People Management

Avoiding Bias When Managing Hybrid Teams

Jul 05, 2023 | By Jenna van Schoor

Hybrid team work is becoming more common around the world as we adjust to a post-pandemic world. Although there isn’t a strict definition of exactly what hybrid work looks like for every company just yet, spending time working both at the office and at home is becoming a part of many people’s work schedules. 

While this style of work might suit the majority of employees, managing teams in this way can be challenging. This is due to the unintentional bias that can creep in when managers are working with both on-site and remote employees at the same time. 

In this post, we will discuss ways in which managers can avoid proximity bias when working with hybrid teams. We’ll also look at some of the ways managers can upskill to create a more collaborative work environment.

1. Create a remote-first culture

To avoid favouring on-site employees, it’s important to create a remote-first working culture. This means making sure that all team members join online meetings on their own laptops. Thereby ensuring that everyone, regardless of their location, can contribute equally. 

Teams can also use other technology to centralise communication. For example, using workflow or project management software can help to bring everyone’s tasks into a central online dashboard. With access to this, team members can see what other people are working on, set deadlines, and share information that the whole team can see and stay updated on. 

By using these types of software, teams can also shift away from communicating mainly via email. This is key as email can create silos as well as endless email threads which are extremely difficult to keep track of, and might exclude certain people.

Overall, creating a remote-first working culture should involve treating every employee as if they were working remotely, so as not to create any distinction between those who don’t spend as much time in the office as others.

2. Break down silos

As we mentioned above, using technology can help to break down silos in teams, which happens when people are excluded from communication and tasks are completed in isolation when they could benefit from collaboration. 

The workflow software we discussed in the previous point can help here, but to truly make the most of technology, there also needs to be a working culture in place that supports sharing information across multiple channels.

To put this into practice, managers should incorporate a remote-first project management approach, which is complemented by software and other technology. This can include having regular status update meetings online and making sure that all tasks are visible and updated in a central location. Group sharing of information should also be prioritised as much as possible so that everyone is kept up to speed. 

Once again, moving away from email as the main form of communication between employees is an important step in the right direction. This is because collaboration is critical to breaking down silos and building an inclusive workplace culture.

3. Be inclusive

It’s important to have all of the software and technology in place to support hybrid teams and to limit proximity bias, so that managers don’t unintentionally  favour the ideas of those they work more closely with. 

Humans are social creatures, so to break down potentially limiting social patterns, managers need to engage with employees one-to-one and create opportunities for team members to talk to each other and get to know one another. 

It’s very easy to get caught up in heavy workloads and not prioritise social time, but it’s essential for well-being and productivity, especially for those who don’t come into the office. Some remote employees might be feeling very isolated and lonely, so it’s crucial to create a culture that supports both productivity and focus, as well as interpersonal communication. 

All employees are different, and some might feel the need for more social time than others. Managers need to make an effort to get to know their employees and what motivates them, and take this into account when making management decisions. 

For example, this could include creating opportunities for team building, both online and in-person, and making the effort to bring remote employees to the office or at regular intervals. Managers can also create a culture that values feedback and where employees feel comfortable to regularly share ideas about how to create a more inclusive work culture.

4. Promote interactive engagement

According to an article by Gallup, called “The Future of Hybrid Work: 5 Key Questions Answered With Data”, the future workplace is moving towards a hybrid model. However, research suggests that there is no one size fits all solution for businesses, which means managers have both the responsibility, but also the opportunity, to build effective hybrid teams.

To avoid bias, and build a productive and fulfilling workplace culture, managers can work together with their teams on an ongoing basis by trying different approaches and getting feedback. 

Depending on the size of the team, you can experiment with various tools and collaborative techniques. Using gamification tactics like quizzes and interactive tasks, team building exercises and even workplace outings or online events, you can help to enhance connectivity within your team. 

Ultimately, it all comes down to communication and making sure that all voices, even virtual ones, have an opportunity to be heard and that everyone has the tools to get their job done and collaborate effectively. Managers can also be very strategic about avoiding bias by grouping people together to perform certain tasks and perhaps even alternating on-site and virtual collaboration on projects where possible.

5. Upskill consistently

It’s important to upskill, especially when it comes to communication and how to manage a diverse and distributed team. 

Managers who are looking to grow and manage a team can benefit from learning more about workplace communication and how to build an effective hybrid working culture. It might seem overwhelming in a fast-changing world, but one of the key ways to do this is to specifically learn more about how to manage and motivate people. 

This involves learning more about human behaviour, and what drives people. Upskilling as a manager also involves learning how to encourage and develop assertive communication and creating frameworks and practices for effective collaboration and information sharing, both in a group setting and one-to-one. 

Learn how to manage and motivate people with SACAP Global

Do you have an interest in learning more about how to manage and motivate your team? Register for our Employee Motivation and Wellness short course. 

This short course will give you the tools to develop a workplace or team culture that supports employee wellness, and help you create a motivating work environment. You’ll also learn more about a line manager’s roles and responsibilities and how managers can work together with human resource managers to ensure organisational success, which can be applied to a hybrid working environment. 

The world is changing at a rapid rate, but at SACAP Global we offer a wide variety of specialised short courses to help you upskill in an accessible and affordable way. For more information, browse our courses , or get in touch.

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