How to best organize your team’s hybrid work

How to best organize your team’s hybrid work

Hybrid working – some days from home and some days from the office – will for many be the normal “office” after the worst part of the pandemic. So, how to best organize your team’s hybrid work?

A new summary of experiences says that in a truly connected organization, people can communicate effectively no matter where they are – and no matter when they work.

One of the first experiences when people were sent home to work from there was: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and the number of video meetings exploded as the casual way of discussing over desks was gone.

“People missed the human connections; they had FOMO,” says Jeff Teper, Microsoft corporate vice president, in the summary .

“They were afraid of missing the sort of information that they used to pick up from a hallway conversation.”

For many, this was too much. In a Microsoft study of workers a year into the pandemic, 54% said they felt overworked and 39% said they were exhausted.

Microsoft´s summary of experiences from offices says the pandemic accelerated the transformation from email to rich, collaborative experiences in which real-time meetings and calls are combined with asynchronous tools that everyone on a project can access at any time.

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Reimagine meeting culture for a hybrid way of work

Too many meetings inevitably lead to burnout. And meetings aren’t well-suited for consuming or sharing certain kinds of information.

As companies make a conscious cultural shift toward hybrid work, every worker will need clearly communicated guidelines, expectations, and best practices, the summary says.

Teper and his team standardized the practice of creating a written pre-read for meetings so everyone has a better sense of what will be covered and who actually needs to be present.

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“We also tried to make it culturally safe for people not to attend certain things. We made it clear that we weren’t taking attendance,” he says.

Managers found that they could fight the sense of FOMO by making sure all non-sensitive material covered in the meeting is shared with everyone in the organization. Those who run the meetings post the slides and notes after the meeting.

“That allows us to say, ‘hey, you really don’t have to be at this meeting, you can go get real work done,” Teper says. “And that approach trickles down in the organization.”

“In fact, meeting recordings are one of our fastest-growing content types internally.”

Level up real-time meetings with the power of asynchronous tools

Organizations can boost efficiency by developing a better sense of when real-time collaboration is essential and when it isn’t.

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A post-meeting document that everyone can access at any time can be just as valuable as a pre-meeting brainstorming document, the summary says.

”It’s incumbent upon leaders to help everyone establish a better balance between time spent in video conferences and time spent collaborating asynchronously.”

Microsoft´s goal is to eventually use AI to create a summary and identify key takeaways, the summary says.

”But there are already many asynchronous tools that can be connected into the flow of work to further boost productivity.”

Create norms that work best for your team

”Every team will need to experiment to discover how to communicate and collaborate best, then create norms that support those discoveries.”

The report notes that there is also the question of delay. Just how asynchronous should asynchronous communication be?

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”Time zone incompatibilities can introduce enormous lag into even the simplest of asynchronous discussions.”

One simple product feature that is finding unexpected value in the hybrid age is the ability to delay messages, says John Tang, principal researcher at Microsoft.

”Psychologically, if a worker receives a message from a co-worker or their boss after hours, they generally feel compelled to respond.”

Tang says if he wants to send a non-critical message from Seattle to a colleague who’s just finishing their workday in London, he’ll often set the message to go out later. “I don’t want to signal that I work really early or late hours to people, and I don’t want to obligate other people to respond to me,” he says.

“Sometimes I think of text chat as a peri-synchronous mechanism. It’s nearly synchronous, but there’s a little more flexibility around it.”

The report summarizes that naturally, asynchronous communication may never become perfect, but Jaime Teevan, chief scientist for Experiences and Devices, is confident that it can get a whole lot better.

“We can’t get rid of time zones. We can’t get rid of the fact that I’m a morning person and you’re an evening person. But as we begin to think more intentionally about the temporal aspect of work, and as asynchronous tools get richer, we are going to unlock so many cool opportunities.”

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