There is no doubt about that. Ask any team manager across the globe today about getting their employees back to work. One of our clients, while planning their return to office, conducted a survey. Interestingly, only 40% of the employees wanted to return to the office, whereas 90% of team managers wanted their teams to come back to the office.
This wide gap tells a different story. For an employee, remote work has been a blessing in disguise. For a team manager, the stress and anxiety of managing a team that is scattered across various locations are high. Like high! Even with individual productivity improving, the morale of the team has been on a decline.
This is why hybrid workplaces need to be the answer of the hour. Though in one of our earlier posts, we highlighted the chaotic side of the hybrid workplace. But honestly, integrating technology with the basic concept of hybrid, say scheduling employees for a particular day, can solve most of these. Planning a return to office also becomes more strategic. Questions like who comes to the office, when they come to the office, or any initial puzzle related to establishing a hybrid workplace can be sorted.
So, how is this good news for the team managers?
Most wise souls across the world are looking to re-open their offices in a staggered way. The hybrid way. If an organization adopts the hybrid, team managers can find a sustainable way to collaborate. This is especially true for managers with large teams. Since a hybrid workplace allows employees to come to the office a few days a week, collaboration becomes more effortless.
It also enables team managers to view their team’s availability and then plan, schedule, and communicate with the members about their in-office collaboration time. They can also keep a tab on any change of plans.
So, a hybrid workplace not only promotes collaboration but also ensures an easy return to the office. But herein lies a few challenges. Keep reading to find out more.
The Challenges of a Team Manager as We Know It
Some questions get piling up as we get deeper into the nuances of planning collaboration in a hybrid workplace setting. We have categorized these challenges for better understanding:
Earlier, as a team manager, planning a week of work for a few dozen people was easy. There were only two factors that they needed to consider- people and tasks. With the addition of the third factor, location, the system is a little more complicated.
Communication is of the essence here. Without proper communication, your plans can fall apart. First, you have to communicate the project to your team. Second, you need to allow team members to voice their availability or change the plan. If you try handling everything over email, you’re likely to get swamped by the deluge of emails. Though there are a variety of communication apps available, tracking still seems like a significant challenge.
Overwhelming for Team Manager
The tasks of a team manager have increased exponentially. Team managers across the globe have reported logging more hours as a result of the pandemic. Delegation without communication is a challenge. If not appropriately delegated, the situation can quickly escalate to becoming an overwhelming one for team managers.
What Works Where?
Geographically distributed teams may have different work policies based on state laws/office needs. Expecting the team manager to remember which employees will be in the office and who will work remotely can be a pain.
The Better World
Where there is will and a boatload of technology, there is a way. So, offices that have adopted technology have been able to overcome these challenges. Many of Workinsync’s clients using the Team Planner and employee scheduling module have reported reduced anxiety, faster planning, and better tracking. Let’s dive a little deeper into the module and see how it is helping these team managers.
WorkInSync provides a single interface for team managers to manage all their teams across offices. While there is an option to notify using emails and push notifications, it’s primarily used as a secondary channel. All planning and change request approval communication is handled by the system, while team managers can keep themselves updated with the latest.
The team planner screen has been designed to collaborate with corporate team managers across the globe, specifically from BPO, Financial, and Telecom backgrounds. We’ve made it in a way that allows managers to plan work from the office, work from home, and even plan office commute for their team members with just a few clicks. Furthermore, custom groups and shortcuts help them prepare for multiple members across multiple days in one go.
Manage the Cost
At least some parts of project costs are now in the control of the team manager. Suppose your organization bills the project based on desks used; in that case, managers can plan their office collaboration, check utilization in real-time, and analyze the past data available as downloadable reports. This gives them the ability to keep a tab on the utilization of resources and plan accordingly.
As a manager having team members distributed across various states/countries, it’s hard to keep track of what laws and workplace policies are applicable in different locations. Workplace policies can be configured per office, so if rules apply to one office but not to the others, the system takes care of using those policies.
Behind the Scenes
Team planner is designed to help team managers make better decisions faster – by providing all relevant information in a single interface.
We conceptualized an interface where a spreadsheet meets calendar meets email. It’s designed with a familiar spreadsheet-like interface, has simple calendar-like scheduling, and automatically takes care of communication through push notifications and email. Allows managers to search, filter team members, and also create custom groups for ease of planning. Managers can make bookings on behalf of their team members in bulk and book specific desks. All booking details are shared with the team members on email, calendar, and app notifications. Employees seeking any changes in their plan can update their bookings, and the system makes a request and allows the manager to authorize those changes.
The team planner also allows you to re-use the plans that seem to work well. It automatically takes care of employee’s preferences and their compliance based on their location without overwhelming the managers.
A team manager can also access their planning in a report format in both a detailed and summarized manner.
Bringing It All Together
Planning needs to be a collaborative and time-saving process, not an overwhelming overhead. It is supposed to enhance productivity, not hinder it. If you are one of those managers who’d like to reduce chaos for their employees and costs for their company, WorkInSync’sTeam planner is just the right SaaS tool to pick. You can also read about our desk booking software.
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If you’ve been working from home for the past year, you must have been conscious of the green dot next to your name on whatever collaboration you use. And for whatever reasons, you must have paid attention to the one next to your colleagues’ names too. It has a direct impact on your real estate cost optimization efforts. Curious?
That green dot once was a mere indication that a person is online. These days it’s transformed into the “I am available at my work desk” symbol. The difference might not seem like a lot unless you’ve felt the pressure of keeping it green, marking your presence, from 9 to 5 and beyond. That’s presence prison for you.
While work from home has become the norm, the model of working hasn’t changed. So, the expectation of being at someone’s beck and call hasn’t gone away either. Admittedly, it doesn’t work that way when you are at home. There are parenting duties, household chores, and seemingly infinite disturbances that pull you away from your laptop now and then. Keeping that dot green all the time is, therefore, an unrealistic expectation when working from home.
If presence-prison is something you can relate to, here is a solution that might interest you. It starts with few questions.
Is all work urgent?
Does every ping require an immediate response?
Are all virtual meetings necessary?
For most of the workday, do we have to be present at the same time as our colleagues?
Understandably, a large majority would answer in negative.
These points culminate in questioning the imposition of a 9 to 5 physical office work model on WFH. Most workplaces are struggling with WFH precisely because of this approach.
Businesses need to acknowledge the shift of concept of work. It’s no longer a place. It’s a timebound activity to be done by each employee at her own pace. Of course, there will be work that will involve groups. However, it doesn’t translate to mandating all the people to be logged in all the time. It’s unrealistic and creates a lot of unproductive pressure in the organization. How do you let it off?
That brings us to the concept of asynchronous collaboration, which drives home the point that work is an activity. With that acknowledgment, you will be able to rationally assess the office space utilization, which will in turn impact your cost optimization efforts.
What is asynchronous collaboration?
Asynchronous collaboration is work that does not happen at the same time for all parties involved. There isn’t a pre-defined sequence either. With a host of workspace management solutions, it facilitates the functioning of a hybrid workplace in quite a few ways. Broadly, you may look at it as a hybrid workspace management tool.
While everybody puts in dedicated hours, not all employees are present or available at the same time. Here asynchronous applies to both communication and actual doing of work.
Asynchronous communication does not involve real-time interaction. One of your team members leaves a document listing the dependencies that require your attention. You pick it up during work hours and deliver based on timelines. If you have a question, you insert a comment and assign it to the relevant person.
Done conventionally, you will end up with at least two meetings, which may not be the most efficient way of doing it. Why?
As we know it, meetings often have people responding through the top of their minds. Not all responses are well thought, given the lack of enough time to craft one. Also, the discussion points might get lost, missed, or forgotten even as you religiously post that MoM (Minutes of Meeting).
The bottom line is – don’t rush it if it can wait. If you aren’t brainstorming or firefighting, leave that well-crafted note on Slack or the good old Google Document. It’s more efficient and leaves a historical context to check back on for future tasks, follow-ups, or delays.
Not just that, asynchronous collaboration has several other advantages.
The pros of asynchronous collaboration
Switching to asynchronous collaboration has a direct impact on the number of meeting you have in a day.
Despite several pieces of research pointing out that meetings cost money, they refuse to go away. And they have made their way to the post-pandemic new normal, albeit with a different name.
Zoom Calls and Google Meets, coupled with the now ubiquitous “let’s get on a call,” have been a constant source of fatigue. It isn’t the calls themselves but the frequency that causes more damage.
Asynchronous communication can help your organization battle Zoom fatigue by allowing the response time to be set to an employee’s productive hours. With a tool like TeamBuzz, your employees can plan their workdays, set aside hours for tasks, monitor their productive and non-productive time, and do much more. At the same time, it allows employers and colleagues to set their expectations accordingly. Employees can focus on their work without having to worry about the green dot.
When you take the pressure away and provide people more autonomy over their time, it fosters a culture of transparency and accountability.
The other advantage that comes with asynchronous collaboration is a culture of documenting work. Documentation serves two purposes:
It structures the thought process by making people think before they ink. Documenting helps set the context, objective, and execution plan for any reader to reference back when required. Without having to dial up a colleague or spend time setting up a group call for clarification, it makes work more efficient.
More importantly, documentation creates organizational knowledge that has multiple benefits. For starters, it can drastically cut down on the onboarding time for a new employee by providing ready reference material.
The main advantage is the natural fit of asynchronous collaboration and remote work. When you try syncing individuals working in different locations, time zones, and environments, the organizational energy’s lost on replicating an on-premise working model. But is that the right goal to chase? Perhaps not. The resources, instead, can enable employees to be more productive and deliver results. A by-product of this approach is a change in perspective about the need to have a physical workspace. With a successful transition to an asynchronous approach, companies can switch to a hybrid workspace, significantly decreasing their office space utilization.
It’s not that asynchronous collaboration is not without a downside. It has quite a few.
The cons of asynchronous collaboration
Asynchronous collaboration, while providing autonomy and freedom over one’s schedule, places a different set of expectations on the employee. The employees have to stay up to date. They need to consume all information that’s passively shared on the collaboration applications with a notification to boot.
With reduced meeting invitations and interactions, it transfers the burden of staying in touch with the organization onto the employee. Also, it amplifies the less desirable aspects of WFH, such as loneliness, lack of belongingness, and listlessness.
The freedom to work at any time blurs the line between work and personal time. While the environmental shift has already blurred the division between work and home, asynchronous work can further exacerbate the problem.
Increased monitoring of employee productivity is another likely fallout of allowing employees to decide their work schedule. However, an organization’s decision about monitoring depends on several other variables like culture, work, workforce, and overall experience. Nonetheless, it’s a possibility.
How do you make asynchronous collaboration work?
“Whether one should move to asynchronous collaboration?” is a no-brainer. Planning to have a 9 to 5 model for remote work is akin to knowingly force-fitting the familiar into the unknown.
Organizations and workplace managers need to acknowledge the differences between WFH and on-premise work in their entirety. It will provide the much-needed perspective to plan and execute a seamless shift to asynchronous collaboration.
Given the positives and negatives of asynchronous work, you need to plan a calibrated approach for the transition. Categorizing work based on expectations and dependencies would be a good place to start. For example:
Synchronous and collaborative: Group activities that demand on-the-feet thinking like brainstorming, crisis management, or anything where real-time engagement is beneficial Hybrid workspace management tools like Slack, Teams, and so on should prove helpful.
Collaborative yet asynchronous: If you have a culture of sharing daily status updates over calls, you could move it over to each team member filling in a cell on a shared spreadsheet. You could save a lot of time by doing it. You can have less frequent in-person meetings to keep the sense of belonging to a team alive.
Independent, asynchronous work: Are you developing a program that requires deep focus or building a solution where outcome matters most? In such cases, you must share the progress and findings regularly.
Once you’ve categorized work, moving the asynchronous parts to the new model becomes easier.
Employees are working in vastly different environments separated by distance, time, and realities. Focusing on synchronizing something so varied and diversified, HR and workplace managers are draining their energies into a bottomless pit. The organizational perspective about a physical office space gets stuck in time. Consequently, organizations end up taking a lot more space than their actual requirement and hurting their real estate cost optimization efforts.
Today the focus should be on driving efforts and outcomes. It demands using technology that enables the functioning of a hybrid workspace. Chasing a goal that does not improve employee productivity and work efficiency is a misdirected effort, period.
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5 Tips for Successful Team Task Management in a Hybrid Model
Posted on November 19, 2020 by wis_wp
The hybrid workplace model is the way forward. In a survey conducted by Salesforce, 33% of millennials and 43% of GenZ want to split their work time between home and office. Due to the pandemic, there are thousands of team leaders and managers across the globe who now have to oversee distributed teams. This can be difficult, especially as most of us didn’t have the time to prepare. If you are one of them, this list of team task management tips will help set you up and drive your team to success.
Conduct face-to-face video meetings regularly. Phone conversations and messages can only go so far. Your team needs to see you and you need to see your team. Leverage apps like Zoom and Google Meet to achieve the same. Daily check-ins should be a part of your team task management. And the purpose should be simple- set the agenda and provide feedback your team needs to succeed.
Communicate, A LOT
The chart above indicates that communication and the feeling of isolation are the biggest challenges for remote workers. Use free communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Team, and WorkInSync to keep your team connected. Conduct regular one-on-one sessions to comprehend their mental state. Remember, it is easy to communicate with the employees visiting the office. But for those working from home, constant communication is the key to managing them.
Provide the Right Resources
If you suddenly have a group of people working remotely, you need to ensure that they have access to the right technology. This may include laptops, software, and even a high-speed internet connection. It’s incorrect to assume that everyone has access to a proper home workstation. As a manager, it is your responsibility to help them build one.
You need to understand, under the current circumstances, your team probably has a lot going on. This doesn’t excuse not working, but it is a reason to reconsider what productivity really means. Punching a clock for eight hours is gone. Regular work hours are also not viable for many. Trust your team and give the freedom and flexibility to get work done on a schedule that allows them to be productive. Be flexible with your team task management and witness it prosper in the long-run.
Focus on Outcome, Not the Process
It’s almost impossible to manage every aspect of a hybrid team. For what’s worth, you cannot micromanage a team that is distributed across various locations. Instead of focusing on the number of login hours, focus on the outcome. Define the scope, deliverables, and deadlines of each task your team is working on. This will help you keep your sanity while also increasing your team’s performance.
To Add It Up
The uncertainties provided by COVID-19 have changed the way we work. While developing new policies to accommodate a seamless hybrid workplace model will take some time, you need to start making changes right now to ensure proper team task management.
WorkInSync’s Team Planner is one of the best team management software available. From getting visibility on your team’s well-being to getting clarity on schedules, from preferred work location to the resources required, the team management app amalgamates it all.
Keeping the above-mentioned tips in mind and by leveraging the Team Planner module, you can drive your team to success. To get a free demo, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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