3 Ways to Power a Hybrid and Distributed Team

3 Ways to Power a Hybrid and Distributed Team

The trio of Culture, Environment, and Individual, when set up right and supported well by managers and leaders for their teams, can lead to differentiated results and create a satisfying workplace.


Not only have managers and leaders played a significant role in being the glue and engagement champions of their existing teams during the pandemic, but they have also been the brand ambassadors to the new and prospective team members. As the workplace experiments with being distributed, almost as a norm in most cases and in preparation for the next normal, the role of managers and leaders has enhanced manifold in creating the right practices and team norms.


There will be key aspects within the trio of Culture, Environment, and Individual that will take centre stage in the next normal.


(1) A Culture That Celebrates ‘Inclusiveness in Distributiveness’


A culture that ensures inclusiveness in distributiveness will be one of the biggest dealmakers for successful, happy teams that strive to give their best. Given that people have adapted to working from home as a new normal and as a way to manage multiple roles more efficiently, team members will opt for partial or complete work from home options based on availability enable a culture of inclusiveness in distributiveness:


• Consider and structurally implement the concept of one size fits one. The needs of people, their preferred methods of communication, and the situations that impact their output and make them anxious will be different.


• Pick up on nuances from team members and work with them to adeptly adapt to the choices they make.


• Practise inclusiveness in team meetings (large and small) that will have a hybrid mix of physically and virtually present team members by:


- Encouraging and supporting everyone to voice their opinions as impactfully as they would have done when they were in the same room. Even the gestures used in such meetings should focus on being inclusive and make the remote team members feel like they are present in the room with others.


- Asynchronously inviting opinions and views and considering them all cohesively.


- Making structured arrangements for casual hybrid meetings (part virtual, part physical) as part of the overall scheme of things.


Communication flow has to be seamless and available to all at the same time. The remote team members may not be available always as and when information may come in, missing on important office updates, decisions and even in a lighter vein — banter! Managers should continuously share and encourage sharing of information in real-time with all team members by utilising networks and technologies to ensure there is no lag in information to any part of the team.


(2) An Environment That Is Free of Bias


 A culture of inclusiveness needs to be supported and further strengthened by creating an environment free of bias. Managers will have to purposefully turn this intent into action to help deal with the following:


• Proximity bias (where those at the office are seen to be more competent and committed to tasks than remote team members) might linger in the minds of remote workers. Make sure that correct examples are created, like important projects and tasks being distributed equitably among people as before based on skill and competence.


• By nature, human beings are social animals and therefore tend to prefer in-person interactions. Thus, an ‘in-person bias’ may lead managers to create more understanding, stronger work relations and bonds with team members they work with in-person rather than those with whom they work remotely. Leaders must be mindful of ensuring that an equal amount of time and importance to build understanding is being provided to all team members.


• The next normal will require ensuring that unconscious bias does not creep in as teams adjust and learn the norms of a distributed workplace. Team members must not only respect but also support each other in their work preference. One way to ensure this is to have candid conversations with each team member and understand their views on the team norms that are being created. Moreover, having all team members participate together to support every team member’s choice of working has had remarkable success in some organisations.


(3) Using Emotional Agility to Focus on the Individual


Even if the best culture and environment are in place, the efforts can fail if managers take their focus away from the individual. The most valuable asset, as all managers and organisations knew but have realised more so in the new normal, is their people.


Awareness of the concept of ‘Emotional Agility’ in scenarios, especially like those of today, can prove to be a big plus for managers and leaders. Here are a few reasons why:


• It enables one to first comprehend what is going on within oneself and what emotions are causing one’s own reaction to people and situations.


• It can help managers understand why a team member is behaving or responding in a certain way, and using that information constructively can be a powerful tool.


• It can help managers and team members in bringing their whole selves to work every day.


In this environment where we are dealing with several changes, the skill of emotional agility can go a long way toward improving the overall wellness of each team member.




Distributiveness is a big change, and every team member will have their own learning curve to adapt to it. Thus, a manager’s focus should be to build a culture and environment in which every team member thrives with their specific choices of the workplace.


Harshita Chaudhary, a TATA Institute of Social Sciences alumna, is Senior Manager - Talent and Organizational Development at Freshworks Technologies. She previously served as the Head of Talent for the Nestlé South Asia Region. She has also worked for companies such as Mondelez, Colgate Palmolive India, and Honeywell.


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