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Remote vs. Onsite: The Issue with Blended Teams

 A blended team of remote and onsite employees is not a new concept; however, it is becoming much more common as companies begin to phase employees back into the office. Many managers scrapped their “playbook” in March to adapt and lead remotely and will potentially need to do so again as they transition into a different work environment than before. Not only will leaders manage blended teams, but they will have to attempt to mitigate the heightened emotion that comes with bringing employees back into the office during a high-stress time.  

Below we discuss the top five challenges that come with managing a blended team and how best to handle them. 

 

Providing Timely Feedback 

Working both onsite and remote have unique benefits and drawbacks; the key is to try and balance the two as much as possible. While some employees’ roles require them to be onsite, others can do their job from home but may or may not be mandated to come into the office at this time. Managers themselves may be leading remotely even as parts of their team work onsite. There will be varying levels of comfort and stress for each, especially in the case of employees who are working onsite but would prefer not to be, and with employees preferring to come into the office but unable to do soManaging individual emotions and providing a sense of community and camaraderie within a blended team will be essential to diffuse tension as much as possible. 

One potential stressor for remote employees is a lack of timely feedback from managersWhile they are working from home they also have less opportunity to learn from teammates, which could stunt their performance and career progression. Scheduling regular touchpoints for feedback is important, but also consider how to connect coworkers and encourage collaboration remotely. This could mean planning regular virtual team building activities or assigning remote employees projects to collaborate on together.  

 

Supporting Mental Health 

Onsite employees may more easily lean on one another for help, but this may be a highly emotional time for them depending on their own health concerns and personal life. Consider scheduling regular touchpoints for onsite employees. These can serve as an opportunity to check in and manage stress levels, as well as get ideas on how best to care for employees during the pandemic and create a safe work environment.  

 

Distributing Workload 

Especially while managing a blended team, it’s important to create a standardized process for all employees to be assigned new projects, have their performance evaluated, and be considered for growth opportunities. Consider also how to provide development opportunities that are applicable to both those remote and those onsite. Are there virtual training or educational resources you can provide or mentorships you can set up? 

 

Streamlining Meetings and Collaboration 

If video conferencing remote employees to an onsite meeting held in a conference room, consider how to most effectively bring remote employees into the conversation. This could be structuring the meeting in a way that assigns various team members to contribute at different times or going around to ask each person’s input before moving on. Set the expectation that each person contributes to the discussion and keep them accountable to this. Time blocking your meetings and sending out an agenda ahead of time can also help provide structure to the conversation. 

When creating an agenda for regular meetings, consider assigning different employees to run the meeting each time, keeping track of discussion topics, taking notes and ensuring equal participation. If struggling to get employees to participate, consider including assigned time blocks for different employees to present their ideas or report on progress toward goals. Send the agenda out a few days before the meeting in order to give employees time to prepare.  

For safety precautions, as well as for the sake of organizing meetings more efficiently, consider the benefit of keeping all meetings virtual, despite some employees being onsite together. While running a virtual meeting, consider if it would be beneficial to share a PowerPoint or virtual whiteboard tfacilitate brainstorming and keep the team focused.  

While managing a blended team, it is important to document and celebrate the achievements of both onsite and remote workers equallyConsider utilizing a project management software to keep track of individual progressas well as tracking progress towards overall team goals. Communicating progress towards overarching goals more frequently not only helps bring individual employees together, but also motivates employees to work harder and support one another when possible. Consider making these goals visual with a graphic or chart tracking progress and sharing it with the team daily or weekly.  

 

Communication 

While your team may have been working together for any number of years, blending onsite and virtual workers creates a new team dynamic that should be addressed openly. Consider taking a survey of team members, asking them to share their communication preferences. This should include the frequency of communication desired, and method of communicating preferred, such as phone call, video call, chat or email. Take these responses into consideration while creating a standard operating procedure for the team of how to get support from one anotherAs an example, some companies have implemented No Meeting Day once a week in order to allow employees one workday with minimal nonessential communication to do deep work. Other companies, LaSalle Network included, have regular all company Town Halls and have a video-on policy for virtual meetings in order to cultivate connection. 

Use these survey responses to inform you of certain employees that may need additional communication and support throughout the week, as well as which you may be able to shorten or reduce meetings with, when appropriate. Inform employees of your own communication preferences and share with them how to most efficiently reach you or ask for support, as well as who else to reach out to first.  

Onsite employees may not be comfortable with frequent face-to-face communication, and remote employees may not be productive during the day if interrupted by frequent FaceTime calls. The more each team member knows about one another’s preferences, the better they will work together. Everyone has their own preferences and understanding what they are can help reduce friction and keep collaboration efficient. 

Are you adding new virtual or onsite employees? Let us help. Get connected here. 

 

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