Flexible working models are becoming more popular in Canadian businesses. Discover the best practices for hybrid workplaces and the people who lead them.

hybrid workplace best practices for leading hybrid teams

Although not as common as it was during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid work has become widespread in Canada’s small to midsize enterprises (SMEs). Statistics Canada reports that 1.7 million Canadians (9% of the population) worked under a hybrid arrangement as of October 2022.

The good news is that hybrid working seems to be a success, with higher productivity, greater job satisfaction, and better work-life balance. But for many organizations, hybrid is still a new concept, and many managers are still learning how best to manage their hybrid teams.

In this article, we explore tips for leading hybrid teams, cover some hybrid workplace best practices, and ask how to engage hybrid teams holistically when they may not be in the same place at the same time.

What is a hybrid workplace?

According to Gartner:

“Hybrid work describes a work model where employees are expected to attend the office at least one day per week while being permitted to work from a location other than the office some of the time.”

A hybrid workplace, therefore, is one that supports employees to work productively from home as well as in the office. Hybrid employers also recognize that employees in different locations will need to interact and collaborate, and will try to make that as seamless as possible through good management, the right workplace culture, and targeted technology investments.

Hybrid work is often associated with knowledge workers who primarily use a computer to do their job and who are mainly based at a desk. Non-office based workers, on the other hand, are less likely to be able to work from home. This may be because they need to operate specialist equipment on-site, travel to meet customers, or interact with the public. Industries where this is common include food service, construction, retail, transportation, security, and healthcare, for example. However, these workplaces may still have hybrid employees working in managerial, clerical, or administrative roles.

Tips for leading hybrid teams

Research by Gartner shows that good hybrid teams are more agile and equitable than on-site teams, and that they are more comfortable taking risks and working asynchronously. Consider these tips to help your hybrid teams thrive.

1. Show what good looks like

Many SMEs are still finding their feet in a hybrid world. Some employees might not be comfortable with splitting their time, preferring to work entirely remotely or in the office. Others may have issues with the balance between home and office that the company requires.

It is important to listen to people’s concerns about hybrid working and show them how the model can work. Be open about the way you manage your time and how you stay productive, and remember that your workload and theirs may be very different. Be prepared to discuss the tools you use and the environments you work in and how this can affect your work. Not everyone will have a quiet, private room to work from at home, while some may find an open office distracting. 

Good leaders lead by example, so don’t just tell people how to be great hybrid workers, show them how it’s done.

Top tip: Managers should keep communication channels open for conversations about work. Tools such as employee communication software or employee surveys can be useful, but don’t forget the importance of in-person chats for those who need it.

2. Make wellbeing a KPI

Workplace wellbeing has become more of a focus for employers since the pandemic began. 75% of employees said that mental health a moderate to high priority for their company.

In the same study, hybrid workers were the second most likely to report poor mental health. 24% said it was bad or very bad— a slightly lower figure than for employees who are always on site, but higher than employees who work from home or who travel between sites for work.

Managers should be aware of how hybrid working can affect mental health. For example, employees might feel pressured to work beyond their scheduled hours by logging on from home to check emails for example, which can lead to burnout. 

Employees in Canada said that the most useful mental-health resource an employer can provide is a flexible schedule. In our 2022 Mental Health in the Workplace study, this ranked higher than paid time off for mental health and access to a mental health professional.

Top tip: Good managers should allow employees the autonomy to fit work into their own lives while still delivering on the company’s goals. Employee scheduling and monitoring software can help companies retain control and oversight of a remote workforce if they decide to transition to a hybrid model with more flexible working patterns.

3. Align your team around purposes

It is easy for teams to feel unsettled right now. The lingering effect of the pandemic combined with economic instability and disruption caused by global conflicts can make it hard for individuals —nevermind entire organizations— to remain focused on what they do and why they do it.

Hybrid teams may feel this disruption to a greater extent. Some never meet in person at all, and employees can struggle to contextualize their day-to-day work within the bigger picture of what the company is doing. 

Solving this starts with the company outlining its purpose and vision, then setting out how teams contribute toward that goal. Managers can then articulate this among teams and work with individuals to see how their skills and experience fit in. This gives people a reason to show up each day, whether at home or in the office, and can help unite a team behind a common purpose; it can also help attract new employees during recruitment.

Top tip:Employee engagement software helps managers encourage feedback from employees to learn more about company culture. At the same time, it can help boost morale and engagement across an organization by fostering dialogue and recognizing achievements.

4. Be true to your own leadership style

Authenticity is an important part of good management. You can’t fake being a cool boss if you’re not cool, and you can’t pretend to be an authoritarian if you’re not a naturally commanding person.

Leadership styles can come across differently in-person than online, so when you’re managing a hybrid team, remember that your people’s experience of your management efforts may not match your expectations.

Take some time to reflect on how you come across in different scenarios and seek honest feedback from your peers, even if it’s critical. If you’re a better manager in person, for example, you might want to lean into that and schedule your catch-ups for the days when you’re in the office. 

Top tip: Trust is vital in any workplace, and an open dialogue between management and employees goes a long way to create a trusting work environment. You can ask employees about what management styles motivate them, but only if they trust that you’ll actively respond to that feedback.

5. Choose your tech wisely (but don’t let it replace good management)

Today’s hybrid work is only possible because of technology. Employees can stay in touch using cloud communication tools and work together with project management and collaboration software.

Sometimes tools gain traction as soon as they are rolled out. Other times, a team just doesn’t click with a certain piece of software, doesn’t use it, and the company’s investment is wasted.

It can be tempting to buy your way out of management problems with technology, but any rollout should have the support of the teams that will be using it. When considering solutions, seek input from the people whose working lives it will affect and listen to what they have to say.

Top tip: 85% of Canadian SMEs put together a formal buying team for software purchases, usually involving IT professionals. SMEs also take their time during this process: most (80%) research the market for more than 3 months before purchasing. Discover more software buying trends among Canadian SMEs in this article.

5 ways to manage your hybrid teams more effectively

  1. Show what good looks like

Be a shining example of an effective hybrid employee, but recognise that others may not find it as easy and listen to their concerns.

2. Make wellbeing a KPI

Know how hybrid working can positively and negatively affect mental health. Work with your team to ensure they’re healthy, happy, and productive.

3. Align around purposes

Ensure that every team member understands how their efforts help towards company goals, wherever they are working.

4. Be true to your own leadership style

Hybrid working requires different management techniques, but make sure that your personality shines through. Teams know when their bosses are trying to be something they’re not.

5. Choose technology wisely

Hybrid teams can know all about ‘app fatigue’, so make sure any tools you deploy have buy-in from the people that are going to use them.

5 best practices for hybrid workplace
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