Using Documentation to Overcome Hybrid Work Friction

In a hybrid work environment, where communication can be more challenging, effective documentation is crucial for teams to stay aligned, productive, and successful.
June 26, 2023

Leaders are discovering the hurdles that come with managing a hybrid team. One area that can be particularly difficult to navigate in a hybrid environment is documentation. When team members are working in different locations and on different schedules, it can be difficult to ensure that important information is being documented and shared effectively.

What is hybrid work friction

Hybrid work friction is the difference between optimal performance in the office versus the actual performance of a hybrid team. When working remotely, we lack the information sharing that happens in-person and informally, when we are in the office. To make up for this we need to improve our documentation capabilities. Friction develops between team members when we don't improve our documentation capabilities. 

Hybrid work friction happens when:

  • Information is lost or isn’t available to those who need it, because it wasn’t documented.
  • Outdated information leads to confusion, mistakes, and miscommunication.
  • People end up spending more time trying to figure out what's current instead of actually getting work done. 
  • Everyone has different ideas about how tasks should be done or problems should be solved because there was no clear documentation.
  • New team members experience issues getting up to speed because information is only held by one or two people. 
  • New joiners struggle to understand the culture because it hasn't been documented.
  • Someone who knows a lot about something leaves, all that knowledge just disappears. 

Not documenting and maintaining documents effectively, causes a lot of friction in hybrid teams.

Communication Guidelines

A lack of clear communication and guidelines will add to hybrid work friction in documentation. When team members are not clear on what needs to be documented, how it should be documented, and where it should be stored, they may not prioritize documentation or may do it inconsistently. This can lead to important information being lost or forgotten, and can make it difficult for team members to refer back to documentation when they need to.

It's important for companies to establish clear guidelines and procedures for documentation to overcome these challenges and reduce hybrid work friction.

Single Source Of Truth

If done well, documentation keeps things organized in a hybrid work environment and helps your team collaborate effectively. GitLab is the king of remote work and they know a thing or two about documentation. They believe that good organizational documentation should be the blueprint of how the business runs - the 'single source of truth' for all team members, customers, and other community members.

This is the way that GitLab put it: “we have one single source of truth for all GitLab team members, users, customers, and other community members. We don‘t need separate artifacts with different permissions for different people.”.

And that's exactly what leaders should be aiming for in their organization. A single source of truth means all relevant information about how our team works and what we do is kept in one place, actively maintained and regularly updated. This helps avoid the confusion and frustration of sending different versions of documents back and forth.

So, what kind of information should be included in our single source of truth? Think about what you would want to know if you just joined the team. Some examples could be: team member details, team agreement, team processes, recruitment process, onboarding process, past meeting notes and outcomes, technology setup and resources, team product and project roadmaps, and career development paths.

If your organization has a Single Source of Truth like the GitLab handbook you can build a team handbook extension onto that. If your organization doesn’t have a handbook you can build out your own team’s documentation. You can use GitLab’s own software, the Google Suite or other collaborative tools like Notion or Almanac. These tools have inbuilt “versioning” where you can easily see changes made in previous versions but without the need for multiple files causing clutter and confusion.

You should start off small and work with the team to develop and improve documentation over time.

Documentation structure

When it comes to effective documentation, every document should have:.

  • An owner, who is the one person ultimately responsible for the doc?.
  • A list of people who are collaborating on the document
  • An audience. Is it company-wide, project or team specific; internal, external for customers, or external for the whole web?
  • A cadence. What is the cadence of updates, if any? This means, what is the workflow for updating the document?
  • A lifespan . Is it for a single project or meeting where it has a fixed lifespan or is it evergreen?
  • An explanation of if and how people can contribute to the document

Companies should also provide training and resources to help team members understand the importance of documentation and how to do it effectively.

Collaboration tools

Collaboration tools can also be helpful in reducing hybrid work friction in documentation. For example, tools like Google Docs and Microsoft Teams allow team members to collaborate on documents in real-time, even when they are working in different locations. This can make it easier to ensure that all team members are on the same page and can help to reduce delays in completing documentation.

Ultimately, hybrid work friction that results from poor documentation can be a significant challenge for companies with distributed teams. By establishing clear guidelines, providing training and resources, and utilizing collaboration tools, companies can reduce this friction and ensure that important information is being documented effectively. This, in turn, can help to improve productivity and ensure that all team members are working toward the same goals, even when they are working remotely.

Let us help you develop a hybrid work culture that unlocks the full potential of your flexible work environment. Get in touch today to learn how we can help your organization thrive in the new world of hybrid work.