I have big feelings on how to run a hybrid team effectively. These feelings stem from my own experience being the only fully remote employee at a company for a 4-month stretch of time. While I could get my job done effectively and contribute to company goals, it was clear I was missing out on so much that makes work more than a culmination of deliverables.
Your remote employees probably aren’t going to tell you this, but - at least for me - it felt terrible being left out of just about everything that wasn’t an official meeting.
The company was so focused on the in-person experience, they weren't thinking about my needs at all. My mind often went to a dark place wondering if I wasn’t valuable enough to them. Like, perhaps if they saw me as being more essential, they'd put in the effort to include me. I missed out on team dinners, retreats, office lunches - you name it. Needless to say, by the end of that stretch of remote working my morale was pretty low.
Here's the way I see it: as soon as you have one employee who is remote, you are a hybrid company.
That is to say that you need to think about how to include this person in every aspect of company life. To me, it’s a diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging issue (DIEB). It’s also an accessibility issue - enabling all employees to have equal access to being full participants in the organization.
There’s been a significant amount of research that shows that there’s a direct link between employee engagement and company performance. As in: the more engaged your team is, the more likely you are to achieve your business goals. If you don’t have a strategy for engaging your team members - especially your remote employees - you’re impeding your own success.
It’s important that you are proactive and have a plan about being a hybrid company. It certainly doesn’t feel great to have remote access be a last-minute thought - like when you have to write your team on Slack a few minutes before the meeting to ask “Anyone have a Zoom link for this meeting?”
You may want to consider creating an Active Learning Group to meet a handful of times to make suggestions for company best practices and to train everyone on the team with tips and techniques. Maybe you even create a site leader for your remote workers, as if it’s a satellite headquarters - i.e “Martha is Head of our Anywhere location.” Perhaps all of your headquarter leaders meet periodically to ensure equitability and culture consistencies across all company locations - even if it's just "in person" and "anywhere."
Recently I was at an event and a CEO asked me “Is there such a thing as an effective hybrid executive meeting?” And I was like “Absolutely.” The truth is: you can’t just pop on your company Owl and give yourself a pat on the back for trying. You need to have company norms and you need to be clear and deliberate with everyone on your team about what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you expect from everyone to ensure that your remote employees are truly equal contributors on your team.
There have been a lot of great resources created about how to run a hybrid team effectively like these:
How to Have Hybrid Meetings that Work for Everyone, Heidi Grant, Harvard Business Review (6 min video)
4 Strategies for Building a Hybrid Workplace That Works, Jim Keane and Todd Heiser, Harvard Business Review, July 22, 2021
What it Takes to Run a Great Hybrid Meeting,Bob Frisch, Harvard Business Review, June 3, 2021
How to Host Inclusive Hybrid Meetings, University of Wisconsin
The Remote Playbook, by GitLab
The best practices, though, are the ones that you and your team co-create. What’s working? What’s not? It’s healthy to ask for feedback and iterate until your company’s hybrid plan is really working for you - incorporating the in-person and the remote workers’ experiences.