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The Hybrid Team Canvas: A Do Your Best Work, Anywhere, Anytime Culture

Designing a hybrid workplace culture is not easy. However, having a roadmap will help your team have the right conversations.

By Gustavo Razzetti

April 28, 2021

How to facilitate the Hybrid Team Canvas to increase collaboration, creativity, and productivity

A hybrid workplace is the new normal. Either by chance or design, most organizations are moving toward a more flexible model with people working from anywhere and anytime.

This new reality brings together the best of both worlds: the convenience of working from home and the ability to work face-to-face when needed. However, implementing an effective hybrid workplace is anything but easy. It will not only require a lot of experimentation and adjustments but, most importantly, the right culture, as I wrote on my previous post.

While many experts are already predicting that the future of work is hybrid, many others are skeptical. Sid Sijbrandij – CEO and co-founder of GitLab, the epitome of remote work – believes that hybrid work offers the worst of both worlds. Letting employees work from home or from the office will ensure neither experience is good.

Like it or not, a hybrid workplace is here to stay. However, to succeed in that middle way, you need a roadmap. You need a framework to facilitate the right conversations with your team.

In this post, I’ll address the key elements of a successful hybrid workplace culture. I’ll introduce the Hybrid Team Canvas, a template that you can use for your team, and explain how to facilitate it and drive clarity and alignment.

How to Use the Hybrid Team Canvas

Before we jump into the framework, what is a hybrid team?

Traditionally, there were two types of employees: those who worked in the office and those who worked from home. However, the notion of the hybrid team has expanded; people want to choose where – and when – they get their work done. This creates a third group that will alternate between working onsite and remotely.

The biggest challenge lies in reaping the benefits while overcoming the negatives. The first step as an organization is to define your approach to hybrid work – from policies to technology and what’s possible or not.

For example, the job search engine Indeed has outlined three categories of work: completely remote, hybrid work, and full-time in office. Each job role within the business will be informed which category they will fall into after July 2021. Many companies are still considering options or setting deadlines for working from home – like Amazon, which extended its working from home policy through June 30, 2021.

Now it’s time to design the best approach for your hybrid team.

The success depends on flexibility: in a hybrid team, people need freedom to decide what’s the best way to work while considering both individual and team needs. Rather than aiming for a one-size-fits-all solution, the Hybrid Team Canvas helps design one based on each team’s reality.

Start by assembling the right participants. Ideally, you want all team members to join the discussion. If you manage a large team, select representatives from different levels or areas to be part of the activity. Once you have a first draft, distribute it and get feedback from all team members before making it “official.”

As I mentioned above, finding the right approach to working on a hybrid team requires a trial-and-error approach. The same applies to the canvas. Don’t expect the first version to be perfect – it’s better to start somewhere than to waste precious time figuring out how things should work.

Be ready to iterate and update the document based on real-life experiences and feedback.

Before the team session, download the PDF or MURAL template and share this article with participants so they can familiarize themselves with the exercise and the canvas.

Design Your Hybrid Team Culture

Download the Hybrid Team Canvas in PDF format or get the MURAL template.

Launch the session and discuss expectations and outcomes.

Provide people with 10-15 minutes to go through the different elements of the Hybrid Team Canvas. Invite them to write down their initial thoughts, questions, or possible solutions. The purpose of this step to set the team up for success. Working in silence before collaborating with others is very effective, especially when not everyone is in the same room.

Now it’s time to work on the Hybrid Team Canvas together. The framework has seven building blocks: Purpose, Unique way of collaborating, Priorities, Psychological Safety, Rituals, Decision-Making, and Rules & Norms.

The facilitation order matters in terms of having more productive conversations. I will explain each of the building blocks in the same order in which you should complete it.

1. Team Purpose for a Hybrid Workplace

If your team already has a purpose, just add it to the canvas and move to the next step.

The team purpose is the reason the team exists within your organization. It defines the impact all members want to create together. The team purpose captures how a group will help the organization achieve their purpose.

The team purpose translates the organization’s purpose into something to which people can relate. Not only does it define ‘why’ the team exists, but also drives people into action. Studies show that belonging to a team (subculture) can double employee engagement.

The disruption experienced in the past few months has taken a toll on people. Too much focus on minutia, back-to-back meetings, and the lack of clarity has added unnecessary stress and workload. A team purpose becomes more relevant in the midst of a storm. It’s the North Star that brings direction and hope.

Use the following three-step process to develop your team purpose:

#1 – What does your team do?

In one sentence, write down what your team does, what it delivers, or what it produces. If your team delivers or produces several things, write them all and then select the one that represents the majority of the work. For example, “Our team guarantee that all our decisions are legal.”

#2 – Who do you work for?

Identify the different customers or stakeholders that you work for. Do you provide services to one department or the entire company? Do you serve the C-suite or front-line employees? Choose the top one.

#3 – What impact do we want to create?

Your team purpose captures why you do what you do. Define the pains and gains of your end customer. What’s the final impact that you can create? Don’t get stuck in details; think beyond functional benefits.

For example:

“We take care of our advisors so they can take care of their clients.”

“Our team provides efficient support so that our managers can spend more time leading.”

Learn how to facilitate the Team Purpose exercise and download the template.

2. Define Your Team Priorities

A hybrid working environment will create additional tensions between what individuals wish and what’s possible. This block is critical to provide guidance for making decisions both individually and as a team.

Establishing priorities is a trade-off between two good things. Use even/ over statements to define which one people must choose when there’s a conflict.

For example, “Long-term vision even over quick-wins” captures Airbnb relentless focus on long-term success. It doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t seize quick-wins, but instead that Airbnb won’t do anything that could jeopardize their vision.

Clear priorities can minimize conflict and simplify decision-making. When it comes to scheduling – who works when and from where – what’s the most effective trade-off for your team?

Here are some examples of priorities to address common tensions affecting hybrid teams.

“Team needs even over personal preferences.”

“Outcome even over effort.”

“Flexible schedules even over synchronous work.”

“Team members wellbeing even over productivity.”

Consider the above examples as a starting point. Your team reality might require you consider other variables. Also, some teams might be okay with prioritizing personal choices over team needs. rather than the other way around. What’s vital is that all team members are aligned on the top three priorities.

Choose your team’s top even/ over statements and add them to the Hybrid Team Canvas.

collaboration in a hybrid workplace matrix asynchronous synchronous same place same time different place different time asynchronous synchronous

3. Our Unique Way of Collaborating

Having a shared team purpose and well-defined priorities are crucial steps to work on for what comes next: defining which type of work requires everyone being in the same room, working at the same time, or neither.

Finding the right collaboration approach not only entails considering what’s best for a particular activity (decision-making, brainstorming, on-boarding new employees, etc.), but also its cost. Many people have moved farther away from their office since the pandemic. Inviting people to come to the office is now an expense and also requires time to prepare ahead.

Team members at Sigfox, a US-based IoT company, sync up every Tuesday and Thursday to debrief on priorities and adjust schedules based on workloads and people’s preferences.

At the beginning of the working session, allow some time for team members to familiarize themselves with the four quadrants and reflect on which tasks should fall within each of them. Have them tackle each quadrant, one at a time, finding commonalities and differences. Focus on the latter and have team members discuss the pros and cons.

Some thoughts to help kickstart the conversation:

  • Design sprints and the solving of complex problems work better when everyone’s working at the same time
  • Providing feedback on the ideas can be done asynchronously
  • Reviewing materials and preparing for a meeting or simple training are things everyone can do at their own pace
  • Complex training that requires transforming collective mindsets and behaviors is more effective when people work together
  • Defining a new strategy, attending immersive training, or discussing reorganization require a different attention; thus, it’s more critical to have everyone in the same room
  • Virtual team rituals can keep the culture alive, but research shows nothing replaces the experience of bringing everyone together in the same room (Hint: team offsites should go back to in-person mode).

After finding some common ground, address communication best practices. Have the team discuss – and decide – which practices and tools will work best for each quadrant/ type of work.

For example, one of our clients agreed that when collaborating in any time/ any place projects, team members will use MURAL. Anyone can add ideas and make comments at their own pace, but no one can delete or replace someone else’s sticky notes. The selection and elimination process should happen later, when all team members are collaborating at the same time, regardless of location.

Capture all the agreements on the Hybrid Team Canvas. Advice: seek progress, not perfection. The first version will never be the final one. Even if you get it right, you’ll have to make adjustments as the team, nature of the work, and people’s preferences evolve.

To promote better conversations, I recommend reading The Six Modes of Work for Distributed Teams – when it makes sense to collaborate or work at our own pace.

4. Promote Psychological Safety in a Hybrid Team

Hybrid work is adding an extra layer to psychological safety. The line between work and personal is even more blurred. A flexible approach can seed distrust about people choices: will my colleagues choose what’s right for the team or what’s more convenient for them?

While you probably addressed many of these tensions when defining the even/ over priorities, everyday behavior will contribute to building collective trust (or not). The new way of collaboration will require that members feel safe to make decisions, to push back, or to express their opinions when they don’t agree.

Also, any time and any place situations can create a divide between those who are present and those who are working at their own pace. How will the team level the field so no one feels excluded? Are the “locals” willing to abide by a remote-first practice?

For example, at Trello, if only one person joins a meeting remotely, the rest of the team adapts. Everyone takes the video call from their desks to empathize with the remote members and ensure everyone is treated fairly.

Similarly, rotating time zones ensures that those that work from home most of their time don’t always have to adapt to the ‘headquarters’ time.”

5. Team Rituals for a Hybrid Workplace

Virtual team rituals recreated existing in-person practices. Also, many organizations developed new rituals to keep the culture alive when everyone was working together.

Investing in social capital – bonding via small talk, networking, or impromptu encounters – requires being mindful when not everyone is working together.

What are the team rituals to celebrate when everyone’s together?

Which rituals can people who are in the same room practice to celebrate those who are working remotely?

Which remote team rituals will continue to be practiced in this new hybrid scenario?

For example, online whiteboard company Miro onboards remote employees in cohorts. This approach allows people to learn about the company culture and strategy and, at the same time, familiarize themselves with their colleagues.

Capture all the rituals that you’ll continue – or start – practicing in the Hybrid Team Canvas.

Learn more about how to design team rituals or check these remote rituals for inspiration.

6. Rules and Norms for Hybrid Teams

A hybrid workplace culture requires more flexibility than ever. The challenge lies in setting rules that balance freedom and accountability. Norms should provide a criteria that people can apply while having in mind their even/ over priorities and the agreements on collaboration in mind.

Expectations should be context dependent. People should show up on time – and prepared – for “same time” activities. However, for “any time” tasks, don’t expect immediate responses to emails or Slack messages.

Define specific “collaboration days” and “no-meeting days/ hours” so people can design their schedule around those.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a hybrid workplace. The nature of each role will require different rules. Similar to Indeed’s approach, Citigroup categorized all jobs into three groups: “resident,” “remote,” or “hybrid.” The requirement of the work, not people’s preferences, defines who’s eligible for each bracket.

Security and technology rules have become critical in a working from home environment. Also, employees’ allowances need to be revisited, considering people’s need to upgrade their home office tech or travel to the office from out of state, for example.

Keep your rules simple and flexible, but don’t forget to clarify expected behaviors and how performance will be measured.

7. Decision-Making

Align on how your team decides in a hybrid model.

On top of selecting the right decision-making methods, a hybrid team culture requires considering how flexible schedules can affect how the team decides.

Which decisions will be made asynchronously and which require that everyone is present? How will you overcome biases when not everyone’s in the same room?

Remote communication distorts the normal pace of team conversations. A small delay often hides emotional reactions or body language, fueling miscommunication, especially on sensitive topics. Which decisions should happen only when everyone’s in the same room? Which may require special coaching or to be discussed in 1-on-1s before addressing them with the entire team?

Having a facilitator – and an observer – can also ensure that everyone’s opinions and reactions are considered. Lastly, capturing all reactions and questions in an online whiteboard ensures clarity, empathy, and transparency.

Define the nuances of making decisions in a hybrid team and capture them in the canvas.

Review Your Hybrid Team Canvas

Once the team has completed the Hybrid Team Culture, it’s time to focus on the bigger picture again. Review the canvas: make sure it’s clear, consistent, and simple.

Use the following checklist:

  • What does your hybrid team culture stand for? Is it simple and clear?
  • Does your hybrid team culture help drive alignment?
  • Are expectations clear? Do members know what to expect from others when it comes to collaboration?
  • Has the team considered how to level the playing field for everyone?
  • Has the team defined how they will communicate and with which tools?

Master The Hybrid Team Canvas

We’ve applied this framework with many of our clients before making it public. If you need help facilitating the Hybrid Team Canvas, we can help you, too.

Schedule a free consultation call and let’s talk about your needs and challenges.

Related Reading & Tools

The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid, Is Your Team Ready?

5 Ways to Create a Strong Virtual Culture

How to Facilitate the Culture Design Canvas

The Best Rituals for Virtual Teams

‍How to Promote Psychological Safety in a Virtual Team

Credit and attribution

The Hybrid Team Canvas was created by Gustavo Razzetti (Copyright © 2021 by Gustavo Razzetti and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0. Link to this article and provide specific attribution to the author if you use or share this tool. When using our templates, you are not allowed to remove branding, links, and licensing terms.

Artwork by Moira Dillon.

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