5 Ways to Be a Team Player—from Office and Home

With the growth of hybrid setups, workers need better skills and tools to collaborate with their teams.

Esteban Domínguez-Boonefaes

Career Coach, Korn Ferry Advance

Carlos Cuadrado Ortiz

Career Coach, Korn Ferry Advance

Team collaboration. It wasn’t an issue two years ago, but experts say it’s a major challenge today, as some people return to the office and others continue working from home.

By now, most employees are adept at navigating video meetings. But when some colleagues gather in a conference room and others take part virtually, knowing when to speak up can be trickier, says Elise Freedman, Korn Ferry senior client partner and the firm's Workforce Transformation practice leader. “Individuals who are not used to working from home or in a hybrid team might feel unsettled in this new situation,” says Korn Ferry Advance coach Esteban Domínguez-Boonefaes.

When some teammates are in the office and others are working remotely, being inclusive about collaboration will require more thoughtfulness. Here are some ideas:

Use video if the meeting requires teamwork.

No one wants to commute to the office if their colleagues are using Zoom, but if your team is having a product development meeting or a brainstorming session—basically any meeting that requires collaboration—a videoconference might be necessary. “If you’re going to have a mix of people in the meeting, some in the conference room and some on Zoom, it might be easier to have a Zoom meeting so that everyone is in the same place and able to see the virtual whiteboard,” Freedman says.

Whether you’re at the conference table or over Zoom, it’s important to mute distractions, like your cell phone, and avoid multitasking, says Korn Ferry Advance coach Carlos Cuadrado Ortiz.

Focus on collaboration even before you meet.

Send out materials in advance so that team members can begin engaging with each other before the meeting starts, Freedman says. Post the agenda and any working documents to a common site where everyone can comment on them. “That is easier than trying to follow comments in fifty different emails,” she says.

Use apps to create a team dynamic.

Use an instant-messaging app such as WhatsApp or Slack in the same way you would pop into your colleague’s office—to ask a quick question or follow up on a task, Domínguez-Boonefaes says. Determine which app the team prefers, and set up two groups on that app—one for official team business, and another for social interactions where colleagues can post photos or discuss the latest Netflix release, he says.

Be mindful of how you recognize milestones.

When you’re working from home, an email about the cupcakes in the break room to celebrate the team’s first-quarter earnings doesn’t feel very inclusive. If your teammates aren’t all in the office, collaboration tools can help everyone participate—regardless of where they’re working. “You don’t want the people who aren’t present to miss out on a team experience,” says Korn Ferry Advance coach Jennifer Zamora. For instance, the team can recognize a special occasion by creating a virtual Kudoboard. This enables everyone on the team to add their thoughts, or even to sign a colleague’s birthday card.

Build your network when you’re in the office.

If you have the opportunity to go into the office, be mindful of who else is there, Zamora says. “You might go into the office for a meeting with one group, but then survey who else is in the office that day,” she says. You might have an opportunity to meet with a colleague who works on a different team or who joined the company while everyone was working remotely, she says.