By June 18, 2017 Career Advice

It’s not uncommon to find remote-friendly companies with a hybrid workforce consisting of both remote staff and office-bound staff.  But it can be challenging for management to meet the needs of both groups.

The remote team members in a hybrid workforce can feel disconnected from the social aspects of working in an office. They miss the micro-interactions and conversations that take place around the water cooler or coffee machine.

These interactions and relationships formed in the office can also change the dynamics in team meetings, with some people attending in person and others linking in by video.  The side conversations, office banter, or in-jokes between co-located team members can make remote team members feel excluded.

One company with first-hand experience managing a co-located and distributed team is Trello. Trello have developed an online visual collaboration tool (by the same name) that creates a shared perspective on projects through the use of boards, lists and cards. The tool enables people to organize and prioritize their personal and work life in a fun, flexible and rewarding way.

Trello started out with everyone working from the New York headquarters. From 2013 they started hiring people to work remotely. Their remote team now eclipses their in-office staff with 65% working remotely within the US and across the globe.

In a recent article on the Trello blog, Lauren Moon wrote about the 6 rules to live by when you work in an office but have remote team members. Here’s a summary:

Rules For Managing a Hybrid Team of Remote and In-Office Workers

Rule #1: Value individuals over infrastructure

Empathy is the glue that binds the dynamics of a remote team and helps them to work effectively together. Encourage your office workers to work from home a few days to understand where their remote colleagues are coming from.

Rule #2: Avoid impromptu meetings at someone’s desk

If team members in the office are constantly making decisions themselves at someone’s desk and then passing the information onto the remote team members, then decisions are not based on the input and experience of all team members. This is only going to make remote team members feel left out.

Rule #3: If one person is on a video call, EVERYONE is on a video call

As mentioned earlier, co-located team members will be privy to conversations and interactions that remote team members can’t partake in, and this can leave them feeling alienated. If everyone sits at their desk with the ability to connect to team members through chat and video, the playing field is equal.

Rule #4: Communication is asynchronous. Deal with it.

When team members are distributed across time zones, it can be very difficult to ensure that all communication occurs synchronously. Management need to accept that some communication will be asynchronous and put processes in place to ensure it’s efficient and effective.

One of the rules the Trello team live by, is that NO decisions are made last minute.  If an item requires input and decision making, feedback from other team members must be sourced well before the decision needs to be made.

In addition, discussions around projects that involve both office-based and remote team members should always be scheduled as a meeting in advance to eliminate impromptu conversations that don’t filter through to everyone involved.

Rule #5: Socialising is not around a watercooler

Bonding with remote team members can’t happen around a watercooler, so it can be useful to schedule time for socialising and to use instant messaging apps such as Slack, Hipchat or Skype to create those virtual watercooler discussions.

Rule #6: The tools you are using matter – a lot!

The opportunity to work remotely is possible due to advancement in technologies and it’s important to leverage the right technology to make the process smoother. Management should seek feedback from their employees to find out which tools make it easier for them to communicate. The best tools are the ones that remove roadblocks for people.

How do you manage a mix of office-based and remote team members?  Or what has been your experience working in a hybrid team? Share your insights in the comments below.

And, if you’re interested in remote jobs with Trello, be sure to check out Trello’s company profile on Remote Work Hub for a list of vacancies currently on our database.

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