Hybrid work: 4 ways to strengthen teams and boost productivity

Fostering teamwork and camaraderie in a hybrid workplace can be challenging, but your efforts will be rewarded. Consider these tips to build connections and increase engagement
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The Great Return (to the office) is upon us.

Many businesses, however, are not reinstating business as usual. Instead, they’re going the hybrid work route, where employees will work both on-site and remote. While this appears to be the present and future of work, hybrid also presents its fair share of challenges – most notably, cultivating a cohesive environment that fosters teamwork.

As companies shift to hybrid work, we need to redefine teamwork to ensure every employee is happy and productive, whether they’re in the office or remote. Here are four ways to promote better teamwork in a hybrid world.

1. Design your office to make remote workers feel included

Company culture is hard to project across video calls. And as the hybrid work model becomes the norm, organizations must figure out how to mesh in-office and remote workers to promote hybrid collaboration. Inclusion is key.

[ Related read: Hybrid work: 3 new rules for enabling your workforce. ]

Redesigning meeting rooms and boardrooms to make remote workers feel like they’re part of the group can go a long way toward promoting inclusion. Maybe that means investing in higher-quality microphones so remote workers can hear the conversation more succinctly or installing better cameras from higher vantage points so they can get a clearer sense of who’s speaking. Some offices even feature large screens in their conference rooms to display remote participants better.

Regardless of which team-building activities you engage in, it’s important to make individuals who aren’t physically present onsite feel included.

2. Set up regular 'meet-and-greets' for employees

Many new hires over the last two years have never set foot in the office. They’ve also never met many of their co-workers since the traditional onboarding experience wasn’t feasible during the pandemic.

The shift to hybrid work offers a golden opportunity to build camaraderie among your employees through carefully curated meet-and-greets. It may not be as organic as engaging in person on the first day of work, but setting up allotted times for individuals to meet each other one-on-one can help foster that community feeling.

Arrange schedules for employees to meet in person when possible – but if one employee is in the office and the other happens to be working remotely, that can work too. These sessions are intended to encourage colleagues to form relationships with each other. This helps everyone feel more invested in the team and their collective goals.

Conduct regular well-being sessions with your employees and ask questions that go beyond “Is everything OK?”

3. Place more value on the well-being of your employees

Employees are not just cogs in the machine. They are people – with real feelings, real fears, and real concerns. As your organization moves forward with hybrid work, don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned over the past two years, especially when it comes to the well-being of your employees.

Conduct regular well-being sessions with your employees and ask questions that go beyond “Is everything OK?” Consider the following examples:

  • What do you need from me and the business to enable you to work effectively?
  • Has anything changed from when we last spoke about the support we provide? Is your home working environment still sufficient?
  • Which recent company announcements or changes do you have questions about or would like me to clarify?

Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes-or-no response. Be on the lookout for changes in a person’s body language or mood. Just like at the beginning of the pandemic, this will likely take some time and require patience from everyone. Stick with it, and you’ll get there.

[ Read also: 6 tips for effective meetings in a hybrid work environment

4. Make it fun for everyone

With employees coming back to the office, we can finally start enjoying some of the social events we’ve been forced to put off over the last two-plus years.

Company pizza parties, happy hours, attending sporting events together – these are all on the table again. Just make sure that you’re considering everyone.

It may be difficult for remote employees to attend these events, so find ways to make everyone feel involved. For example, we recently hosted a wine-tasting event. Because some employees couldn’t attend in person, we set up a video call and shipped them the same wines we had so they could participate from their homes.

No one wants to be left out – especially when it comes to having fun. Consider this when you plan social events.

Creating a sense of teamwork and camaraderie can be difficult when everyone works remotely. It will be equally challenging as more businesses go hybrid. But every challenge presents new opportunities, and leaders who proactively and intentionally connect their employees will find success in building teams.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Patrick Morley is Vice President of Global Product Management at Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS).