A Hybrid Team
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Janice Burns defines hybrid teams as team members working from different locations with varying degrees of size, working ways, and flexibility . Some teammates work fully from home, others work fully in an office, still others choose to work between home and office with specific and flexible schedules. Although a hybrid team is not new, the pandemic of COVID-19 has accelerated the idea of hybridity as a new normal more quickly than organizations had anticipated or modern technologies could accommodate.
Hanns-Terrill et al. discusses that many organizations have been considering shifting their business to a hybrid office for their post-pandemic strategy . For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that 58.1% of American residents have been fully vaccinated . This will catalyze government and the private sectors to build more hybrid teams to maintain business as usual and to create an environment that fosters new innovation. As a result, from the beginning of the outbreak until now, employees have been pressured to change on short notice and without adequate preparation to save lives and realize business outcomes.
Changes from traditional environments to hybrid conditions create both benefits and challenges for employees . They benefit employees in terms of an increase in both their well-being and work performance. Because they do not need to travel and work at their desk, they can spend more time with their families. As a result, they complete their tasks within the time schedule with happiness. At the same time, offices can decrease facilities expenses.
Among the challenges faced by employees is the potential diminution of social interaction, a hybrid working environment is not for everyone; some people need more social interactions, face-to-face conversations, team engagement and inclusion. More importantly, customers need on-field customer experience and service. Jeremy N. Bailenson emphasizes that people are trending to suffer from Zoom Fatigue, sickness from overusing video conferences all day while they work from home .
These benefits and challenges compel leaders to explore, apply and evaluate ideas, models and strategies promoting hybrid team ideas and eliminating impediments . As a result, current teams can shift to hybrid working environments and lift themselves to perform with high efficiency and productivity.
Mitchell et al. suggests establishing flexible and effective working environments among team members for a starting step . Leaders can ask themselves if their leadership models build hybrid team collaboration, if team managers can balance support and task tracking, if team members construct clear roles and responsibilities, if individuals have all needed resources for working both at their offices and home, and if team players are flexible enough to work as a hybrid team.
For building up a hybrid team, Robin Bard advises leaders to attend to critical factors of team composition . A high potential hybrid project team should consist of individuals with fundamentally different technical knowledge and skills. If members are from different cultures, traditions, and beliefs, they are required to train about culture awareness while they are on-boarding. As a consequence, their various perceptions of teamwork and social behaviors will coalesce. That will help them to communicate with team members from different perspectives more effectively.
At this point, leaders should build the trust fundamental for any team to accomplish agreed upon goals The Organizational Health People summarizes from a book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, of Patrick Lencioni, that when team members trust each other, they will handle and convert negative conflicts to be healthy conflicts in their teams  . That will create a high probability of buy-in and commitment. Later, team players will demonstrate their accountability and desire to achieve the same results by focusing on team objectives without individuals’ expectations.
Building trust in a hybrid team is challenging. Leaders can seek to establish psychological safety. It is important for team members to feel safe when they share their thoughts, new ideas, and discovered knowledge . They will not be blamed or punished when they make mistakes and share their failures. Instead they receive respect for their bravery, appreciation for their achievements, and inclusion for their differences . This will cultivate people to contribute their strengths for daily operation, fresh and unseen ideas of discovery, and trial and error experiments for better business solutions.
Moreover, leaders can construct trust by training themselves to understand and appreciate their individual members’ uniqueness with different life experiences, life values, and cultural backgrounds . They need to understand members’ differences and diversity with open-mindedness. They will create relationships among team members. This will result in organizational effectiveness and productivity because trust is around hybrid teams.
Leaders can build trust during normal operations by conveying clear expectations and rationales to team members that they can act with confidence . They can present informative requirements with prioritization to teams. They also need to support teams with needed resources and technologies which are crucial for working at offices and from remote locations. They can offer constructive feedback for future improvements. They are encouraged to maintain enthusiasm and passion for members with compassion. Otherwise, teams will burn out and cannot continue sustainability at work. If leaders can perform this, they can build trust not only between themselves and team members, but also among team performers.
When trust happens among team members, they will dare to share thoughts and feelings, even on sensitive issues which might lead to conflicts later. Confronting conflicts is a critical skill for leaders for managing a hybrid team  because conflicts can affect team commitment and performance, leading to dissatisfaction of customers and unhappiness of team members themselves. Leaders can guide teams to generate and implement effective communication ways and select communication tools that will help teams to allow positive conflicts to fertilize teamwork. At the same time, unhealthy conflicts will be managed and solved properly to avoid jeopardizing the relationship among team members. When people realize that conflicts are necessary and they can convert them to be meaningful for their teams’ productivity, they will create buy-in to stick to their missions and action activity. As a result, they create and deliver working products, services, or business solutions to satisfy their customers and all stakeholders with pleasant results of business outcomes and happy hybrid teams.
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