In my prior posts, you may get the impression I don’t see hybrid remote as a viable path. You would be partially correct. As I stated in a past blog post, many people now see hybrid remote as THE solution to moving back into offices after the pandemic. They forget that “hybrid remote” put many of us in difficult situations.
Some of those difficult situations included:
- Those working remotely feeling isolated from those in the main office
- Those working remotely feeling left out of chance conversations in the main office
- Those working remotely having to work at strange hours from those in the main office
- Not everyone aware of what others are working on whether they are in the office or remote.
You might think of other difficult situations from your experience with remote work.
You might also notice some patterns to the difficult situations above.
First, a lack of opportunity to access others, to access information and to connection put remote workers at a disadvantage in these situations. Even if you bring the most brilliant and collaborative remote workers into such environments, frustration emerges. You don’t get their best. They may not even stay. You need to be inclusively remote.
Second, “remote” appears relative to those in the office or in a main office.
I use the term “main office” because some hybrid teams might have small clusters of people working together in several locations. I even use the term “cluster team” to refer to these types of teams in blog posts and the book I co-wrote.
If none of the remote people work together, they seem like satellites that orbit the office. We forget they exist until they stop working, but then it could be too late. These “satellite teams” need to maintain communications.
And some people just need to be in the office. They thrive in that environment. Others do not and their expertise and skills can be used anywhere.
So I know hybrid-remote work will be needed.
Over the years, I collected many tactics to counteract the difficult situations with hybrid-remote work:
- Backchannels in text so everyone can stay in touch whether remote or in office
- Online tool sets that allow everyone to keep track of how everyone else brings value
- Buddy Systems to make sure everyone remote had a buddy in the office to conn
- Co-pilots to help coordinate the collaborations of cluster teams
- Remote team working agreements like “if one remote, all are remote” and “everyone with equal access to all”
Yet, these tactics sometimes fail unless a key principle is recognized by a majority of the team members and supporting leadership:
For a better hybrid-remote work experience, everyone seeks to maximize co-creation and minimize isolation.
If everyone seeks to share the responsibility of co-creating the work and the work environment, the hybrid-remote team continues to move the work forward and to allow everyone to do their best work regardless of where and when they are. Those in the office deeply value the contributions of their other colleagues. You observe different cadences to different types of work within the successful hybrid-remote team but the cadences remain similar whether team members are in the office or not. Also, if a team member needs to step away due to illness, family need, or other personal need, successful hybrid-remote teams have already built resilience to step in for that team member and keep moving forward.
These have been my observations of successful hybrid-remote teams. You can read more of my observations on what works at https://www.markkilby.com/tag/hybrid-remote/. And don't just take my word for it. Take a look at the “What is a Head of Remote?” section from this post from Gitlab.
What are your thoughts and experiences?