In the post-COVID-19 era, the hybrid workplace – in which some employees work from desks while others stay remotely – presents a number of challenges for software development teams. Many people have moved, some continue to have little or no child care, some have health issues that prevent them from returning to work in person, while others are excited to return to the workplace. office and go back to “normal”.
Balancing the needs and wants of your developers while ensuring a job gets done right is no easy task, but the challenge of building a healthy hybrid team is well worth it. As a leader, how do you deal with these varied circumstances while making sure everyone is treated fairly? What can you do to ensure that office workers stay in sync with their remote colleagues? And how do you deal with everyone’s stress level – yours included – during this transition?
Identify the challenges
Research and experience has shown that hybrid software development teams face a few major challenges: ensuring equity between employees in the office and remote, managing seamless collaboration, and sustaining the culture.
Managing remote and in-person workers requires different approaches and methods of communication, and managers need to be aware of how proximity biases can impact the way their hybrid teams work – and this what they can do to keep prejudices at bay.
Proximity bias is one of the biggest challenges any hybrid team leader should be aware of. People who are in the office can be seen as more productive because they are more visible, while remote workers who do incredible work are left behind in the background. Those working in the office can get better projects because they are a priority for managers and team leaders, and junior team members working in person can receive more hands-on support without even asking.
The most effective and efficient method of conveying information to and within a development team has traditionally been in person, but in the hybrid world, teams need to stay connected even when they are physically separate. In offices, developers often rely on overhearing conversations or swinging on top of each other to discuss a project and while the information conveyed in this ambient manner is important, taking a hybrid approach is crucial for developers. people in the office as well as at home.
Bringing a bit of play into an otherwise monotonous workday can have very positive effects for hybrid teams. Office workers can socialize more easily during breaks or around the water cooler, while remote workers are excluded from these conversations. Leaders will need to create, foster and nurture a culture with their teams working in multiple locations.
Push back prejudices
So we know proximity bias is one of the worst aspects of hybrid working, but how do you fight it within your own software development team? While every team – and therefore every workable solution – is a little different, there are solutions managers can implement to ensure that the playing field remains level, no matter where the work is done.
First, check in intentionally and consistently with each team member. Get a daily pulse of their work and performance through asynchronous mechanisms – whether it’s a daily email, a virtual team stand-up on Slack, or recording tools Dedicated asynchronous – and schedule recurring touchpoints in real time via team meetings and one-on-one face-to-face calls (even if it’s via Zoom).
Second, set the precedent that everything has to be written down. Even information about an in-person conversation can go a long way in ensuring that your remote team members are kept in the know and don’t feel isolated. Written records of all employees’ work, whether done remotely or in the office, also help dispel unconscious bias during performance reviews.
Finally, be intentional about the culture you are building. Camaraderie and culture in the office are not the same things, and if you rely on the former, your remote employees will feel excluded and marginalized because they are not in the “crowd”. Use the “one remote, all remote” policy for meetings, even if multiple participants are in the same room, ensuring that everyone participates through their own video chat. It is imperative that you ensure that a conscious and consistent effort is made to bring remote employees into the fold and level the playing field.
Is your hybrid team healthy?
It can be difficult to determine if your hybrid team is in good shape, but there are a few obvious clues. If you observe that everyone on your team feels connected and comfortable with each other, and if you know that everyone feels like they have the information they need to do their jobs well – and get the job done on time and without delay – there’s a good chance your team will be in great shape.
And if in doubt? Question. Use regular anonymous polls to check the pulse of your team members remotely and in person. If there’s an issue, resolve it and move forward knowing you’ve done your part to make your hybrid team as healthy as possible.