Building teams in a hybrid world
Before working-from-home restrictions came into effect in March 2020, only 5.1 percent of the U.K. population was working from home. 
The pandemic forced many organizations to think differently about how their employees work, and the different benefits that working from home can have to an organization. Now that the world has started to open back up, a hybrid-working approach is becoming seen as the norm for many organizations.
And although working from home and hybrid-working models have had a positive impact on wellbeing, different working schedules mean that many employees miss seeing their team members in person. This poses an interesting challenge for managers in particular: how can you build a strong team dynamic in a hybrid world?
Like the rest of the world, we’ve had to adjust to new ways of working. So, we asked the Mind Tools team for examples of activities, tools and strategies that they’ve used to help them feel more connected to their team and the wider organization – as well as advice for managers struggling to build team connections in a hybrid environment.
What activities, tools or strategies have you used to help you feel more connected to your team and the wider organization?
Examples of checking in
Although working from the comfort of your home can be great, missing the human interaction that you get around the office can be isolating at times. Digital Marketing Manager Clarissa Hall suggested that wellness checks are a great way to make people feel more connected: “Regular calls to get to know people on a more personal level, chatting more casually rather than only speaking about work-related tasks.”
Clarissa also encouraged managers to allocate time to let teams have a chat, even virtually. “Allow teams time to socialize, whether that's in person or on a call. With hybrid working this can be lost as the number of smaller chats around the office decreases.”
Writer and Editor Jonathan Hancock had similar advice about making sure that you make time to get to know each other outside of a work environment. “In the Content team we enjoy having regular check-in meetings online where we don't talk about work at all! They're great for sharing out-of-work experiences, chatting about current events, having some fun... but also for gauging the mood of the team, and allowing us to offer each other support when required.”
Fun and games
Our U.S. Sales Manager, Megan Reilly, echoed this, saying: “We play online games as a team every Friday morning to end our week and get to know each other a little better. The games environment allows people to feel relaxed and open, and gives you insight on how people deal with problems or learning something new.”
Using games and team-building activities on a regular basis can really help to forge connection and build a stronger, more trusting team.
Meeting in person and making the best of digital tools
Senior Account Director Stewart Hardie talked about taking the time to meet up face-to-face if you can. “Once a quarter we would have an extended team meeting in a venue that wasn't an office. It might even have been a hotel with a meeting space only five minutes down the road from the office, but it was beneficial in loads of ways.”
Another way to build connections when your team is working in various locations is to make sure that you’re properly using the tools available to you. Enterprise Client Partner Charlotte Blake spoke about the importance of keeping employees motivated and engaged. “I have found workshops with lots of interaction work really well. This allows for great networking and maintains motivation and engagement. It also helps embed the learning. The agenda has usually allowed for a small amount of presenting and then at least one to three breakout rooms. Using tools such as Kahoot, Miro etc. also creates opportunities for those who do not feel comfortable engaging to do so in a different way.”
What suggestions do you have for managers struggling to build team connections in hybrid environments?
Why personal connection is important
When asked to give advice to struggling managers, a lot of our team focused on making connections outside of work. Megan focused on the fun, saying: “In the times that you do spend together, take time to ask the personal questions or talk non-work-related items. Everyone is on work-related meetings throughout the day. Making your team meeting a safe space has a positive impact on morale!”
Jonathan agreed with Megan, suggesting that managers should look out for simple ways to get people talking, connecting and sharing their experiences. “Social chats sometimes lead to useful work outcomes – but mostly they're valuable for keeping people connected, having ‘water-cooler conversations,’ and letting the team know what's going on in each other's lives. When we're working mostly online, it's all too easy to forget the importance of these chats – for our wellbeing as individuals, and for the good of the business.”
Include everyone – except (sometimes) the boss!
Charlotte again focused on engaging teams and getting the best out of your people. “My advice would be to ensure everyone on video calls has an opportunity to feel engaged and involved. Think about the different types of personalities and characters you may have on the call and what activities and tools you can use to ensure you and your team get the best out of the meeting.”
Alternatively, Stewart suggested that giving your team space can be a fantastic way for them to bond. “Give your team the opportunity to connect without you – their manager – being present. Hybrid meetings too often involve the manager running the show. In a non-hybrid environment this would be commonplace, and it gives people the opportunity to connect in a relaxed manner. Someone once said that, in the workplace, ‘culture’ is defined by what people do when the boss isn't looking.' So encourage them to experience and build on that culture by not 'looking’!”
How do you build a strong team in a hybrid world? For more information on team building, check out our list of Mind Tools resources here.
 Office for National Statistics (2019). ‘Coronavirus and Working from Home in the U.K. Labour Market: 2019’ [online]. Available here. [Accessed June 16, 2022.]
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