-are-having-trust-issues
[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/onemind/2021/07/13/bringing-a-positive-lens-to-workplace-mental-health/?sh=1cd2a0b079f9
[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/onemind/2021/07/13/bringing-a-positive-lens-to-workplace-mental-health/?sh=1cd2a0b079f9
[5] https://www.limeade.com/resources/blog/addressing-mental-health-in-the-office/


Carolyn Eichhorn is a writer and project manager with experience in a wide range of industries from higher education to theme parks. This former Imagineer infuses creativity and a sense of fun into her personal and professional projects seeking to spark inspiration with her work.