Best Practices

Managing a Hybrid Software Engineering Team

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the nature of work, particularly in the tech sector. Many tech companies have begun offering their workers remote and hybrid work options. In a survey conducted by Accenture, about 83% of employees reported that they preferred a hybrid work environment. This trend indicates that hybrid work is likely to be prominent in the future of work. However, managing a hybrid team is particularly tasking, especially for technical teams like engineering. At you:digital, we have maintained a hybrid work environment for many years. Thus, we fully understand the challenges companies may encounter with managing hybrid engineering teams.

This article will share tips that have helped us successfully manage our hybrid teams and deliver value to our clients.

What is Hybrid Work?

Hybrid work is a mode of operation that allows employees to choose between working physically (in the company's location) or working remotely. There are also situations where employees alternate between the physical and remote options. Thus, hybrid engineering teams often consist of team members who work remotely, onsite, or alternate between both options.

Why Companies Adopt Hybrid Work

Besides the recent buzz around hybrid work and the coronavirus-induced mode of operation, hybrid work offers significant benefits. Many companies have realized the utility of hybrid work and have plans to fully offer this option to their employees. In a recent McKinsey survey, most of the respondents who adopted the hybrid model in the past two years intend to fully retain it. This is mainly because the advantages of hybrid work are numerous, both for employers and employees.
For employees, it gives them enough room to maintain a healthy work-life balance. They can spend more quality time with their family members and possibly have the time to pursue hobbies. For companies with offices located in megacities, employees can cut out commute time and put it to good use. With these conditions in place, employees are likely to experience higher productivity. Burnouts are also reduced.

On the other hand, maintaining a hybrid model is great for the culture of companies. It lets employees know that their employers are conscious of their well-being and intentional about encouraging their quest for flexibility. Hybrid work can also reduce operating costs for employers.

Top Tips for Successfully Managing a Hybrid Engineering Team

Hire Wisely

When seeking to adopt a hybrid model for your engineering team, it is essential to hire your employees wisely. Ensure to hire team members that have good collaboration skills. This will ensure that they can efficiently work with other team members to execute tasks, regardless of location. More importantly, members of your engineering team must also be able to work independently.

This means that they must require minimal micromanaging. Micromanagement is often tasking with hybrid teams, and it could be frustrating to manage team members that do not take initiative. Adaptability, responsiveness, and punctuality should also be considered during your hiring process. While prior hybrid or remote work experience is often ideal, it is not necessarily mandatory, particularly when the candidate has the technical skills for the job. 

Engage in Regular Team-Building Activities

Under the hybrid work model, there is a tendency for team members to create an "Us versus Them" mentality. This mentality essentially separates team members that work onsite from the ones that work remotely. The danger of this mentality is that it can create excessive inequality and division in the workplace. It can also create frictions that hinder collaboration and team cohesion. This is why regular team-building activities are essential. These activities could range from monthly virtual calls to check-in events. This would help every team member feel included, regardless of their chosen working model.

Set Clear Expectations and Fair Performance Metrics

While managing your hybrid engineering team, clearly specifying your expectations from every team member is vital. You should also define the roles of team members. This way, each team member can have clarity on their tasks and what they are expected to help the overall team achieve. The clarification prevents unnecessary work clashes. On the flip side, performance metrics are equally important. This is because the working model is a mix of physical and remote work, so there is a significant twist to performance metrics.

Ordinarily, companies use performance metrics like working hours for physical work. However, this performance approach might be ineffective for hybrid work. Instead, it is advisable that you utilize a results-based performance metric system for your hybrid engineering team. This results-based system involves gauging the performance of your team members according to their ability to turn in their deliverables and effectively drive results for the company. This metric system bridges the gap between onsite and remote workers. It is also a fair approach to measuring the performance of team members with different working models.

Encourage Clear Communication

Many remote engineering teams often struggle with effective communication. This is because some onsite team members may receive information firsthand, while remote workers may experience a delay in receiving such information. It is also likely that remote workers would miss out on the information altogether. Often, such misinformation or lack of information can be costly for the team. It can also make team management more difficult. This is why it is vital to prioritize clear and effective communication. You can do this by scheduling regular team calls where every team member is updated on developments and critical information. Also, ensure that you do not hold meetings that exclude remote workers. Of course, consider the respective time zones of team members while scheduling digital team calls. 

Wrapping Up

Your hybrid engineering team is crucial to your success as a company, particularly from the technical perspective. However, poor management practices could hinder your ability to maximize your team's abilities fully. Thus, you must be intentional about creating a culture of inclusion and encouraging effective communication within your hybrid engineering team.

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