Wednesday 2nd February 2022
7 hybrid work challenges and how to overcome them

So your business has decided to embrace flexible working. More specifically you’ve agreed that a hybrid work model is the way forward. In effect that means a combination of employees working at home for a set number of days with visits to the office on an agreed basis.

The pandemic has demonstrated that this model can work and, indeed, drive positive advantages in terms of productivity and staff morale. But that doesn’t mean you won’t face some difficult challenges in making the arrangement a formal part of the way you do things. Here we look at some of the biggest barriers to creating a successful hybrid model work environment and how you can take these challenges on and win. Let’s make the hybrid model work for your business.

Principles for a new way of working

The key to success of any hybrid model is control: for you and your employees. Using digital automation, this control means everyone can spend less time sorting out their hybrid work day and more time adding real value to your business. It means everyone knows they can book a desk or meeting room and plan their day accordingly so they have the ability to do the things that are more productive. Colleagues need the control that means they can come together as teams and collaborate without having to spend hours dealing with technology or co-ordinating schedules. And control gives you the ability to manage capacity to make the most of your resources, optimize the office experience and get ROI from your office space.

7 hybrid work challenges and how to overcome them | Hybrid Model Control

Achieve all these and hybrid working will bring innovation and employee satisfaction to your company and drive business growth. And you’ll create a positive, happy experience that makes the office a joy to visit.

Planning office space

Why it’s a challenge:

One of the advantages of flexible working is being able to downsize your offices to match the reduced number of employees who go there every day. That still leaves the challenge of how many desks and meeting rooms to make available. Too many desks and your office space will feel empty and lack energy. Too few and you run the real risk of arguments over who sits where and why no rooms are available for vital strategy sessions.

7 hybrid work challenges and how to overcome them

How to avoid:

The key to this challenge is controlling the situation through smart workspace scheduling solutions. Allowing people to see what’s available and book the desks and rooms they need easily will inspire confidence in your hybrid work solution. The data generated will also give crucial insight about working patterns and office usage, helping you plan for the future more easily.

A lack of clarity

Why it’s a challenge:

Flexible working policies can be confusing especially as everyone has their own unique set of circumstances. These policies need to cover issues such as how many days are spent in the office and at home. You need to decide if there is a time when everyone needs to be available. Rules about expected number of days in the office may also have to be outlined.

How to avoid:

As with any good policy you need to get feedback from the people it will affect first  – your staff.  Find out what matters to them and how flexible working could help them be more productive. Once you have this information you can convert it into policies that offer certainty as well as an optimal way for your business to operate under a hybrid work model.

Keeping teams connected

7 hybrid work challenges and how to overcome them | Connected teams

Why it’s a challenge:

Connecting your people at home with your people in an office is complicated no matter how small or large the teams involved. Collaboration is vital for innovation with networking and relationship building acting as the glue that binds a company together. How should they communicate and collaborate on a day to day basis? You can’t just expect people to find a way through these issues by themselves. And how can you encourage people to visit the office and collaborate there?

How to avoid:

There are plenty of tools available to enable effective communication such as Zoom, Slack and Teams. Your experience with lockdown should have already given you a good idea of what works. Discuss with your teams their needs and choose the most appropriate tool. Then make sure everyone is on the same page in using the tools so no-one is left out. Some training might be required for employees more used to traditional forms of working. When in the office, facilitate collaboration with tools that make it easy to book rooms, know other people’s schedules and synchronize calendars. It will make a big difference when it comes to encouraging on-site working.

Employee wellbeing

Why it’s a challenge:

 It’s easier to look after people’s physical and mental health when they are all gathered in one building every day. It’s more of a challenge when some are at home or even in another country. In particular, home working can have an impact on mental health as some can feel isolated or ignored with no-one to help. The young in particular may have a sense of being trapped in a small residence. A balanced wellbeing approach is required that combines the benefits of home working with the social interaction, learning and development of the office.

How to avoid:

7 hybrid work challenges and how to overcome them | Good management

Good management is key. Make sure the people who are responsible for staff are having regular check-ins with everyone to ask how they’re doing, if they’re coping with the new working arrangement and whether they can do anything else that might help. You managers should be trained to spot signs when things might be going wrong.

Unconscious bias

Why it’s a challenge:

Research by MIT has shown that those who work in an office are more likely to be evaluated, get promoted or receive pay rises than those who work remotely over computer screens or visit the office less often. This can become a real issue when people start feeling that to get ahead in your business they need to be in the office.

7 hybrid work challenges and how to overcome them | Unconcious bias

How to avoid:

Make sure your manager has the tools, structure and training to ensure that fairness is applied to all employees when it comes to evaluations of their performance. Any unconscious bias is hard to tackle due to its very nature but it’s crucial to ensure that those working away from the office more often feel they have an equal opportunity to succeed. Keep a close eye on any correlation between where someone works and how they’re rewarded. Make sure employees know they’re been measured on output rather than presenteeism and present your office as a place for collaboration and adding value rather than sending emails all day.

Building a culture

Why it’s a challenge:

One of the most popular objections to flexible working is the impact it can have on building a strong, unified company culture. How can you get everyone embracing the same values when they are spread around the country? What can replace the good old fashioned get together, shared celebration and gossip in the office kitchen?

How to avoid:

7 hybrid work challenges and how to overcome them | Building a culture

In changing times it’s probably necessary for you to change your culture to take into account the hybrid working model. That doesn’t mean throwing everything away but making tweaks so that it’s relevant for everyone who works for you. You can still share celebrations, virtually or otherwise. And, pandemic permitting, you can still get everyone together in one space on occasions. If you use your office in the right way then every visit can feel like an away day that builds and maintains your culture. Make it fit for purpose and people will want to get together to collaborate and build relationships. If anything, your culture could get even stronger.

Lack of buy-in

Why it’s a challenge:

Your plans for a hybrid working model may not even get off the ground if senior management don’t believe it will work. Don’t blame them – it can be quite a big change for everyone – but if this is going to succeed then everyone needs to be on board from every strata of your organization

How to avoid:

First of all, don’t just dismiss their concerns but understand them. And don’t sell the new arrangement as something that’s a reaction to a problem. Provide the proactive arguments in favor of hybrid working. Have examples of how it works for similar organizations and some best case stories from lockdown when productivity benefited from people working at home. Remind them of all the tools that are now available to meet their concerns and make sure you emphasize the bottom line. If hybrid working could result in more profit for the company then you already have a winning argument for flexible working in your hands.

7 hybrid work challenges and how to overcome them | Flexible working

Flexible working is here to stay and every challenge to making it work has a solution, often enabled by technology. Take control and check out the tech so that everyone has the certainty to collaborate with confidence and you have the capacity to make the most of the opportunities.

Research report: Attitudes to Hybrid Working.

Attitudes to Hybrid Working Report

The impact of hybrid work on employees and employers.

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