Merge's Blog

Be deliberate about creating a workplace culture for your virtual or hybrid team

Last week I promised that I would create a brand-new video tip series for 2021 on Leading hybrid and virtual teams.  Well today I’m excited to share the first strategy, and this one is all-encompassing when it comes to leading a virtual or hybrid team. It is to deliberately articulate, and then establish and maintain your desired workplace culture.

Articulate and establish your virtual or hybrid team workplace culture

Your workplace culture is the character and personality of your organization or department. It’s what makes your place of work unique, and it’s the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes.  It’s the environment that your employees operate in.  Your workplace culture gives your employees the cues they need to determine what are appropriate behaviours and expected actions.

So as a leader, ask yourself some difficult questions –

  • “How are things getting done in my organization?”
  • “How do my employees relate to each other?”
  • “How do they relate to their internal or external clients?”
  • “How do my employees relate to me?”

Collaborate with your team

First, articulate what your existing in-office culture is, and then your next step is to collaborate with your team to determine how you will continue that same culture, or shift it, in the new virtual or hybrid team environment.

The challenge of course is that maintaining a relatively homogenous workplace culture is harder when everyone is not in the same place.  People don’t have the visual or behaviour cues to tell them how they should get things done and relate to one another.  So you, the leader, have to work extra-hard to make sure you establish and maintain the virtual or hybrid team workplace culture you desire.

Focus on the following high-level ideas

Now much, if not all, of what I’m going to talk about in the upcoming weeks and months in this series is specific steps that will lead you towards this goal of a shared culture.  But for now, let me give you some high-level ideas.

  • First, focus on making sure that communication is happening freely. Your virtual or hybrid team needs a common vocabulary and open channels.  So be deliberate about creating an environment of open communication.
  • Second, your virtual or hybrid team needs clear expectations on goals, timelines, milestones, and their availability.
  • Third, create an atmosphere of trust. Relationships matter, even more in the virtual world.  You cannot manage process anymore, you need to manage output.
  • And fourth, particularly if you have a hybrid team, strive for fairness – between the in-office group and the remote group.

What else do you need to know about virtual and hybrid teams?

As I said earlier, in upcoming installments in this series, I will give you more specific actions you can take to open communication, set clear expectations, create trust and strive for fairness.  But this strategy today is deliberately thinking about your desired workplace culture in the virtual world.  The best way to accomplish this – schedule a meeting with your virtual or hybrid team and talk about what all of you need to do to create, shift or maintain your workplace culture.  What are the norms and standards that everyone agrees to? How are you going to ensure that you have a culture that will thrive in the virtual environment?

In my next strategy in this series, I will talk more about this early meeting with your virtual or hybrid team, and how to structure it.  However, in the meantime, I’d love to hear more about what you think your biggest challenges will be in leading a virtual or hybrid team.  Add your comments below, and I’ll be sure to offer some solutions and tips in an upcoming video installment.

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