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Data-driven management in the hybrid workplace

Hybrid working is becoming the norm for many people through an increasing reliance on technologies like Microsoft Teams. As of the end of July 2021, Microsoft reported over 250 million daily users of Teams.

This has placed a keen focus on workplace analytics, which can be leveraged by leaders to manage their people and their business.

Valuable insights from analytics help us to know our people better and to manage hybrid or remote teams more effectively, supporting and motivating individuals, driving customer engagement and improving overall performance.

Making the most of analytics:

Putting people on the analytics map, part one

People analytics could be HR's secret weapon

How to build a people analytics team

HR analytics: Demystifying the buzzwords

A good manager should maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of their team. The ability to review analytics in line with role expectations will empower managers of hybrid or remote teams through insights from behaviour trends and comparison analysis.

This will help managers to plan and organise, communicate, set meaningful objectives, measure performance and identify development needs.

For example, the manager of a large sales team can use analytics to see the proportion of time team members spend online in meetings internally or externally with clients as well as those organised on a recurring basis. Likewise, the manager of a customer service team might want to see how much of someone’s workday is spent on calls and if they have enough time to action various issues. 

Wellbeing analytics will be of particular interest to HR professionals and people managers. If individuals are involved in back-to-back online meetings all day, working outside normal trading hours or are repeatedly late for meetings, it may signal meeting fatigue or indeed work overload.

While the individual may say that they are okay, this should raise concerns and prompt a discussion since it is likely to impact both their wellbeing and productivity. 


Context and maintaining trust

Most managers assess individuals’ skills, behaviours and contributions through the performance management process. Managers of hybrid or remote workers can use analytics to help make informed decisions, since we can no longer rely on just looking across the desk. However, how such analytics are perceived by their people needs particular attention. 

To maintain relationships and trust, managers need to ensure everyone understands what type of data is being collected and how it will be used before they start to collect the data.

It can be disengaging if people think they are being monitored without knowing what information is being captured and for what purposes. Communication and transparency are the only ways to help people to feel positive about any change.

Equally, managers need to be mindful that misconceptions can lead to presenteeism or sudden changes in working habits that are unhelpful. Managers therefore need to establish what they expect from their team by setting specific goals and outcomes.

HR can help organisations to understand what information they need and how to share it. This can help managers to identify if there may be reason for concern and prompt the right conversations, rather than relying on perceptions or what people say.

However, not all managers interpret data in the same way and it should always be reviewed within the context of the role, the person, the department or the organisation. Data can only highlight areas where managers need to delve a little deeper. It requires context, so the individual should be allowed to offer an explanation before any judgements are made.

Hybrid and remote working puts considerable pressure on managers to manage well. HR has an important role in supporting managers to promote engagement, wellbeing and smart and healthy working.


Caroline Milner is HR business partner at software developer Tollring