How to build a Hybrid Workforce - The Right Way
The hybrid workforce has been dubbed the future of work and in the past year, a growing number of companies have seen first-hand the rewards that come from combining remote and in-office workflows. Hybrid workforces not only report an increase in productivity, but lower overhead costs and better employee satisfaction.
There are many advantages for companies that are looking to make the shift to a hybrid work culture, but coordinating and organizing this large-scale change can be overwhelming. How do you ensure a successful transition to a hybrid model? What factors should you consider when building your team? And how can you keep your business’ productivity at an all-time high with employees working partially from home?
In this post we'll unpack:
- advantages of a hybrid workforce
- how to manage your team effectively
- best practices for collaboration with remote workers
- common security concerns for organizations employing a high percentage of remote staff members
- and much more!
Creating a Strong Hybrid Workforce
You want your team to work effectively both in-office and at home. The truth is, employees may thrive in one environment more than the other. That is the beauty of a hybrid workforce - you have both! Your employees have the freedom to move between the two environments according to business needs, work habits and schedules, making work more enjoyable and productive for everyone.
Having this flexibility is key to harnessing the strengths of your hybrid workforce. Over time, you might notice that in-office hours are used for more hands-on or collaborative projects, while employees are comfortable with completing day-to-day tasks from home. Every hybrid workforce will look different, but there are some easy steps you can take to ensure your team stays synchronized and productive no matter where they are.
5 Tips For Managing Your Partially Remote Team
1. Identify Technology Needs and Provide Training
Imperative to the success of your hybrid workforce is a centralized system for accessing your files, team communication, email and contacts. Evaluate your IT systems to see what changes or upgrades will make daily operations faster and more intuitive for remote workers, then train them to make sure they know how to get the most out of those tools. That way, you can improve workflows and optimize that seven- or eight-hour window of productivity for workers.
Furthermore, while your tech in the office is likely highly standardized, WFH setups vary greatly. Simply accessing work files, networks, and devices from home leaves many employees confused, often unknowingly leaving the company vulnerable by accessing improperly. With the unprecedented rate of cybercrime (400% increase since COVID began) cybersecurity needs to be at the top of your priorities list. Work with your IT provider to ensure every employee understands how to work from home securely and access what they need to do their jobs.
2. Schedule Down-time
Working from home can be convenient for some, but can also quickly lead to burnout if employees don’t know how to leave their desk at the end of the day. Encourage your employees to stick to a reasonable schedule that accounts for breaks and downtime so they can perform at their best every day and sustain productivity in the long run.
3. Give Everyone A Voice
Hybrid work environments offer less in-person opportunities for communication, which means you have to make a bigger effort to let your employees know you care and that they are heard. Make sure to regularly ask your employees how they are faring with the hybrid work setup and address any challenges they are experiencing. A good rule for partially remote teams is to hold one-on-one meetings more frequently, not only so you can keep track of goals but also to let employees know that the communication lines are open.
4. Understand How Your Employees Work Best
It's important that every member of your team feels in control of their own work and how it gets done. Take the time to get to know the needs of each employee, what obstacles are getting in the way of productivity and how you can support them. For example, if your employee is more productive in the morning than at night, have them set their schedule accordingly. Fortunately, there are some excellent apps and tools out there that can be easily integrated into your workflows to help you stay on top of your team’s individual scheduling preferences.
5. Standardize In-office Hours
One misconception is that hybrid workforces don’t have structure. Setting optional in-office hours for each team or department a few times per week can help employees sync up for in-person meetings or get the weekly social interaction they’ve been missing out on. This allows for plenty of flexibility but also gives workers access to tools and resources they might not have when working remotely.
A Culture of Collaboration
A hybrid workforce will be most successful when there's thoughtful planning and care put into how communication occurs between those both in the office space and outside its walls. Ensuring team members can communicate on projects is not only necessary to getting the job done, but also gives employees the opportunity to connect socially, share expertise and provide value to the team.
A strong hybrid workforce prioritizes collaboration and the use of collaboration tools in order to close the distance between employees working in different locations and minimize inefficiencies that slow daily operations. Do you already have a strong culture of collaboration in your workplace? Here are some easy ways you can build that same culture into a partially remote team.
3 Essential Tools for Promoting Collaboration In Your Hybrid Workforce
It’s the next best thing to an in-person meeting. As we know, a sense of human connection relies on body language, eye contact and reading facial expressions. So while Zoom fatigue may be real, encouraging your employees to turn on their camera for meetings is beneficial to teamwork and collaboration.
Video conferencing is also a useful platform for showing your team how they can take advantage of collaboration tools. Enabling screen share presentation on video calls allows you to demonstrate apps and programs that help remote staff complete tasks more efficiently, without looking like a micromanager.
Maintaining a strong company culture and hosting regular social gatherings is important for a hybrid workforce. Remember - the lunchroom and hallway chats don’t exist for partially remote teams. That’s why you need to go the extra mile to build-in social time for your workers.
To boost morale and make sure employees are connecting on topics other than work, plan a weekly social activity or informal catch up via video call. For ongoing team building, you can plan to have larger social gatherings that occur in-office on a less regular basis. For example, here at MyITpros, we’ve hosted virtual happy hours, jeopardy, and even a virtual escape room!
When it comes to communicating, you’ll want your partially remote workers to feel like they're still part of the organization and not just siloed behind a screen in another city or country. The best thing to do is use a chat tool that will allow you and your remote workers to communicate (and even socialize) at any time of day, regardless of zones or geographical restrictions.
You'll want something like Slack or Microsoft Teams which has a wide array of features - tools for collaboration, chat channels separated by project or topic, custom emoticons (awesome) and file sharing within groups with their own permission settings that allow them to access important work documents remotely.
Having the right messaging tools makes all the difference to your daily operations. Your partially remote team can quickly get the info they need, collaborate on projects and max out their productivity. Because who doesn’t want more efficiency?
How to Work Securely
Once your team feels supported with their hybrid work setup, you’ll want to make sure they know how to keep company files and devices secured while working remotely or travelling between home and office. Data security is an ongoing challenge for hybrid workforces, but with some training, up-to-date security practices and clear policies, you’ll be able to minimize the risk of a breach. Here are a few physical security tips that will help keep your data safe.
3 Tips for Better Security In Your Hybrid Workforce
IDs and clearance
For employees who plan to go into the office on certain days, they should have their ID verified and receive clearance before being able to access anything other than genera
l common areas like bathrooms or break rooms. This is simple and affordable for small businesses with one or two locations. While it’s nice to give workers the flexibility to go into the office any day they like, you can also up your security measures by setting specific days of the week when in-office meetings happen.
Remote work policies
Create clear policies around all the devices (laptops, mobile phones, tablets, etc.) used for work purposes. The policy should clearly describe limitations for each device in terms of how it is used, who has permission to use it and where it can go. Share the policies with both remote and onsite employees, and make sure they understand what is expected of them. If employees who are working remotely need special VPN privileges, make sure there is an extra authentication process in place for them.
Speaking of authentication, MFA is no longer an option in today’s volatile cybersecurity landscape. Employees in and out of the office must have multi-factor authentication enabled on all accounts in order to keep the company secure. A single threat entering the company network from a device in or out of the office can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and recovery costs, reputation loss, and long term client loss. It’s no wonder that 60% of businesses that are breached are out of business within 6 months.
The best way to protect company data when working remotely or in proximity, both online and offline, is by utilizing the latest encryption technology. When employees are doing their job from home it’s important they have access to all office applications - this includes Skype, Google Drive & Docs as well as email servers with high-grade SSL security.
Another option could be using VPN services which encrypt traffic over public networks like the internet. It's also worth mentioning some organizations choose not to use any protocols at all because it may reduce speed and efficiency due to a lack of security.
Short-hand Best Practices
- If an employee has access privileges only on one server type (e.g. Windows Server) the employee should not be able to log in directly on the other server type (e.g., Linux Server) without involving their manager.
- If your employees are working remotely, they'll need a VPN connection to get into the office's network from outside.
- Get rid of email attachments - instead send links that have been password-protected for access only by those with permission.
Other Ways To Keep Up Productivity Across Your Hybrid Team
The key to productivity is figuring out what motivates your employees and adapting accordingly. A study by Gallup reported that people who are intrinsically motivated in their work - meaning they enjoy it for the sake of itself - show higher levels of engagement than those with external motivations that stem from factors outside themselves like better pay or more time off.
So make sure you're paying attention to how your team members respond when given new tasks, which will allow you to adjust workloads as needed while still finding ways for them to thrive whether they’re working remotely or not.
Remember - remote workers need incentives just as much as their office counterparts, if not more! An integrated rewards platform that provides a variety of incentives is an excellent solution for incentivizing remote workers and keeping them on track.
On top of that, proper onboarding for new hires into your company culture can help motivate them from the start. This sets the tone by introducing key values and expectations while giving both sides time to adjust to the new environment.
How do you make sure people are staying productive? It’s important that remote and onsite workers collaborate as much as possible via chat, video calls or phone conferences so everyone feels like they're part of one team while still being given space to work independently when necessary.
Shorthand Best Practices
- Set up task rotation schedules based on the specific workload of your team and stagger the start times so no one's overloaded in any given time period.
- Schedule daily video call meetings with staff members to give them a sense of connection to what's going on back at headquarters.
- Encourage remote workers (as well as those working in-office) to take breaks from their computer screens by walking around for short periods throughout the day.
The hybrid workforce is an amalgamation of both remote and in-office employees. It offers the best of both worlds for balancing work, life and collaboration with a diverse group of people. Organizational leaders can leverage these benefits by taking some extra time to understand their team's needs and apply specific strategies that will take their team to the next level.
Keeping productivity and efficiency high is as simple as encouraging team members to stay connected, giving them the right tools to be able to collaborate on projects and work securely while they're not in the office. Leaders can achieve this by setting up daily meetings with staff members via video call so that everyone feels like an integral part of the company.
Working remotely doesn't mean being disconnected or less productive - it can actually be more effective than ever before. Have questions about how to effectively adopt a hybrid work policy in your company? Reach out with your questions here.