Human Resources

Human Resources

Human Resources

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Managing Hybrid Teams

When Queen’s University begins to transition back to campus, different models will be considered to ensure we comply with public health and safety guidelines, as well as reengage with campus functions successfully.  While the Queen’s Senior Leadership Team and Campus Operations Group will determine overall priorities and provide guidance on which functions may return to campus at specific times, flexibility and connecting with employees will also be key to our collective success.

Important resources for Managers to access include:

It may be, as time goes on, that some of your team members will return to on-campus work at different times, and you may find yourself managing both remote employees and on-campus employees at the same time. This is a “hybrid team” and this Manager’s Guide will support you in navigating how to best manage your hybrid team. Hybrid teams may operate on a rotating schedule, where different members of the team work in different locations (both on- and off-campus) or it could be a team where some are always working on-campus and others continue working remotely.

Managers will be required to provide equitable leadership to two distinct groups: staff who return to campus, and staff who continue to work remotely. Hybrid teams can risk dividing into sub-groups of individuals who are working on campus and those who continue to work remotely, and this can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection. This is a great opportunity to ensure that you, as the team’s leader, have proper practices in place to avoid excluding any individual or group and to promote practices of inclusion.

This guideline has been created to support managers of these hybrid teams to customize their leadership for these new situations and manage work expectations in this tumultuous time.

Determine work conditions that best suit your staff

Queen’s continues to encourage those who can effectively work from home to do so. The Senior Leadership Team continues to set the priorities around this important health consideration. It is important for managers to take this into consideration as they think about what working arrangements are best suited for their staff and for the success of the unit.  Additionally, managers must be sure to follow the guidelines and direction set by the Senior Leadership Team, to consult with Human Resources, to review Public Health COVID-19 guidelines, to follow the university’s health and safety and risk protocols, and to discuss their plans with their own managers, as return to campus processes and requirements may differ across campus. In all cases, it is important to ensure there is a clear, transparent, and principled rationale for decisions concerning who is returning to campus and when.  Documenting this rationale is an important action, as there may be circumstances where, operationally, an employee’s specific request cannot be met. 

Set the Standard

Once your plan has been finalized, approved and reviewed with employees, managers need to set specific operational standards for task completion, client interaction, communication, availability, and reporting structures.  Ensuring employee alignment and understanding on these standards can take place via virtual meetings.  These standards should be reviewed periodically to ensure operational requirements continue to be met.  Human Resources and Organizational Development & Learning can be contacted to help facilitate these discussions if needed. 

These new standards should consider the advantages and disadvantages the two separate employee groups face in their working situations.  Formalizing these new standards should be an open and fluid conversation between managers and employees.  Human Resources recommends the development of a Team Charter to centralize all standards and practices, as well as to allow for future re-evaluations and updates if and when conditions change.  Your team will continue to grow and develop as they work through the pandemic, and the team standards should reflect this evolution. 

Once these new standards are created, they need to be properly communicated to staff, both collectively and individually, so that everyone knows what is expected of them.  With clear standards in place, and an emphasis on open communication between manager and employees, work can be conducted with greater understanding, clarity and effectiveness. Managers are encouraged to focus on managing results, rather than time spent “in the office” or “at the computer”, for both on-campus and remote employees, to ensure equity and quality delivery of results.

Maximize the Use of Technology

Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype and many other programs have become staples in our day-to-day activities.  These virtual platforms are being used across campus for staff meetings, workshops, conferences, and live events.  To ensure that all team members, both on-campus and remote, remain engaged and informed, all meetings should occur on virtual platforms. Doing so permits the entire team to attend and safe physical distancing requirements are met.  

When staff need to work jointly on projects, ensure that they are provided, and trained on, the resources needed to collaborate in a virtual space.  Microsoft Teams’ Whiteboard is an example of a virtual collaboration space that allows for interactive brainstorming and project ideation.

Managing Your Team Fairly and Equitably

As a manager, it is essential to remain collaborative, flexible and open-minded in planning for your team’s return to campus, and to allow everyone the opportunity to actively participate in the planning and feel a sense of belonging. By creating options and helping employees explore possibilities, managers can support employees in handling the conflicting demands being placed on them, professionally and personally.

A risk of hybrid teams is that employees may feel that they are being treated differently or possibly disadvantaged due to their working conditions.

In order to alleviate these concerns, and treat all team members equitably, consider:

  1. Am I holding regular “all team” meetings?

    “All team” meetings should be held regularly, as needed for your unit’s optimal functioning. These meetings should be virtual, permitting everyone, including those physically on campus, to join via a computer from their workspaces. This helps to prevent anyone from feeling like they are not part of a group sitting around together or missing out on shared experiences. Managers are also encouraged to hold these team meetings at convenient times, as some employees working from home may need flexible hours due to childcare or other important personal considerations.

  2. Am I spending more time directing/guiding/coaching employees on campus?

    If yes, consider if this is truly needed in order to help the team function optimally. It may be necessary, for example, to initially spend more time with your employees who have recently returned to on-campus work. You may need to check in with them more frequently, as new processes and procedures are being created and refined. Over time, however, make an effort to balance your time and meet virtually as much as possible with employees working remotely as well. You may even wish to meet more with remote employees than with those on-campus, especially if you are also on-campus, as this could compensate for the casual face-to-face encounters that will likely happen in the physical office.

    Consider including some social or personal element to virtual meetings; this will not only help employees feel valued, but it might also help you pick up on cues of any challenges that employees are experiencing. Employees should also be reminded that open dialogue is encouraged and to share concerns with you if they are feeling excluded or have any other concerns.

  3. Am I more socially connected, either outside of working hours and/or in the office, with employees who are working on-campus, simply because we are all physically in the office?

    These are unusual times, and it may be the best choice as a manager not to explicitly socialize outside of the office and/or work time with any of your team, until all members have equal access to such opportunities. It is, however, important to stay socially connected as this can help teams have better engagement and relationships with each other. Continue to encourage social connections as appropriate, within and among your team members.

  4. Am I more likely to think of an on-campus employee for new projects, tasks, or other opportunities, because they are within sight?

    You may want to approach new work and projects differently: for example, inform all employees that you are considering starting new projects and/or opportunities and share details with all team members at the same time, in an email or virtual meeting. Then ask for employees to express their interest in and capacity for new work to you in writing, and then consider everyone together in a balanced way. Depending on the function of your team, you may find other equitable ways to allocate new opportunities so that team members who continue to work remotely are not feeling ignored or overlooked.

Inclusion will be key for both on-campus and remote employees.  An effective way to ensure all staff remain informed is to establish strong communication tools and channels. For example, when delivering emails, ensure that everyone is included, as necessary.  This is also a great time to establish or re-establish regularly scheduled 1-on-1 meetings with staff, and to use the Performance Dialogue Process (PDP), which is a formal means to align on work goals and establish agreement on deliverables, development needs, and growth opportunities. If you have any questions about the PDP process or aligning your team, please contact the Organizational Development and Learning team (hrodl@queensu.ca).

Consider Ways to Innovate and Re-Invent

The adage “never waste a good crisis” has never been more relevant than today. This pandemic is a perfect opportunity to change the way your team functions effectively, both internally and externally.  Human Resources and the Organizational Development & Learning team are available to assist managers who wish to consider innovating their department now or anytime in the future. 

As you navigate new ways of conducting work, ensure staff are consulted and involved in the process. Offer platforms to collaborate and take note of their suggestions and implement them experimentally or permanently, as desired.  Communicate your thoughts and ask for feedback in a consultative and constructive way. To help successfully transition to a new way of working, consult with Organizational Development & Learning, who can provide Change Management and other consultative support. Also continue to provide access to learning opportunities (e.g. online) to staff and remind them of the health and well-being supports that are provided.

Some important links include:

This hybrid working model will take time to become familiar. Be patient, take the time as needed to support your team, and try new approaches. It is a time of experimentation.  For additional support, please reach out to Human Resources. Our Client Services team can help with questions regarding unions, work assignments, and many other topics.  Our Organizational Development & Learning team can help you implement this new model and provide assistance in the transition phase.