We are all ready to go back to the office. Or are we?  

As mentioned in my previous post on resilience, your next workplace may adjust work hours and workspaces to help “keep our distance”.  Hygiene may influence office schedules and space layouts next.  

But what will teamwork look like?  Can we still “work together” if some are in the office and some are not?  Will we replace whiteboards and walls of sticky notes for clear plastic shields and computer monitors permanently? 

I expect more remote hybrid teams as we move into 2021.  Some will want the freedom of remote work and some will long for the camaraderie of a shared physical space. 

Some will be concerned about the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and some will not.

Hybrid Remote is Harder Than All Remote

If you found 2020 challenging with everyone distributed, wait until many of us move to hybrid remote teams to accommodate all these wants and concerns.  For those who previously worked in teams where most people work in the office and a few work remotely, you felt the pain before. I know I have.

Emerging technology will provide some solutions that will keep everyone “connected” whether they are physically in the office or connected through a virtual representation of the office.  That could be interesting, but we’ll need to wait and see what possibilities these rapidly developing technologies will provide.

Meanwhile, companies like Twitter, Microsoft, and Dropbox have joined the remote-first community and told their employees they can work from home permanently.  They dodged the pain of hybrid remote.  They understand the phrase I mentioned in my last blog post: “when one is remote, all should be remote.”

Techniques like remote buddies and copilots help in these remote hybrid environments.  So can balancing asynchronous work for deep focus and hours of overlap for deep collaboration.  But these techniques only really work if your team and workplace value one thing more than anything else: people.

The Key to Remote Hybrid Work – Be Inclusive

I find our expectations and attitudes about work influence how we work more than anything else.   In particular, my years of experience with distributed teams revealed a key value to keep in mind no matter where everyone is located: inclusivity.

One well-known quote by Verna Myers states that “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”  I find this equally true for remote team members.  In my experience, the more inclusive a team becomes with remote team members, the more inclusive they tend to be in other ways.

People dancing in concentric circles
Adaptation of Photo by Ardian Lumi on Unsplash

If we maintain an expectation that we need the whole team to collaborate regardless of their differences, I find many creative solutions from teams that want to include everyone.  They not only become curious but actively seek out the diverse opinions of their team members.

If you learn to become curious about people, you’ll stop filtering them on differences. Instead, you’ll become curious about what they think about the team and the product.  You then become curious how they can help the team think and rethink how they work.  You also wonder what opportunities they see for the team to work on next.

In other words, you value people no matter where they are and what they bring to the team. Be careful.  This might lead to empathy.

Next, I’ll share more about getting curious and helping others get curious.