4 Tips for Inclusive Collaboration on Hybrid Teams
You just hired your first fully remote team member. You’re excited to bring new talent to your team, but now you’re challenged with making your remote team member feel included—even though they’re not in the office.
As a manager, how do you bridge the communication gap between teams that are in the office and those that work remotely?
Offer equal access to tools, information, and opportunities to share feedback on your hybrid team, no matter where your team members work. In other words: build a team culture of inclusive collaboration.
We’ll offer practical tips on how to do just that in this post, so all remote and in-office team members feel valued and connected to each other.
1. Give team members a voice by asking for feedback regularly
When you don’t work together in the same space every day, it’s easy for team members to feel like their ideas and needs go unnoticed. Make everyone feel included (no matter where they are) by regularly asking for their input. Beyond making team members feel involved, these feedback requests will also help you get buy-in on decisions and find common goalsbetween remote and on-site needs.
Think of your teams as trusted advisors. Ask for feedback before or after announcing policy changes that affect your teams, when you sense they need more guidance, or if you simply want to brainstorm ways to create more collaborative practices. Collect input by using polling tools:
- Slack polls work best for multiple-choice questions or when you want to give your teams time to respond. Abot is a Slack tool that helps you create anonymous polls and lets your team leave suggestion-box-style feedback.
- Zoom polls and quizzes are perfect for real-time feedback during a team meeting or when you’d prefer to address ideas in an all-hands meeting and download responses later. Zoom’s basic polls are great for quick questions, and their advanced polls and quizzes are best for detailed questions or typed-out answers—both allow for anonymous feedback from participants.
- Sesh allows you to vote anonymously during meetings to get feedback and keep your team engaged.
We recommend keeping polls anonymous to encourage honest responses—especially with sensitive topics. This helps make sure you get different perspectives. If a team member would prefer to chat directly with you, ask them to book a 1:1 video call to discuss.
2. Build a culture of documentation and storytelling, and make info accessible from everywhere
Team members in a physical office often share information through quick face-to-face chats. These shoulder-tap moments aren’t possible with remote employees, so they may be out of the loop on exchanges in your hybrid workplace.
To build inclusivity, make sure your distributed employees are a part of the conversation by documenting everything. Then, share all information in a central source that’s easy to use and accessible to everyone.
- Use an internal wiki like Tettra to build a database of company information (like policies, guides, and training info) together. Make it a practice that anyone on your team can modify, access, and search articles.
- Use Google Docs or Notion to record and share everything from meeting notes to high-level strategy thinking to day-to-day execution updates. Save notes in an easy-to-search place that all team members can contribute to.
- Use Loom to record videos that easily document your live thinking in a way that your remote teammates will have access to in perpetuity.
With online documentation tools, hybrid team members are less likely to get stuck trying to find the info they need to get their work done. Instead, all team members can create and exchange information, regardless of where they are. This creates a more inclusive culture for your hybrid team.
3. Make fostering relationships with teammates a priority
At the heart of building an inclusive environment and collaborative hybrid team dynamic is making sure your team knows one another as humans. As hybrid team leadership, it can be difficult to avoid a two-track culture when some people are working side-by-side in person and others are isolated at home.
Offices are a great place for your team to build relationships, but if you don't intentionally make it a priority to build relationships with your distributed coworkers too, you'll suffer from lower engagement and productivity across your hybrid team. Your remote teammates might even suffer from damaged career prospects.
Research from Gallup shows that 51% of people who have a "best friend at work" reported that they “work with passion” and “feel a profound connection to the company.” Just 10% of those without a best friend at work responded that they feel that passion and connection.
At the end of the day, remote collaboration is more effective when you know the people you work with. Mutual respect for colleagues from different backgrounds, and personal relationships with teammates are hugely important to fostering effective collaboration. Encourage your team to connect in person when possible—services like Cafe help you easily schedule real-life interactions across your hybrid team.
At Remotion, we have a generous expense policy for in-person gatherings to encourage teammates visiting one another between our twice-annual in-person offsite.
When in-person gatherings are not possible, encourage virtual water cooler chats as a fun way to connect with distributed teammates who might not have the chance to chat much otherwise. Donut is an easy-to-use Slackbot feature that randomly pairs teammates for video water cooler chats where they get to know each other. We recommend making this optional, so team members can connect when they are available.
4. Use coworking as a lightweight, opt-in way to connect casually (regardless of location)
Many teams are reopening offices because they believe in the importance of relationship building—and all the benefits that come free with working in person. In person, it's easy to have informal and quick conversations about work or your weekend. These conversations happen easily as you're swinging by your teammate's workspace, or when you're running into them over lunch or in the hallway.
Remote employees may not be in these spaces, but that doesn’t mean they should miss out on those casual chats. As a workaround, give remote and in-office team members shared virtual spaces. This is a great way to foster inclusive collaboration and make sure your remote teammates aren't excluded.
Coworking is a low-pressure way for hybrid teams to connect over their work. Teams can jump into a coworking room in Remotion whenever they want to work alongside their peers, listen to music, and pop off mute for the occasional side-bar chat. Coworking with Remotion helps make space for your hybrid teams chat and work alongside each other—even if they aren’t working from the same place.
By giving hybrid team members ways to connect, you encourage the everyday chats that build relationships and foster inclusive practices with your entire team.
Ask your hybrid teams how they want to collaborate
Be transparent with your team as you try out these suggestions. Let them know you're working to help create a more inclusive practices for collaboration and that you welcome their feedback and diverse perspectives. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to share their ideas, and their insight will help you create inclusive practices that make everyone—remote or not—feel involved.
The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.
Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.
Here are the biggest reasons we think virtual coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:
1. It fosters casual conversations.
Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in a traditional office.
2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.
It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Virtual coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.
3. It's easy to say yes to.
Purely social events are important, but if your remote team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your distributed team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.
4. It improves remote collaboration.
Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops and stronger remote collaboration. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages. Coworking also builds peer accountability.
5. It's scalable.
Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.
6. It creates shared momentum.
Virtual coworking helps remote workers for the same reason you might get a membership at a traditional coworking space: the feeling of togetherness is motivating!
Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.
It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.
Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.
Try independent coworking.
Try project-based coworking.
Best practices for virtual coworking.
Keep group sizes small.
Limit your work sessions to 4-6 people to minimize distraction and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.
Signal boost coworking.
Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.
Make it routine.
Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.
Set expectations ahead of time.
When you're first introducing coworking to your remote team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of work sessions to get everyone on the same page. For example:
Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share virtual space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at a physical office.
Listen to music together.
Play music while you work in a virtual room to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your virtual coworking session.
Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.
Most of the above is doable with any video chat app or virtual office, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Remotion is the perfect virtual coworking platform—easily set up virtual rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.
While Remotion's virtual workspace is free to use with your remote team, if you're curious about joining a virtual coworking community built on our platform—check out Swift Remote Studio for iOS, Mac, and Swift developers.