As we emerge from our COVID bunkers, most of us will be changing the way we work. Some of us will pick up where we were eighteen months ago, and just go back to the office and the routines we largely abandoned. For most of us, though, this won’t be the case. Over two-thirds of organizations say they are moving to a “hybrid” arrangement, where some people will be in the office and others elsewhere on any given day. One of the things that will be more complex is, how do you show you’re a great teammate?
Why is being a teammate on a hybrid team more complicated? There are a couple of reasons:
- Humans prefer to communicate by proximity. When we are in the same room as our teammates, communication is easy. We catch someone’s eye and are reminded of something we need to ask them. Maybe we have a question; we can look around and see who looks busy at this moment or stop by the manager’s desk. When we work apart, those who are out of sight are literally out of mind. It is easy to exclude teammates who aren’t right under your nose.
- Part of the proximity issue is the problem of exclusion. Need to partner with someone on a project? It’s easier to choose someone who is in the same location. It’s not that you have anything against the person in Denver, you just find it easier to work with the person at the next desk.
- For remote workers, it’s harder to be visible to your teammates. It takes more effort to be heard on those meetings where everyone else is in the conference room and you’re on a crackly speaker phone. You’d be happy to answer questions, or be a resource to your teammates, but they don’t ask, often because they don’t know what you’re doing and don’t want to “bother you.”
In our book, “The Long-Distance Teammate, Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere,” we say there are three components to being a great teammate, Productivity, Proactivity and Potential. While these were originally noted for teams that are remote from each other, the same rules apply to hybrid teams, you just need to adjust your thinking.
Productivity is more than getting your tasks done. It’s helping the team get its collective work done in a timely manner. Great teammates know that the job is more than what’s on your task list. This means you might have to swap priorities on a given day. Maybe you have to go into the office on that day you’d rather not.
Proactivity often gets confused with “doing tasks without being asked.” That’s certainly part of it, but being a proactive team member means taking action in many ways. On a meeting, did a team member seem confused? You can wait for them to ask you a question or reach out. If you’re interested in a project, are you going to ask your manager for the opportunity, or hope they don’t just assign it to someone who’s in the office and under their nose? If something needs to be said on a meeting, do you hide in the shadows or speak up? Great teammates aren’t invisible, even if they’re not physically present.
Finally, Potential is taking the long view of things. Yes, you can put your head down and not bother reaching out to every member of your team. You can certainly keep things “all business,” and not engage in social conversation. But over time, what will the impact of those behaviors be?
You can be a great teammate, even if you’re not physically in the thick of the action. It does, though, take awareness, planning, and hard work. The benefits of flexible work and personal life/work balance makes it worth the effort.
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