4 tips for leading remote IT teams

Hybrid work can be the best solution for everyone if it’s managed well. Consider these tips to keep your teams challenged and productive
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In my decades of experience, the move to remote work has been one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced. A fully remote workforce is tricky to sustain, and while having your team all in one room is great, I believe that a hybrid of remote work and thoughtful, regular in-person collaboration is the best long-term solution for everyone.

Leading a hybrid workforce: 4 tips

To help my fellow tech and IT leaders navigate this evolved work model, below are four tips for building and leading a hybrid workforce.

1. Good leadership must start at the beginning

For any team leader, leaving a good impression on potential team members during the interview process is crucial. Show that you have your act together by presenting well on camera and expect them to do the same. In conversation, make it clear what you expect from remote interactions and how in-person collaboration will be handled.

It’s also beneficial to refrain from geographically limiting your talent pool as hybrid workforces provide the opportunity to tap into more diverse skillsets. While talent within driving distance of an office is ideal, it’s important not to rule out the talent located further outside your surrounding areas that you can easily bring in for periodic in-person events.

[ Also read IT talent: 5 ways to better leverage remote teams. ]

Beyond recruitment, I recommend investing time and resources in onboarding. This is where you can make or break the new employee experience and a positive onboarding experience is increasingly important in a hybrid-virtual environment. Employees must feel like they are part of the team by having clear instructions and easy access to documentation and interactions with colleagues in nonwork-related groups.

Also, don’t let diverse skillsets go to waste. Leverage and welcome them – whether it be a new set of eyes available to critique existing processes or a new idea for a more efficient solution, use these to improve. Every person has their own unique set of experiences and the more diverse they are, the better to create a process, product, and environment that can work well for everyone.

2. Retrain, reskill more

Traditional enterprises tend to have a “we will train our employees only as much as we have to” mentality. However, this approach will make your employees more likely to seek other opportunities where they feel more valued and prepared. Of course, there is always the risk of employees leaving with their newfound skills, but having undertrained employees can be worse for your business and the organization.

Set aside a generous annual budget for training and development and help map out a personalized training path for each employee. This is critical to employee happiness and long-term business planning. These plans should also demonstrate growth opportunities that benefit each employee – not just the organization.

[ Read next: How upskilling can help boost digital transformation ]

In-person training is great, but don’t underestimate the value of virtual training. While a personal connection with instructors can often provide more knowledge and attention, the convenience of virtual training makes it a popular alternative these days. Encourage your employees to explore training opportunities where they’re located. Trade organizations and user groups are a valuable source of learning and can bring powerful knowledge and connections back to your business.

3. Break down physical barriers

Remote work can certainly be productive. Don’t fall into the old trap of thinking you need to see your employees in order to know if they are working.

However, there’s huge advantages to getting everyone together in a physical space from time to time, even if it’s not for work purposes. No virtual environment can replace connecting in-person, and as leaders, it’s our job to make sure these connections happen.

No virtual environment can replace connecting in-person, and as leaders, it's our job to make sure these connections happen.

It’s also important to invent new ways to foster positive collaboration virtually if in-person isn’t an option. Virtual cookie decorating, trivia games, and other at-home activities are great options for socializing if done thoughtfully.

A great option is monthly town halls, where participants can participate in breakout sessions and get to know each other. Make these meetings a well-rounded combination of company communications, performance metrics, recognition, and interactive fun time. Whether topic-driven, moderator-driven, or activity-themed, ensure team members are interactive participants and encourage them to step out of their comfort zone.

4. Mind the burnout

Keep a watchful eye on culture and morale. Without consistent monitoring of workload and mental state, workers can feel overworked and disconnected in a hybrid environment. It’s important to recognize employees for the value they provide and remind them of the resources the company has made available to them.

[ Also read: Burnout: 3 steps to prevent it on your team ]

Try to be mindful of employees’ personal lives and allow for a flexible work-life balance wherever possible. If you trust employees to deliver results on their time, they will often respond with more effort.

Having cameras on for video calls can also contribute to burnout, and they are not always necessary. Establish camera and non-camera time for meetings and communicate clear boundaries for when cameras need to be on.

The virtual world of video conferencing, instant messaging, and other collaboration tools are great but cannot replace human contact. Your best move as a tech leader is to find the ratio of collaboration to solitary workload required for each role and base your hybrid/in-person work strategy accordingly. Technologies will continue to evolve, as will public sentiment on hybrid work. Each leader must find what’s best for them and continue adapting.

[ Want more advice on leading hybrid work? Read What is a hybrid work model? and Hybrid work model: 5 advantages. ]

Mark Angle, Chief Cloud Operations Officer at OneStream Software, has over 20 years of experience spanning almost every area of information technology and services.