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Introduction

In this article, Chris Hope explains the shift to virtual work and how this changes the way that teams collaborate and communicate.

Virtual and hybrid teams are those where team members don’t go into a physical space to work with their colleagues on a full-time basis. The term ‘remote working’ is often used in relation to these kinds of teams. This is not a totally new concept, with teams around the world often working remotely before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, COVID-19 has played a significant part in the amount of virtual work that is being done by teams due to government lockdowns and restrictions.

This changes the way that teams are collaborating and communicating. Virtual teams primarily communicate through platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and other collaboration tools which are aimed at improving productivity and communication. There is a blend in the way that these teams are doing their work. Fully remote teams are considered virtual, whereas hybrid teams work partly remotely but, on occasions that have been agreed upon, will go into a physical space to work with teammates. This may be once a week or more frequently, depending on the organisation. Many organisations are choosing to work fully remotely, but the balancing act is a complexity for leaders to consider in their teams. Employees are also making decisions about which company they work for based on their working conditions, as more and more companies are creating flexible working arrangements for their employees.

The challenge for managers also comes when monitoring and measuring the performance of our teams in a virtual environment. In some industries, such as investment banking, this is being used as a way to bring employees back into the office on a more full-time basis, but that may not be appropriate in every industry. Some industries may never work remotely, and it’s also important to recognise that not everybody has access to a safe or appropriate space to work remotely. This should also be considered by managers when asking a team to work virtually.

When we think about virtual and hybrid teams, it’s also useful to think about the wider impacts that this development has had on society: perhaps a better work-life balance for individual team members, less time commuting, and the ability to work remotely from a new city. Of course, there are also negative impacts to consider, such as the added barriers to social connection. This may, in turn, cause difficulties for teams who want to collaborate or for workplace relationships and should be carefully balanced with the benefits of allowing teams to work remotely. Those ‘water cooler’ chats are no longer happening in the same way, and this is something that employers need to consider: how do they give their team an opportunity to be social?

We’re entering a new phase of working, and managers need to be flexible, empathetic, and understanding of individual needs when they’re considering the implications and impact of working from home on their teams.

Share your thoughts

Think of a manager you’ve worked with or perhaps when you yourself have been managing people in a virtual or hybrid environment. Provide one example of how they/you promoted connection among the team.
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Manage Virtual and Hybrid Teams

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