How to coach remote and hybrid teams for high performance

Strategies to Coach Remote and Hybrid Teams

May 24, 2024

Posted by Alexandra Lamb

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work and hybrid models have become the new normal for many organisations. While this shift offers numerous benefits, it also presents unique challenges, particularly when it comes to coaching and developing remote and hybrid teams. As an HR leader, it's crucial to adapt your coaching strategies to ensure your employees remain engaged, productive, and aligned with organisational goals, regardless of their physical location.

At BOLDLY, we pride ourselves on being a fully remote team, a core aspect of our culture that we believe drives our success. This model offers unparalleled flexibility for parents and caregivers, allowing them to balance professional responsibilities with family life seamlessly while also delivering on professional goals. By focusing on outcomes rather than hours logged, we empower our team members to deliver their best work in environments where they feel most productive. This flexibility fosters a culture of trust, autonomy, and dedication, ensuring that our commitment to excellence is met without compromising on the well-being and personal needs of our employees. We’ve learned a thing or two about the skills and communication needed to make this work, so in this blog we’ll discuss how a coaching approach can be used to make the remote and hybrid work models thrive.

First, What is Coaching?

Coaching is a powerful development tool that involves partnering a qualified coach with employees to unlock their potential, enhance their performance, and achieve their professional goals. Effective coaching fosters self-awareness, encourages growth mindsets, and empowers individuals to take ownership of their development journeys through a series of well-crafted questions and evidence-based techniques. In the context of remote and hybrid teams, coaching plays a vital role in maintaining strong connections, fostering collaboration, and supporting employee well-being across the culture.

To learn more about Coaching, you could read our Ultimate Guide to Coaching.

Pros and Cons of Remote Working

Remote working offers numerous advantages, including increased flexibility, reduced commute times, and improved work-life balance. However, it also presents challenges, such as feelings of isolation, communication barriers, and difficulties in maintaining team cohesion. Hybrid models, which combine remote and in-office work, aim to strike a balance between these pros and cons, but also require careful management and coaching to be successful.

There have been various industry reports and studies examining the impact of different work models – 100% back to the office, 100% remote, or hybrid – on employee morale and company performance. Here's a summary of what some of the research says:

  1. Microsoft's 2022 Work Trend Index report found that hybrid work can improve morale and productivity. The report stated that employees with a hybrid work arrangement reported higher productivity, better work-life balance, and higher job satisfaction compared to those who were fully remote or fully in-person.
  2. A 2022 report by Gallup revealed that fully remote workers experienced higher burnout rates and lower engagement levels compared to hybrid or on-site employees. The study suggested that the lack of in-person interactions and collaboration opportunities can contribute to feelings of isolation and disconnection.
  3. A survey by PwC in 2021 found that a majority of employees (83%) preferred a hybrid work model, citing better work-life balance and increased productivity as key benefits. However, the survey also highlighted the need for clear policies and guidelines to ensure effective collaboration and communication in hybrid environments.
  4. A 2022 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) examined the impact of remote work on productivity. The study found that remote workers were more productive than their office-based counterparts, with a performance increase of around 5%. However, the study also noted that the benefits of remote work may diminish over time due to potential challenges with collaboration and innovation.
  5. A report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2022 suggested that remote and hybrid work models can improve employee retention and attract top talent. The report highlighted that companies offering flexible work arrangements had a competitive advantage in the labor market, particularly among younger generations who value work-life balance.
  6. A 2021 study by Gartner found that organisations with a higher percentage of remote workers experienced lower levels of employee engagement and organisational culture strength. The study emphasizes the importance of intentional efforts to foster connection, collaboration, and a strong organisational culture in remote and hybrid environments.

Are all companies advocating remote and hybrid work models?

While the research findings vary, there is a general consensus that hybrid work models can offer benefits in terms of employee morale, productivity, and work-life balance, provided that organisations implement effective policies, guidelines, and support systems. However, fully remote work environments may pose challenges related to collaboration, innovation, and organisational culture if not managed carefully. Here are some of the most prominent leaders and employers globally who have mandated a return to the office culture:

  1. Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter): Elon Musk has been a vocal advocate for returning to the office, famously telling Tesla employees in 2022 that they must spend a minimum of 40 hours per week in the office or resign. At Twitter, which he acquired in 2022, Musk ended the company's remote work policy and required employees to return to the office full-time.
  2. Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan Chase): The CEO of JPMorgan Chase has been a staunch supporter of in-person work, stating that remote work can lead to a "hollowing out" of businesses. In 2022, he mandated that all employees return to the office full-time, citing the importance of in-person collaboration and mentorship.
  3. David Solomon (Goldman Sachs): Goldman Sachs' CEO has been critical of remote work, calling it an "aberration" and stating that the firm's culture is built on in-person collaboration. In 2022, Goldman Sachs required most employees to return to the office full-time.

Likewise, some leaders have settled for the hybrid approach, standardizing a 3-day work week:

  1. Bob Iger (The Walt Disney Company): After returning as CEO of Disney in 2022, Bob Iger required hybrid employees to return to the office four days a week, citing the need for creative collaboration and the company's culture.
  2. Marc Benioff (Salesforce): Salesforce's CEO initially embraced remote work but later changed course, stating that the company's success depends on its office culture. In 2022, Benioff mandated that employees work from the office three days a week.
  3. Sundar Pichai (Google): While Google initially embraced hybrid work, the company has gradually shifted towards a more office-centric approach. In 2022, Pichai announced that most employees would be required to work from the office three days a week.
  4. Tim Cook (Apple): Apple has taken a firm stance on in-person work, with Cook emphasizing the importance of face-to-face collaboration and innovation. The company has required most employees to return to the office three days a week since 2022.
  5. Howard Schultz (Starbucks): The former and interim CEO of Starbucks has been a vocal proponent of in-person work, stating that the company's culture and innovation depend on it. Schultz required corporate employees to return to the office three days a week in 2022.

These leaders and employers represent a range of industries, from technology and finance to entertainment and retail. While their specific policies may vary, they share a belief that in-person work is crucial for fostering collaboration, innovation, and organisational culture. Ultimately, the optimal work model may depend on an organisation's specific context, industry, and workforce needs.

Several industry-leading companies have embraced fully remote workforces, demonstrating the viability and potential of this model. Notable examples include GitLab, Zapier, Automatic, and Doist. These organisations have pioneered remote work strategies, leveraging technology and innovative practices to foster collaboration, productivity, and employee engagement across distributed teams.

BOLDLY is the largest Coaching Marketplace With Vetted Professional Coaches

Coaching Marketplace With Vetted Professional Coaches | BOLDLY

5 Signs Your Remote Work Strategy Isn't Working (and What to Do)

Despite best efforts, some companies may find their remote work policies falling short, leading to issues such as decreased productivity, communication breakdowns, or a deterioration of company culture. Identifying the warning signs early is crucial for course-correcting and ensuring the long-term success of a remote or hybrid workforce model.

Here are six telltale signs that your remote work strategy needs attention, and provide actionable steps to address these challenges head-on.

  1. Declining productivity and engagement: If you notice a drop in output or employees seeming disengaged, it may be time to reassess your remote work policies and provide additional support.
  2. Communication breakdowns: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and a lack of alignment. Implement communication guidelines and leverage collaborative tools to keep everyone on the same page.
  3. Feelings of isolation and disconnection: Remote work can contribute to feelings of loneliness and disconnection from the team. Foster a sense of community through virtual team-building activities and regular check-ins.
  4. Blurred work-life boundaries: Without clear boundaries, remote employees may experience burnout or struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Encourage time management strategies and respect for personal time.
  5. Lack of career development opportunities: Remote employees may feel disconnected from growth opportunities. Invest in career coaching online and virtual mentorship programs to support their professional development.
Signs that your Remote Work Strategy is not working

If you’re seeing these themes emerge, either anecdotally or in your HR data, don’t despair! There’s several things you can consider to enhance the effectiveness of your remote team work before you look to change your policy.

If you’re seeing these themes emerge, either anecdotally or in your HR data, don’t despair! There’s several things you can consider to enhance the effectiveness of your remote team work 

How do you coach Your Remote Team?

Coaching remote employees requires adapting traditional approaches to account for the unique challenges and dynamics of virtual collaboration. By implementing tailored strategies, leaders can create a supportive and productive remote work culture that empowers their teams to thrive. In this section, we'll explore ten actionable tips to help you coach and develop your remote team, enabling them to perform at their best while maintaining a healthy work-life balance and a strong sense of connection to the organisation.

  1. Establish clear career plans: See our blog here on how to create a great career plan.
  2. Utilize the GROW Model: The GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward) is a powerful coaching framework that can be adapted for remote teams. Use it to structure your coaching conversations and guide team members through goal achievement.
  3. Explore Values and Motivations: Help team members identify their core values and what motivates them. This self-awareness can fuel their commitment and drive, even when working remotely.
  4. Reframe Challenges: Coaching involves reframing challenges as opportunities for growth. Help your team members shift their perspective and find positive ways to approach obstacles in their remote work.
  5. Encourage Self-Reflection: Promote regular self-reflection among your team members. This practice can enhance self-awareness, identify areas for improvement, and foster continuous learning.
  6. Leverage Strengths: Assess each team member's unique strengths and find ways to leverage them in their remote roles. This can boost confidence, engagement, and overall performance.
  7. Promote Accountability: Establish accountability mechanisms, such as regular check-ins, progress updates, or peer coaching partnerships, to help team members stay on track with their goals.
  8. Facilitate Collaborative Problem-Solving: Foster an environment where team members can collaboratively explore solutions to challenges they face in their remote work. Leverage brainstorming techniques and encourage diverse perspectives.
  9. Embrace Positive Psychology: Incorporate positive psychology principles, such as gratitude practices, strengths-based approaches, and promoting a growth mindset, to cultivate a positive and resilient remote work culture.
  10. Model Desired Behaviors: As a coach and leader, model the behaviors, mindsets, and practices you want to see in your remote team. Lead by example, and demonstrate effective communication, time management, and work-life balance.

By integrating these evidence-based practices from coaching psychology, you can create a supportive and empowering remote work environment that fosters growth, collaboration, and overall team success. Coaching remote and hybrid teams requires a strategic approach that addresses the unique challenges of distributed work environments. By implementing these strategies, you can foster a culture of trust, collaboration, and continuous growth, enabling your team to thrive regardless of their physical location.

BOLDLY is an example of a thriving fully remote organisation, with team members spread across Dubai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangalore, Lima, New Plymouth, Sydney, and many other locations worldwide. As a coaching company at its core, BOLDLY walks the talk by integrating evidence-based coaching methodologies into our daily operations and team dynamics. Through conscious practices like goal setting, active listening, reframing challenges, and strengths-based approaches, BOLDLY fosters an environment of open communication, trust, and mutual understanding among our globally dispersed colleagues.

The coaching philosophies embraced by the company not only drive smooth cross-team collaboration and efficient virtual workflows but also cultivate genuine connections and friendships among colleagues separated by distance. BOLDLY's team members are encouraged to explore their values, motivations, and growth areas, fueling a culture of continuous learning and resilience. This coaching-centric approach enables BOLDLY to cross boundaries, and achieve results while prioritising the well-being and development of our colleagues. The company's success is a testament to the power of integrating coaching principles into the fabric of a remote organisation. Here’s to drinking our own champagne.

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About the Author:

Alexandra Lamb is an accomplished organisational development practitioner, with experience across APAC, North America, and MENA. With 20+ years in professional practice, conglomerates, and startups, she has collaborated with rapid-growth companies and industry innovators to develop leaders and high-performance teams. She is particularly experienced in talent strategy as a driver for business growth. Drawing from her experience in the fields of talent management, psychology, coaching, product development, and human-centred design, Alex prides herself on using commercial acumen to design talent solutions with true impact.

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