Posted: 21 Apr. 2022 11 min. read

New ways of leading teams in a hybrid environment

New ways of working require a new team management mindset

By Steve Hatfield and Jonathan Pearce

Click: Shareable Infographic on Manager Effectiveness.

Hybrid work is here to stay. Results from Deloitte’s 2021 Global Return to Workplaces survey show that 63% of executives responding that they expect to operate in a hybrid model1. This has enormous implications for how we work. Leaders must be intentional and focused on cultivating new ways of working, while also developing new skills and capabilities to lead their teams effectively. Team leaders must become managerially ambidextrous – able to lead both remote and in-person workers nimbly over the long term. Organizations that intentionally drive leadership skills and capabilities such as empathy, adaptability, and resilience, among others, in order to succeed will gain a new competitive advantage.

At the onset of the pandemic, leaders were forced to quickly adapt to leading in a new remote environment that often came with competing priorities. For example, managers were asked to create inclusive environments and a sense of belonging for all types of workers in the new virtual landscape, while also being challenged to demonstrate and maintain business results in an unpredictable market. Operating in “survival mode,” most managers learned on the go.

Today, many organizations have moved toward a long-term hybrid model, presenting complexities as parts of their workforce are able to work remotely while others’ roles require in-person presence. Managers are expected to fluidly and capably lead teams with a broad spectrum of work structures as well as balance worker needs and dynamics. Companies need to take action to enable managers and teams to work differently in this hybrid environment, asking themselves:

  • What will it take for our teams to be equally or more effective in a hybrid environment?
  • What new capabilities do our managers need to lead hybrid teams?

Forward-looking organizations can cultivate new management strategies and capabilities to support the flexible, hybrid ecosystem of today while building the workplace of the future.

New Ways of Working, New Team Management Mindset

To lead today’s flexible teams and support a hybrid environment, organizations need to cultivate dynamic leadership capabilities in their people leaders founded on the following four leading drivers of workforce engagement:

Lead with Empathy and Authenticity

The collective experience of enduring a pandemic and the many challenges that is has created for individual workers has placed greater emphasis on the need to bring authenticity and empathy into the workplace. In fact, Deloitte’s 2021 Global Ways of Working Study found that 97% of all respondents reported that effective managers must have and demonstrate empathy, however only 45% of respondents say their manager does2. Now, leaders have the challenge of translating this work to the hybrid environment, where the workforce has different access to resources and varying levels of visibility. This shift and the potential for unintended power dynamics and disparities, real or perceived, requires new skills to foster an environment of inclusion and belonging.

Support Social Flexibility

The ways that an organization supports and empowers individual and team well-being must adapt to the hybrid world. Amid the pandemic, focus on the health and well-being of the workforce became business critical. Policies evolved to allow for flexible work schedules built around life factors like caregiving, school schedules, mental health needs, exercise preferences, and more. Even still, three out of four employees agree that organizations need to do more to help address root causes of worker burnout3. And as we embrace a more permanent hybrid work ecosystem, organizations must evolve beyond the “work/life balance” mindset. The pandemic has shown that well-being is not about “balancing” work with life, but more finding sustainable ways to integrate the two in a way that provides flexibility and choice for workers.

Because of the flexibility offered during the pandemic, many workers across organizations now expect the flexibility to work when and where they want. To be competitive in the current talent market, many organizations are accommodating with flexible work environments and team structures composed of on-site and remote workers, as well as those who might work from anywhere depending on their needs and schedule. Just as the Digital Workplace must now be re-architected to effectively support a hybrid workforce, team management capabilities must also be retooled to enable workers to operate in synchrony and connect individuals to what they need and who they need to work with, regardless of location. Team leads must now manage to these new realities and ensure each employee has the tools they need to fully contribute from wherever they happen to be.

Enable Consistent Values & Behaviors

Organizations are grappling with how to foster and maintain corporate culture amid a workforce where different workers have different experiences in the workplace – some remote, some in-person, and many in a hybrid model. Organizations must refresh and reframe their values and behaviors to reflect the beliefs of the organization and its people. These values and behaviors must adapt to combine the “secret sauce” that made the organization successful in the past with the new realities of a hybrid workforce whose needs, demands, and expectations have changed permanently. Reimagining and reinforcing collective and collectively determined values and behaviors puts new demands on the skill of a manager to make meaningful connections within and across teams.

Sustain Productivity

Practices and norms that drove productivity in the physical workplace do not necessarily work as well in the hybrid one. Our research found that over half of the workforce does not feel that current growth and development programs translate to remote or hybrid work4. Similarly, the practices and norms that helped managers measure productivity in an office environment must continue to evolve as the “how”, “where”, and “when” of work continue to evolve. Effectively deployed, the hybrid model bridges the gap between business productivity and employee preferences by focusing on the “three E’s” of work effectiveness, workforce empowerment, and work efficiency. Yet, in an environment where there is less visibility of workload and activity levels, organizational leaders must define what success looks like with a new humanized notion of productivity that focuses on outcomes instead of face time, accommodates flexibility, and is inclusive of connections, collaboration, creativity, innovation, learning, and well-being. Overall, this means a shift in how performance is viewed and measured, where managers are focused on providing coaching and guidance to their teams to achieve their outcomes as opposed to simply assessing their productivity.

Get Started: The Path Forward

There is no one “right” way to prepare managers for the hybrid workplace, as there is no one right way to implement the hybrid workplace within or across an organization. The strategic path forward depends on a myriad of organizational factors.

Team dynamics will influence how the new ways of working come to life for different teams. Some teams will need to more closely coordinate when and where they work than others, depending on factors such as team maturity, cross-functionality, and connections to onsite or field operations.

Manager preferences, pain points, and gain points must also be recognized and accommodated, as they are the ones that face the challenge of leading amid the new ways of work. The more efficiently and effectively managers adapt to their changing environment will directly impact the workforce’s ability to do so. Areas of opportunity for managers to begin adapting to this new environment include:

  • Working with their teams to develop team charters that establish expectations for ways of working that could include working hours, email response expectations, use of collaboration and communications tools, and outcomes the team wants to achieve.
  • Reimagine the cadence of team conversations, open the door to more fluid times to check-in, and create opportunities for skip-level reviews.
  • Conduct periodic pulse surveys to check in on how the team is doing, get feedback on what is working or not working, and adjust accordingly.

One thing is clear, managers upskilled and trained in the unique challenges of successfully leading hybrid teams can most effectively galvanize employee engagement, stimulate productivity, and build a workplace where the right values and behaviors thrive.

Workplace flexibility will require a new level of agility and ambidexterity from managers to ensure teams can operate effectively in remote, in-person, and hybrid work environments. Organizations that fail to develop these capabilities from within run the risk of losing recent productivity gains and experiencing higher workforce turnover, whereas those that build on the momentum of the last two years will gain a new competitive advantage.


Deloitte’s 2021 Global Return to Workplaces Survey

2 Deloitte’s 2021 Global Ways of Working Study

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.



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