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Three strategic tips for creating a positive and productive climate in a hybrid team. Manage energy not time. Use fun rituals. Role-model vulnerability.

Hybrid working is our new reality. The consequences on our teams are huge.

Hybrid work is a flexible working model. It occurs when an organisation allows its employees to split their time between the office and another location. According to the 2022 Charity Digital Skills Report, the majority of organisations (62%) now have hybrid working arrangements in place.

There are many ways to run a hybrid workplace. Some organisations say employees must spend a minimum number of days at the office each week. Others have offered complete flexibility. Choosing a policy means thinking carefully about the pros and cons of the hybrid model. For both the individual and the organisation.

Some advantages of a hybrid office model

• Employees are more productive because there are fewer distractions

• Employees are happier because they have more freedom

• Organisations save money on rent and office supplies because they don’t need so much physical space

Some disadvantages of a hybrid office model

• Employees are more likely to burn out because it’s easier to work longer hours

• Employees are more reliant on technology to do their jobs effectively

• Organisations need to invest time and money in redesigning the office for flexible working

Any kind of hybrid policy will affect team dynamics, too. After all, everyone isn’t sharing the same physical space every day. People who aren’t in the office can miss out on updates and feel left out.

If we want hybrid work to work, we must create the conditions for our teams to communicate, connect, and collaborate effectively. That starts by understanding what those conditions are.

The best teams are able to take risks and be vulnerable with each other

What do the world’s happiest and highest-performing teams have in common? According to Google, the single most important dynamic is psychological safety.

Psychological safety is the belief that no one will punish or humiliate you for sharing ideas or making mistakes. Teams with high psychological safety can take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. This is a fantastic achievement. But it’s easier said than done, even in the non-profit sector. Think back to your own career. How many times have you stayed silent for fear of looking stupid or misinformed? Let’s face it, most of us worry about what other people think. Especially at work. So how do we overcome this challenge?

It all starts with leadership.

Leaders can build team psychological safety in lots of ways. But one way is more important than the rest—and that’s creating a positive team climate. In a positive team climate, everyone in the group:

  • Values each other’s contributions
  • Cares about each other’s well-being
  • Contributes to how the team does its work

A positive team climate is supportive and nurturing. Creating this environment should be your top priority as a charity leader. See the time and effort as an investment in your team’s long-term success.

3 tips for creating a positive climate in your hybrid team

#1 Let your employees manage their energy instead of their time

The boundaries between work and life had been blurring long before the pandemic. For many, work-life balance is an unattainable goal. Instead, empower your employees to treat it as a reinforcing circle. Blood Cancer UK offers a fantastic example. They use an agile way of working to give their employees more autonomy and flexibility:

“Working agile means we changed from having a culture where people are expected to be in the office from 9am to 5pm to one where we’re much more focused on what they deliver… Above all, agile working is about treating people like adults. If you want to go to your child’s assembly or a personal appointment and make up the time later, then fine. If you have a report to write and want to spend the day in a coffee shop because that’s where you do your best work, that’s fine, too.”

So long as we meet our deadlines and commitments, why not?

The 9-5 working week is an industrial invention. But the UK has entered a post-industrial era. Today, many of us only need wifi and a laptop to do our jobs.

Allowing your employees to work to their rhythm shows that you trust and care about them. It shows that you appreciate and understand their non-work responsibilities.

Four intersecting circles with words in each: Home and family; Work and career; Wellbeing and health; Giving back and connecting to community

Ultimately, employees that are happy at home will be inspired to work. And employees that are happy at work will be inspired at home. Encourage people to do what gives them energy and everyone will benefit.

#2 Bring your team together with fun and effective rituals

Giving individuals autonomy doesn’t mean giving up team routines. If anything, it makes them even more important. Especially in a hybrid environment.

Enter: the team ritual.

Team rituals are recurring group activities or interactions that help people connect. They are the glue that holds team culture together. One of the most common team rituals in tech startups is the daily standup. It usually lasts for around 15 minutes, and takes place at the same time every day. In the standup, each person shares three things:

  • What they accomplished yesterday
  • What their focus is for today
  • Whether they need any help

The standup is one of CAST’s favourite rituals. After originating in software development during the 1990s, it's slowly spreading across charities.

Another example of positive rituals are warmups and cooldowns. Think of these as bookends to your team’s week:

Monday warmup

  • Length: 15 mins
  • Purpose: Focus and energy
  • Format: Question-based, e.g. What should we prioritise? What is everyone most excited about this week?

Friday cooldown

  • Length: 30 mins-1.5 hrs
  • Purpose: Relaxation and decompression
  • Format: Activity-based. Each week, someone in the team chooses something fun for the group to do together.

You can also add reflection exercises to warmups and cooldowns:

  • Give kudos: Who do you want to appreciate this week and why?
  • Share learnings: What’s one thing we could do to be 10% better next week?

Running these ritual sessions as hybrid meetings? You can make everyone feel included by:

  • Getting everyone to dial in from their computers, even those in the physical room
  • Asking someone to be the session facilitator and track the virtual chat

Take a look at more tips in CAST’s Practical Guide to Remote Meetings.

A charity should choose its rituals based on its unique culture and challenges. To find yours, start by talking to your team. Identify opportunities to improve your ways of working and design your rituals together.

#3 Lead from the front and role-model vulnerability

Being vulnerable in front of others is hard. If you want your teams to drop their workplace armour, you need to drop yours first. You can do that by:

  • Sharing your challenges and saying when you’re not OK
  • Being the first person in the room to say that you don’t know
  • Being the last person in the room to voice an opinion
  • Asking people if they are above or below the line

We cannot be what we cannot see. Show your team it’s ok not to be perfect.

About the author: Lauren is a proud non-techie working in Tech and the daughter of a non-profit CEO. She currently leads marketing at Sana Labs, an ed-tech startup. Sana enables teams to create personalised and collaborative learning experiences in minutes. In 2020, Lauren started a newsletter called Pass It On to help Tech and Non-profits learn from each other. You can subscribe to the Pass It On newsletter for free here.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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