Are blended teams the new post-Covid-19 ‘normal’?

Written by Nicola

18th June 2020

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced an overnight change in the way we work. Despite initial fears, we have discovered a new way of working which could be a blueprint for the long term. Companies around the globe are finding out that some of these changes are here to stay. As we return to a new post-COVID-19 ‘normal’, what will our workforce look like? It is likely to be a blended team with employees working in a variety of different ways.  

​Remote teams and flexible working 

  • ​Fully remote – all working from home or individual co-working spaces.
  • Blended remote – some team members who work in a co-located office and some who work remote.
  • ​​Blend of onsite and remote workers – mainly office based with some working from home.
  • ​Satellite remote – those working in offices together but across multiple sites and possibly time zones.

Leadership challenges

Each of these scenarios presents challenges for leaders. How do we motivate people we don’t often see? How do we stay productive, efficient and effective when our people are spread out at multiple locations? How do we keep our teams engaged and inspired? How do we ensure the wellbeing of employees when they are working remotely? How can we be everywhere we are needed?   

​​Building a culture of trust

Where once you could raise your eyes and see a sea of busy people getting work done, how do we now know that everyone in our team is ‘pulling their weight’, delivering what we need and managing their workload? After all, one of the concerns Senior Executives often had when it came to flexible or remote work is whether work would get done at all!  

Jason Fried, Basecamp CEO says: “The only way to look at the work, is to look at the work. The work should speak for itself and it should be viewable and visible from anywhere.” 

Companies that demonstrate a culture of trust and change to output-focused performance management and measuring performance based on outcomes rather than attendance will see the greatest success. However, this success will depend on the approach to reskill managers to ensure high performance is achieved when managing a blended team. By considering what support and adjustments are necessary to manage a blended workforce, employers can reap the many benefits that flexible working brings. 

​​Working out loud – collaboration technology for the win

​​Working out loud – the habit of making your work activity open to colleagues by default – isn’t a new concept, but todays technology makes it easier to truly collaborate, share work in progress and co-create. It doesn’t matter if your organisation uses Microsoft Teams, Webex Teams, Workplace or even something more bespoke. What matters is you have somewhere where people can use the power of chat, meetings and content sharing so that the team, department or entire organisation feels up to speed, included, empowered and able to contribute. You don’t need to see faces to see a steady stream of effective team collaboration work.  

​​Breaking those silos

​​It can be all too easy for home workers or those in outpost offices to feel isolated or excluded as we naturally gravitate to those we share physical space with.  If you have a blended workforce, then it is good practice to make sure everyone works in a consistent way whether they share an office or not. If there is a quick meeting or stand up? – use a video call. Have a quick question or need help? – ask in a shared space rather than relying on your desk buddy. You are far more likely to get results faster as this gives everyone an opportunity to work together and truly play to the strengths of the team.  

At a glance

​​Presence (the indicator that someone is online/busy etc) is an incredibly useful aspect – being able to see when someone is available for a quick IM conversation, online chat or when someone shouldn’t be disturbed helps build the right kind of respectful team etiquette. Although managers need to be conscious that using presence to scrutinise how people spend their time does not build trust! (Unless you are in an industry where its critical people are online and ready) Trying to manage time this way loses you more time than you could ever gain. Instead head back to the concept of working out loud, if we are seeing great quality work does actual minutes logged matter? 

​​Moving away from email for internal conversations is another necessary change. Think of all the time wasted in your inbox answering things that could easily have been a chat message. Lead from the front, take that time back and spend it where it really matters – inspiring your team.  

​​Tapping into the potential

​​Working this way goes a long way towards easing some of the other concerns with blended workforces too. When you start to see how your collaboration technology can enhance the way you interact with your people.  When your culture and working practices are based on open working, regular team and one to one video calls when you find the ways to work together even when you are not together. That is when you will find a greater level of engagement and motivation. Technology is the enabler of this new post-Covid-19 workplace. Upskilling a workforce, having the right technology in place and using it effectively will help companies work through this process. Workplace agility will deliver greater flexibility and work-life balance for all. Greater flexibility is here to stay so make sure your company is ready!   

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