Relationship building can be challenging in a hybrid work context, mainly due to the separation between in-person and virtual team members. There are, however, steps leaders can take to avoid this division. In a recent panel hosted by Fellow.app, Oyster’s Guilherme Marques explained how leaders of hybrid teams can build strong relationships with their direct reports.
As many companies are easing out of over two years of strictly remote work and moving into a hybrid context, a certain level of adaptation is required. From adapting workflows to adopting new software, the ways leaders manage their teams must evolve to meet changing needs.
One primary concern hybrid managers have been scratching their heads over is how to even the playing field and build relationships with both in-person and virtual employees. Guilherme Marques, Team Lead & Senior Full-stack Engineer at Oyster, spoke on Fellow.app's panel Thinking About The Future: A Hybrid Work Model. During the conversation, he shared three essential tips managers can use to build stronger relationships with their hybrid team.
Although establishing trust between employees and leaders can be daunting, it should always be at the forefront of a leader's priorities. When teams are built on mutual trust, there is an increased sense of belonging combined with higher productivity. On the one hand, managers can further encourage their teams to accomplish more and strive for greatness without alienating them. On the other hand, employees feel more motivated to perform at high levels as they are confident that their leader believes in their capabilities. They are also less likely to feel self-doubt and anxiety around critique about making mistakes when experimenting.
While achieving this level of trust requires effort from both the employee and the manager, Guilherme explains that for hybrid teams, it is important to reinforce that trust does not equate to availability. In other words, employees' performance, whether in person or virtual, will not be judged based on them always being available.
To even out the playing field between in-person and virtual employees, expectations on both sides must be crystal clear. When one group feels inferior to the other, a class system and disparity begin to form within the team, which is harmful to relationship building. Expectations can be clarified either synchronously or asynchronously. In synchronous work, managers can elaborate on expectations during team meetings or in a more personal setting during 1:1 meetings. Alternatively, Guilherme explains that the asynchronous option involves documenting processes in your company's internal database so employees can independently return to this resource during work to clarify instructions. Emma Runzer-Boucher, the panel host, added that at Fellow, we encourage employees to respond with a link when similar questions are raised frequently. This enables a culture where the process is naturally documented in the wiki and shared across the company.
In addition to having clear expectations, fostering a culture of feedback where employees are comfortable and even excited to get feedback is equally as crucial, according to Guilherme. Tools like Fellow.app with 360-feedback features can help foster this environment as managers and employees can request or give instant feedback after meetings or on a specific topic.
Without a dedicated in-person workspace, or with only half the team in such a space, encouraging social interaction where employees can share about their personal life is very important. In an office setting, these interactions are natural as employees can briefly chat when crossing paths. However, with hybrid work, only half the team can benefit from informal office interactions, which means additional efforts to foster relationship building for remote employees are required. Guilherme recommends two techniques that he has used at Oyster. Firstly, he suggests having an asynchronous meeting week where all meetings must be asynchronous and where social activities across different departments are encouraged and incentivized. Secondly, he recommends using tools like Donut, which organizes coffee chats between randomized team members. (Check out a free asynchronous company-wide weekly summary meeting template here!)
As managers strive to build relationships with their teams in their new hybrid work environment, they should continue to foster habits and rituals that include creating an environment of trust, ensuring processes are transparent, and encouraging socialization across different teams.
View the entire conversation from Thinking About The Future: A Hybrid Work Model here.
Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.