How a hybrid working model could fail, and how to prevent that happeningReading Time: 4 minutes
Hybrid working. It’s the solution many businesses are turning to in response to employee demand for continued remote work. And for good reason, with a huge range of great benefits for both employees and businesses.
But how you should implement remote staff depends on the needs of your business and the specific challenges you may face. So let’s take a look at some of the most prominent hybrid working challenges to watch out for as you move to a new way of working.
Choosing the right hybrid model for your business
It may be that the way your business operated during the pandemic will keep working well as things open back up. But you shouldn’t assume that to be the case. One of the biggest hybrid working challenges for employers will be finding the right approach for their businesses.
You might think it’s simply a choice between being fully office-based, fully remote, or taking a hybrid approach, but it’s actually a little more nuanced than that:
- Office-based: The traditional working model, where everyone spends the vast majority of their time in the office with a few home working days now and then.
- Office-centric: Employees are required to spend a pre-determined number of days in the office, and are free to work from home the rest of the time.
- Home-centric hybrid: Everyone spends most of their time working from home, but come into the office at key points each week.
- Home-centric: People generally always work from home, only coming into the office at specific points in the business year.
Remote workers being left out of the loop
Communication is essential, and prior to the pandemic, lack of it from on-site co-workers was one of the biggest problems remote workers dealt with. Lockdown has done a lot to change this, but as things return to some semblance of normal, it’s important to learn the lesson.
One of the disadvantages of hybrid working is that it can create two tiers of employees. When you’re a centralised employee, a lot of information comes from impromptu face-to-face conversation. A study from Igloo found that almost 60% of remote workers had missed out on key information because it was communicated in person. 43% also reported being excluded from meetings or brainstorms.
Encouraging employees to make use of asynchronous communication channels like Slack can help prevent remote workers missing out on important info, but for meetings, it’s important to build in video conferencing connectivity as part of protocol. Every meeting should have a link to join via Teams or Zoom.
Remote staff getting overshadowed by co-located colleagues
One of the most troublesome hybrid working challenges to overcome is ensuring people get the recognition they deserve. We’re naturally pre-disposed to be biased towards the people we see every day, which means that managers are more likely to build up a positive impression of a hard-working office employee than they are an unseen remote worker.
Recognition is one of the key drivers of employee engagement. Without it, your hard-working remote staff will become disillusioned and susceptible to turnover. As a manager, you need to take the time to appreciate everyone’s contributions, especially your remote staff.
You should also give them the means to highlight each other’s accomplishments, such as by including recognition questions on your employee check-in. Research shows that peer recognition is an even more effective motivator than manager recognition.
Rigid hybrid work policies can’t cater to everyone’s needs
One of the biggest benefits of hybrid working is that it gives employees flexibility and control, so don’t make the mistake assuming everyone wants exactly the same thing out of it. Policies like having specific days in the week when people can work from home does little to help those whose personal obligations don’t line up with their work schedules.
Similarly, you shouldn’t assume that your remote workers don’t need any other form of job flexibility. One of the major benefits of remote work for employees may be that it frees up some of their time, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t also benefit from core hours or a compressed work week, or any of the other options for job flexibility you could offer.
In fact, you could argue that remote workers have already earned a compressed week with the hours they work. International research from NordVPN Teams found that working from home led to a 2.5 hour increase in the average working day.
Remote staff can become isolated from workplace culture
As we’ve said time and again, one of the biggest hybrid working challenges, and one of the most important parts of managing remote workers in general, is making sure they don’t become isolated. As restrictions are lifting, actual loneliness is likely to be less of an issue than it has been, but remote workers can still essentially be cut off from workplace culture. This can threaten their sense of engagement as part of a team and the business as a whole.
You need to support the involvement of your remote work in regular meetings, and use goal setting to connect their work to company objectives. But what’s just as important is to help build their social connections with colleagues. Whether it’s something nice like going out for a meal, or something fun like a day of paintball, social activities are great for getting your team to bond.
A hybrid approach will affect the workplace itself
Of all the hybrid working challenges, this is the one that’ll sneak up on you. Office culture has chugged along so steadily over the past several decades that it’s easy to think of it as being too monolithic to fail. But, with more employees than ever looking to work from home on a regular basis, even a hybrid approach could affect office life in some unforeseen ways.
Remote work helps to scale back on office costs, but some days will likely be more popular than others. This could result in there being too many employees competing for workspaces on some days, and times when the office is dead on others. Employees who aren’t in on the most popular days could miss out on networking and workplace social interaction.