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All the gear and no-one here: How to improve collaboration in a hybrid team

By 19th April 2023October 4th, 2023No Comments
Illustration showing team collaboration in a co-working space, office space and from home.

Hybrid working is now widespread in the UK. This popular working model blends deep work and home comforts with energising office culture.

And with over half of employees considering going hybrid or remote in the year ahead, now’s time to make hybrid working work for your organisation.

In this guide, we’ll take you through some quick wins for collaborating in a hybrid environment and share our next steps to make hybrid working a success for your team.

The benefits and challenges of hybrid working

At its best, hybrid working can boost productivity, wellbeing, and employee retention. But these benefits don’t come automatically. When a team is dispersed across different locations and schedules, common challenges emerge. This includes issues with connection and communication.

For example, many leaders may overlook the need to understand and combat proximity bias, a subtle yet impactful barrier that can affect remote team members’ visibility and progression.

If left unresolved, hybrid working challenges can lead to missed opportunities, miscommunications and siloes. But by prioritising collaboration, you can mitigate these risks and strengthen your team.

Define successful collaboration: What does this mean for your hybrid team?

Collaboration encompasses communication, knowledge sharing, innovation, mentoring, and social interaction. It’s a broad term that means different things to different people.

A netball team working together to score a goal
A relay team passing the baton.

For some, collaboration is like a netball game. An energetic melee, where people dart across their parts of the court, chipping in wherever they see an opportunity to reach the goal. They thrive on real-time collaboration, open working, and impromptu discussion with different people.

For others, collaboration is a relay race. Everyone performs their individual task at the right time, with a seamless handover that moves a project towards the finish line.

This group may prefer to work asynchronously. They need plenty of deep focus time to apply their expertise and more structured avenues to bring their proposed solutions to the team.

It’s important that you discuss and define what great collaboration looks like for your team. Work with your people to identify what they want to see from hybrid working and set goals to achieve these outcomes.

Choose the right tools for hybrid working

Technology can make hybrid working a nightmare or a daydream. So choose your tools wisely. Your people need equal access to their documents, data, and communication systems from any location.

If your off-site employees can only access the systems they need through an unreliable VPN, they can’t produce their best work.

Rolling out a cloud system such as Microsoft 365 can solve these problems. It enables your people to securely access everything they need from anywhere. Microsoft 365 is a cloud-first platform designed to help teams connect and collaborate. With apps that work seamlessly together, everyone can stay in the flow of work.

Make the most of new hybrid meeting technology

Let’s face it. Hybrid meetings can often be the worst of both worlds. While the team in the office squeeze around a single screen and mute themselves to avoid creating an echo chamber, your remote colleagues can’t always hear everyone clearly or see what’s happening in the room.

It’s not a situation that lends itself to equal participation or effective ways of working. But what can you do if your team is hybrid? The fast pace of the modern workplace makes it difficult to hold off meeting until everyone can be in the same room. But luckily hybrid meeting technology has evolved to meet these challenges.

There’s a whole host of new camera, display and sound solutions to create hybrid meeting rooms. These tools can bridge the gap between remote and office-based colleagues to boost collaboration in a hybrid team.

Microsoft Teams has some exciting features to enable everyone to take part on an equal footing. Including inclusive video layouts, active speaker tracking, collaborative whiteboarding, and intelligent content capture.

This tool uses AI to share and enhance objects in the physical world for a remote audience. With this, your remote colleagues can see books, posters, and flipcharts with the same clarity as people in the room.

Collaborate intentionally and get value from your time in the office

According to new data from the Work Trend Index, as many as 73% of employees say they need a better reason to go into the office than company expectations.

The good news is that the same data shows 84% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socialising with co-workers and rebuilding team bonds.

Be honest. How often has your team coordinated schedules and braved the commute to be together in the office, only to sit at desks and dial into separate meetings?

It’s tempting for leaders to see co-location as the missing ingredient for collaboration, with ideas flowing across your open plan office. But there’s a difference between working nearby and working together.

73% employees say they need a better reason to go into the office than company expectations.
38% of hybrid workers say the greatest challenge is knowing when and why to come into the office.
84% employees would be motivated by the promise of socialising and rebuilding team bonds.

38% of hybrid workers say that the greatest challenge of hybrid is knowing when and why to come into the office. But only 28% of companies have created team agreements to define this. Why not use your next team day for some meaningful collaboration, and give your people time to prepare, share and innovate around this?

In a hybrid environment, it’s up to you to create opportunities for the team to build relationships, share ideas and collaborate intentionally to solve problems.

Engineer serendipity: Create powerful team connections from anywhere

Coming together for in-person collaboration is great advantage of hybrid working. But how can you sustain company culture from behind a laptop screen the rest of the time?

With hybrid working, interaction with others is mainly intentional. Scheduled meetings leave little room for serendipitous moments that strengthen relationships and spark ideas. In an office environment, you’re more likely to come across people from different teams. You can strike up conversations by chance and foster wider networks.

This can be more difficult in a hybrid team, where people out of sight can more quickly slip out of mind.

Fortunately, solutions are at hand to bring a little serendipity to our digital lives and establish your company culture online.

Apps such as CoffeePals and fikaTime can help you spark connection across your organisation. While employee experience tools such as Viva Engage can create a shared virtual space for your people to build communities and find belonging at work.

Next steps for improved hybrid working experiences

Successful collaboration in a hybrid team doesn’t happen by accident. By making small changes to your approach, you can work with your people to define success, communicate meaningfully. You can also make the most of new tools and technologies to enhance your experience of hybrid working.

To find out more about how you can set your hybrid team up for successful collaboration, get in touch.

At Inform, we can help you explore and unlock the possibilities of hybrid working technology. Ask about our Microsoft workshops or bespoke training, communication and technology adoption services.

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