The modern workplace has gone through a lot of changes in the past year. As we move further into the future it is becoming clear that some of those changes will have more lasting power than others. Namely, the hyper-collaborative mindset that has evolved to be the norm in recent years. Some might have thought that the pandemic and subsequent shift to remote work would have put up a barrier between team members looking to continue collaborating from a distance, but thanks to the abundance of tech tools available to remote workers today it has never been easier to collaborate from anywhere.

In 2020, collaborative tech tools saw some serious growth. Hybrid and remote team-focused apps like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack and Webex saw upwards of 1,000% growth, with Teams specifically growing at a rate of 3,891%. 

As companies around the world now make the return to office, they are embracing this collaborative nature by implementing workplace policies and creating office spaces that promote hybrid collaboration. 

Remember, just because some of your employees will return to working from the office doesn’t mean that you have to throw away the remote work habits they’re built up over the last year and a half. Instead, embrace these new habits upon their return and work with returning employees to create new hybrid workplace systems to optimize their time back in the office. 

When rethinking your meetings, policies and office tech just keep in mind “ABC”... Always Be Collaborating.

Collaboration is the Key to Successful Hybrid Teams

The professional world’s response to the Earth becoming a more flexible place to work and live has been to embrace hybrid teams. As the most adaptable form of workplace collaboration, creating hybrid teams is the obvious solution to the 80% of workers who expect to work from home at least three times a week after COVID-19. 

Instead of making the return to office mandatory, companies that are intuitive to their employees’ new needs are embracing their desires for less rigid schedules and instead implementing policies that offer employees the option to create hybrid and flexible schedules for themselves. As we know, happy employees are the best employees. And with 77% of full time workers saying that being able to work from home at least some of the time after COVID-19 would make them happier, it’s clear that the future of collaboration lies in the success of hybrid teams.

So, how do you make enhanced collaboration a reality in your workplace? When it comes to implementing new substantial workplace changes designed to boost hybrid collaboration, sometimes all you need is to tweak a policy to make it more inclusive. Other times you’ll need to invest in new tech or even redesign entire rooms of your workplace. Whatever changes it takes to make your workplace the collaborative haven your hybrid teams deserve it to be will be worth it as we approach the return to office.

Let’s walk through some of the ways you can make meetings, policies and even the tech you use in the workplace more collaborative.

Collaborative Meetings

When it comes to running collaborative meetings, the key is to keep an eye on inclusivity. For hybrid teams, meetings that aren’t inclusive— meaning that they do not provide an equal opportunity for all attendees to participate— are not going to lead to successful collaborative moments like inclusive meetings will. 

To infuse all of your meetings with optimal collaborative potential:

  • Create and share a meeting agenda template in the days before the meeting that all attendees will have the opportunity to add to if necessary
  • Have a clear goal for each meeting that directly relates to the responsibilities of all attendees
  • Assign meeting responsibilities to each attendee so everyone has a specific way in which they are expected to participate
  • Record meetings to share with anyone unable to attend
  • Incorporate meeting tech that ensures all meetings can be attended in-person or virtually, and make it clear that regardless how you are attending the meeting you are an equal participant as the other attendees
  • Create a warm, approachable atmosphere for your meetings to encourage collaborative and creative thinking
  • Aim for collective decision making that takes into account the experience and opinion of each attendee
  • Create a regular meeting schedule that benefits all participants, so attendees can grow to know what to expect from meetings instead of approaching them in the dark

Collaborative Policies

In order to create a workplace that promotes a collaborative mindset you’ll need to implement some new workplace policies, like a remote or flexible work policy. As is the norm when enacting workplace-wide changes, take the time to engage in some open dialogue with your team and department leaders about the changes you are making. 

Without the input of the employees who these policies are affecting, you might inadvertently create policies that are unnecessary or don’t meet their changing needs. As a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to take a temperature check of your employees before implementing any new policies, especially those that will affect their every day work life. 

Some policies you can incorporate into your workplace to make it a more collaborative environment include:

  • All team projects should include elements that reflect the individual perspective of each team member.
  • Hold regularly scheduled small-group brainstorming sessions to stoke creativity and encourage group-think.
  • Create teams that are a productive mix of in-person, remote, and hybrid employees to promote inclusivity on the team level.
  • Update your company handbook to reflect your new collaborative mindset.
  • Create workplace best practices for communication that dictate the proper ways for teammates to connect regardless of where they are working from or which project they are working on, to encourage an environment of open communication.
  • Hold teambuilding events that promote collaboration in new, fun ways.
  • Embed collaborative thinking right into the onboarding and new employee training process so it is ingrained in workers from day one.

When you’re updating policies as you return to the office, use this office transition guide to map out your new workflows from tech to HR.

Collaborative Technology

When it comes to collaborating as a member of a hybrid team, how well your team works together comes down to how good your tech tools are. Without effective tools that work equally well for in-person, remote, and flexible employees you won’t even get the chance to see the full potential of your collaborative efforts.

To ensure that every member of your team plays and equal role in your collaborative efforts, incorporate some of these tech essentials:

  • Shared or public calendars to keep all team members on schedule regardless of where they’re working from on any given day
  • Synchronous and asynchronous communication tools, like Slack
  • Cloud-based project management tools for easy access from any device and any location
  • Video conferencing technology that supports hybrid meetings
  • Smart video cameras, like the Meeting Owl, to give hybrid meetings that coveted in-person feeling
  • A CRM that holds all files and necessary group materials in one central location
  • Smart whiteboard for optimum hybrid collaboration

The Ultimate Hybrid Collaboration Checklist

Before you implement a new workplace policy, invest in new hybrid software, or send out an  agenda for an upcoming meetings, ask yourself the questions on this checklist to ensure you are putting your most collaborative foot forward in everything you do:

  • Is this as collaborative as it can be?
  • Is it equally accessible to all employees, regardless of where they are working from?
  • Does this support an inclusive workplace environment?
  • Are any employees being barred from this based on their location?
  • Does every employee have the tools they need to participate?
  • Will the result be a fully collaborative effort?
  • Is every employee being supported in the ways they need to reach this goal?
  • Does every team have access to the resources, materials, and tech they need?
  • Do teams have the necessary knowledge and skills they need?
  • Are the policies in place designed to encourage collaborative behavior?
  • Does everyone involved have a clear understanding of their expected role?
  • Do the goals of individuals clearly apply to the goals of the group?

While collaboration is a natural element of every modern workplace, implementing policies and guidelines that support hybrid collaboration takes a concentrated effort. And at a transitional time like this, when the return to office is happening any day now for employees who have been working remotely for over a year, being intentional in the ways you choose to support your employees could be the difference between retaining your talented workers and having to start recruiting new ones. 

To ensure that you are creating an inclusive, collaborative hybrid workplace for your employees to return to, download our Tools for Navigating the Return to Office guide today.

Tools for navigating the return to office - download now