Managing or supervising a hybrid PR team can be challenging when you want to achieve effective coordination and communication. It isn’t easy to productively engage team members when they are based in different locations and are expected to work together in various ways. They need to meet deadlines jointly, strategize for upcoming projects, contribute to brainstorming sessions, and to be simultaneously available for meetings, among other things.
Team members in different time zones can find it difficult to communicate and collaborate in real-time. For instance, in the USA, there is a 3-hour time difference in summer between the east coast and the west coast. Just think – a traditional 9 am start on the west coast can be almost lunchtime on the east coast in the head office. A phone call at 2 pm from the west coast can be at 5 pm on the east coast when many workers are winding down for the day. This can increase the risk of miscommunication, which can lead to coordination problems and mistakes.
You want your hybrid PR team to perform at peak levels. With the right approach, you can help your team thrive, ensuring teammates are able to engage with one another from any location at any time. This will help them heighten their productivity and efficiency.
Employees’ preferences and the appropriateness of hybrid work schedules vary greatly by organization, team, role and individual. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The proportion of hybrid workers can also vary within individual business units or functions. You need to find hybrid arrangements for all the business units and key contacts in your organization so you don’t endure endless frustration when you want to reach them quickly.
A PR manager/head of comms can do many things for the best responses from their hybrid team. These include:
1. Keep the lines of communication open
Use several communication channels to stay in contact with team members. Encourage them to use video calls, emails, the intranet, and other forms of electronic communication to keep one another up to date on projects. This ensures teammates can connect and avoid missed deadlines.
To connect well with your hybrid team, think virtual first. When team members working in the office behave as if everyone is working remotely, remote workers are more likely to feel like part of the team. For example, bringing laptops to all meetings so everyone has an on-screen presence can create a more inclusive experience.
Within the new hybrid work arrangements, you need to increase communication about work priorities, progress and coordination between team members. Providing team members with project management software improves these efficiencies, allowing team members to track the status of a project and offer real-time updates. Implement the software. Offer a training program to ensure team members properly use the software.
Regarding training, taking time to learn together is a great way to grow into a hybrid team. Try scheduling training that teaches your team to collaborate more effectively in a virtual setting.
In addition, schedule regular check-ins with members of your hybrid PR team. Check-ins allow you to share any concerns or questions with a team member and get an update on their performance. When some employees work remotely and others are in-office, it may be confusing to schedule meetings at first. Fortunately, these hybrid meetings will feel natural once a routine is established.
- Request all team members to attend virtual meetings with cameras.
- Take some time for interpersonal catch-up, e.g. 5 minutes before the start of meetings and at other times that suit you and your team member.
- Arrange for someone in-office to monitor the remote participation and chat.
- Engage everyone with digital polls, emojis, or whiteboards.
Hybrid work is here to stay
In 2022, a global Pulse survey of 10,000 knowledge workers* found that 45% of respondents on average, were employed in a hybrid mode. This included 39% of US workers and 53% of UK workers. However, most businesses don’t have a clear hybrid strategy, which can cause a dip in collaboration. As hybrid environments are the work mode for more than half of all organizations on average, hybrid meetings are a crucial, natural part of the new working world. Putting a hybrid meeting strategy in place sets you and your PR team up for success.
* According to Wikipedia, Knowledge workers include editors and others whose job is ‘to think for a living’ and who engage in frequent ‘non-routine’ problem-solving. PR and communication professionals certainly fit this description.
2. Establish hot desk policies
Define hot desk policies for your hybrid PR team. These policies allow you to provide team members with workspaces whenever they visit the office. The policies can explain when team members can access an office workspace. They also help ensure team members can finish tasks on schedule, regardless of whether they work remotely or in the office.
Your hot desk policies should describe how and when hybrid PR team members can use an office workspace and how they must organize their workspace. They should also define the technologies that teammates can use in the office. In doing so, team members can work where they feel most comfortable. As a result, they can help your team achieve the best possible results.
3. Team recognition is important
Celebrate your hybrid PR team’s accomplishments. Research consistently shows that employee recognition increases an individual’s or team’s engagement. And higher engagement levels bring a host of benefits, including better organizational performance and greater employee satisfaction. Employee recognition is a key tenet of a successful team. Take time to honour team members who perform well. You can show team members you appreciate and value their contributions.
You can recognize a team member’s achievements during a group or one-on-one meeting. You can give them an individual award for their effort and/or results. A personal thank-you note is a simple and effective way to recognize a team member.
Ask team members to celebrate their peers’ achievements. This can drive engagement across your team. It can lead team members to support one another like never before.
4. Offer flexible work schedules
Offer a flexible work schedule to team members – don’t force them to stick to a standard 9-to-5 workday structure. They should consider where they can best focus on their assignments and when they should be in the office to boost collaboration and team culture. This will allow them to complete work to accommodate project deadlines, which won’t force them to compromise their work-life balance. This way, they can reduce their work hours while becoming more productive and efficient. At the same time, set boundaries for them so they know your expectations.
5. Collect and evaluate team feedback
The best feedback is 1:1 and preferably in person. A valuable guide for you is a Quantum Workplace 2021 article, “14 one-on-one meeting topics you should be discussing with employees,” for “sharing ideas, working through feedback and obstacles, and further discussion of performance, goals, and growth.” Recommended to clarify your thinking as well as team members.
When it is difficult to meet 1:1 in-person, you can use alternatives. You can conduct short ‘pulse’ surveys and questionnaires to determine how hybrid PR team members feel about your management or supervisory style. These assessments can give you insights that can help you improve.
Request candid feedback frequently from individuals and the whole team. The more feedback you receive, the more you can learn from team members. You can use this feedback to fine-tune your management approach. Make sure you let them know your response and any relevant follow-up so they know you are treating feedback as important and that you are treating them with respect. Over time, you can receive feedback that helps you become the best manager for your team.
Also, how you give and receive feedback – above and below your position – affects the value of the whole process. This 2022 Harvard Business Review article, “The right way to process feedback,” can help you give quality feedback to your team members and guide them on how to respond to feedback. A couple of other useful articles are “5 steps for giving productive feedback,” contributed by the Fierce leadership development and training firm in Entrepreneur (undated), and “The art of receiving feedback – The feedback conversation,” in Medium in 2021.
Get the best results from your hybrid PR team
With so much uncertainty in the business environment and so little previous experience as a reference, many organizations must learn from trial and error which work modes best fit their employees for the best results.
There is always room for improvement in the best teams, including your hybrid PR team. The best hybrid team managers prioritize business communication and work diligently to support their staff. These managers inspire and motivate team members to give 100%. They also help team members identify and mitigate performance issues before they can get out of hand.
Manage your hybrid PR team carefully and monitor results. You can track your team’s performance and learn from your team members. This allows you to find the best ways to help your team members to thrive.
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