Real Leaders

The Future of Work: The Best Practices for Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams

Are you worried that hybrid, especially full-time remote employees, will undermine junior employee on-the-job learning, integration into company culture, and intra and inter-team collaboration? This issue recurrently came up with organizations that I guided in developing strategies for returning to the office and establishing permanent future work arrangements.

On the one hand, these leaders acknowledged that the future of work is mainly hybrid, with some staff working remotely full-time. After all, surveys illustrate that 60-70% of employees permanently want a hybrid post-pandemic schedule while 25-35% want a fully remote schedule. And 40-55% would be willing to quit if not given their preferred amount of work from home. 

On the other hand, these leaders showed concerns about on-the-job learning, cultural integration, and intra and inter-team collaboration. To address these concerns, I helped them adopt the best practices for leading hybrid and remote teams in the future of work, in this case, virtual coworking.

Why Do Leaders Fail to Adapt to the Future of Work?

Leaders often fail to adopt best practices because of cognitive biases’ dangerous judgment errors. These mental blindspots result in poor strategic and financial decisions when evaluating options. Moreover, they render leaders unable to resist following their gut and their personal preferences instead of relying on best practices. 

One of these judgment errors is called functional fixedness. When we have a particular perception of appropriate practices and processes, we tend to disregard other more suitable alternatives.

That’s why leaders failed to address strategically the problems arising with the abrupt transition to telework. Instead, they adapted their existing ways of interacting in “office culture” to remote work.

Another cognitive bias, which is related to functional fixedness, is called the not-invented-here syndrome. It’s a leader’s antipathy towards adopting practices not invented within their organization, no matter how useful.

Defeating these cognitive biases requires the use of research-based best practices. It means a mainly hybrid model of 1-2 days in-office with most employees working remotely as needed and a minority working full-time remotely – those who are well-disciplined, organized, and proactive. This setup provides optimization of innovation and collaboration, retention of top talent, and flexible company culture.

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Remote Training Through virtual coworking

To facilitate remote training for on-the-job learning through virtual settings and promote effective team collaboration, employ virtual coworking. That involves all members of a team spending an hour or two per day coworking digitally with their teammates when they are not in the office.

That doesn’t mean working together on a collaborative task: each person works on their tasks but can ask questions if they have them. After all, much on-the-job training comes from coworkers answering questions and showing less experienced staff what to do on individual tasks.

First, all should get on a videoconference call. Then, all share what they plan to work on during this period. Next, all turn microphones off but leave speakers on with video optional, and then work on their tasks. That way, no sounds will be coming through unless a team member deliberately turns on their microphone to ask a question or make a comment.

This experience replicates the benefit of a shared cubicle space, where you work alongside your team members but on your own work. As less experienced team members have questions, they can ask them and get them quickly answered. Most of the time, the answer will be sufficient. Sometimes, a more experienced team member will do screen-sharing to demonstrate how to do a task. Another option is to use a virtual whiteboard to illustrate the task graphically.

Junior team members don’t get all the benefits. For example, more experienced team members might need an answer to a question from another team member’s area of expertise. Occasionally, issues that would benefit from a brief discussion and clarification might come up. Often, team members save up their more complex or confusing tasks during a coworking session for just such assistance.

Furthermore, sometimes team members will just share about themselves and chat about how things are going in work and life. That’s the benefit of shared cubicle space, and virtual coworking replicates that experience.

However, note that this call is not meant to be a work meeting, and you should not intend to have any lengthy conversations during it. Instead, do a separate call with a teammate if you need a longer chat. In addition, if you have specific teammates with whom you’re collaborating more intensely, you should do a coworking session with them daily in addition to broader coworking with the team as a whole.

Such virtual coworking does not cause the drain of a typical Zoom meeting. On the contrary, team members typically find it energizing and bonding. It helps junior team members get on-the-job learning and integrates them into the team while assisting all team members in addressing questions while feeling more connected to fellow team members.

Conclusion

Leaders worry about new employees hired during the pandemic failing to integrate into the company culture, not getting on-the-job learning, and lacking effective intra and inter-team collaboration. To address these issues, remote training through virtual coworking offers excellent best practices for leading hybrid and remote teams in the future of work.

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