When the “future of work” topic comes up, one of the first topics of discussion is frequently hybrid working. PwC’s US Remote Work Survey shows that work-from-home options are part of the “new normal.” While some are happy to forego office space entirely, others desire a hybrid workforce in which people rotate in and out of offices as needed. In summary, the key to the future of employment is flexibility.
However, hybrid and remote work is not without challenges. When managing remote employees vs. in-office employees, there are inherent hurdles and trade-offs. Hence, planning to change to more remote work requires some forethought. This blog provides you with a guide to help your team take full advantage of hybrid working.
What is Hybrid Working?
“Hybrid working” refers to the ability to work from anywhere. The phrase ‘hybrid’ refers to a work environment that combines a typical in-office work environment, in which everyone is co-located in the same office every day, with a fully-remote work environment, in which there is no office, and people work from anywhere they wish. In essence, hybrid work is a mix of in-office and remote labour.
However, corporations may choose to be more agile or more regimented in their approach to creating a hybrid work environment. Individual employees in the agile hybrid workplace can choose whether to work in the office or from home daily, based on their daily needs. In a more organized hybrid workplace, an employee may be working in-office or remotely for the life of their employment. Here, the organization accommodates both in-office and fully remote personnel, their work environment is called hybrid.
As you may have surmised, there is no “correct” approach to support hybrid work. One thing is sure: the more freedom and choice individual workers have regarding where they work, the less predictable the company’s scheduling and planning are. (For example, when employees do not arrive at the workplace consistently, office space planning becomes more difficult.) Furthermore, the less freedom and choice individual employees have, the more difficult it is for businesses to retain talent. According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 73% of respondents want remote or hybrid work choices.
Resultantly, many firms are evolving their support for hybrid work and have made hybrid work decisions the duty of team managers. Individual employees may then negotiate the hybrid scenario that works best for them. At the same time, team managers can balance individual employees’ demands with their team’s needs to maintain or increase performance.
Are there any problems with hybrid working?
The team manager’s duty makes sense in making hybrid and remote work decisions, but it isn’t easy in practice. Managers are always required to strike a balance between the demands of individual team members and the needs of the team as a whole. However, the location of team members has traditionally been a consistent, relatively unchangeable aspect of team management. Aside from the fact that team members’ location is another aspect that team managers must control, it is difficult to determine which hybrid arrangement is best for individuals and most ideal for team performance. Let’s look at some common challenges with remote or hybrid working.
Common challenges with hybrid working
Cloud Technology: Easy Communication But Less Togetherness
Cloud technology is a critical component of remote or hybrid work. This technology is great for keeping everyone connected throughout the workday. However, it also means that staff will be working on the move for a portion of the time. Without a centralized site for communications, such as a conference room, there is more flexibility but less togetherness.
Both employees and employers or managers have higher levels of freedom – they can work where they want and when they want in some environments. However, this complicates communications since employees and managers may be on asynchronous schedules and require more coordination to connect.
Lack of 1-on-1 interactions
A lack of one-on-one engagement might be detrimental. In-person encounters boost emotional engagement, so if the workplace lacks this “human aspect,” the team may grow alienated and disengaged. Miscommunication, poor communication, or information silos across departments are also more likely, to reduce productivity. Employees no longer have access to “shared knowledge” or social cues from face-to-face contact. Lack of 1-on-1 interactions can cause unclarity in situations.
An employee, for example, may be having a bad day and being a little snippy in conversations. Management may let this slip in a face-to-face environment if they know the day has been particularly challenging. Still, they may not be as patient in virtual situations because they are unaware of the pressures.
Too many distractions at home?
Employees and supervisors may suffer from distractions like children at home, chores such as washing or food preparation, ambient sound from a television, traffic, mail delivery, etc. While most employees feel more productive in a remote or hybrid setting, distractions at home can influence productivity.
This brings us to another issue: micromanagement. Without the opportunity to supervise people in the workplace, some managers may be afraid that staff aren’t working hard enough. This may lead to micromanagement.
Micromanagement is ineffective. Concerns regarding employee productivity at home have been alleviated due to the epidemic. Here micromanagement only hurts employees’ mental and physical health. They may also believe that their bosses are unsupportive or untrustworthy.
This brings into question: How do you successfully manage a hybrid team?
Managing Hybrid Working: Tips and Tricks
Why do managers need to worry so much about hybrid working? It is the manager’s obligation to understand the requirements of each team member and the team as a whole to put the team up for success. So how can you improve your chances of finding success with hybrid working?
Create Structure Where It Makes The Most Sense
Even for a remote or hybrid workforce, a 9-to-5 schedule makes sense in some situations. Managers may build a hybrid structure with a daily check-in for organizations that allow for a flexible schedule and deadlines or tasks instead of hours.
You have several alternatives for a daily check-in, including one-on-one conversations, team calls, and group chats on communication applications. The best option depends on the sort of work (collaborative or autonomous). However, the most crucial aspect is that check-ins are predictable and planned and take place in a predictable style. During these check-ins, you and the employee or employees can discuss job progress, issues, or questions.
Set Ground Rules And Expectations
Remote work may be efficient and effective, but the manager must set expectations for the team about response times, online presence, and availability. For instance, you may argue that videoconferencing is essential for daily check-in meetings, while Slack instant messages are preferable for urgent or private interactions.
Furthermore, you and your staff should know the ideal communication routes and times to interact during the workday, particularly in asynchronous workplaces. For example, you may be available for Zoom meetings or phone conversations later in the day but prefer texting first if an urgent situation requires it.
You must also monitor and control employee and team communication to ensure everyone shares the necessary information. Miscommunications can occur in virtual workforces, but explicit management communication about expectations can help to reduce communication breakdowns.
Provide Options For Employee Contribution
As previously stated, specific organizations mandate all employees to work specified hours. However, if possible, allow flexibility in how, when, and where a person works. One of the primary advantages of work-from-home models is that employees have higher happiness levels, productivity, and work-life balance. Flexibility gives employees more control over their schedules!
For example, some employees may be more productive in the early morning before the kids get up. On the other hand, others may prefer to work in the evening (as many do). Giving your staff this flexibility allows them to manage their time and motivation as they see fit.
One disadvantage of remote work is that employees may suffer social isolation due to a lack of face-to-face connection with coworkers. Managers may address this by creating opportunities for staff to socialize while working remotely.
This involves setting aside time for employees to engage in non-work-related talks. Managers can accomplish this by devoting time at the start of team conversations to “catch up” with one another or by throwing virtual video conference parties that include care items for each team member.
While it may appear strange to organize social activities in a virtual world, keep in mind that it works well for concerts and other types of entertainment. Furthermore, managers that use this form of social engagement report less isolation and greater collaboration with their distant personnel.
Managers can no longer rely on traditional methods of not trusting staff – that horse has departed. Employees are trustworthy, and our economy proves it. With that in mind, the most crucial advice is to continue to put your faith in your team. After all, office workers have been working from home successfully for the previous two years.
If you are concerned about performance, schedule regular meetings, provide specific comments, and establish measurable targets and KPIs based on benchmarking work and client input. Working from home or returning to the office should not be considered a remedy to underperformance.
The next step is to discuss your workers’ preferred working habits and address any issues they have faced. For example, if you suspect an employee is not receiving enough daycare, speak with them about it. You may discover that they work successfully in the nights after their children have gone to bed; if this does not impair their output, it is unimportant.
If necessary, you may utilize this interaction to teach your staff how to manage their work/life balance efficiently.
Purpose over presenteeism
An organization is a collection of individuals who work together to achieve a shared goal. Because how that objective is fulfilled varies between teams and individuals within a group, a “one size fits all” approach may not be the ideal option.
Back-office personnel, for example, may not need to be at the office as regularly as customer-facing staff. Even responsibilities closer to the customer may not require performance in the office – a coffee shop near the client’s house may be a suitable setting for a meeting.
As a general guideline, rather than concentrating on ‘presenteeism,’ you should prioritize thinking about the objective of each person’s work and assisting them to deliver on it.
Keep what has worked.
Some things worked well during COVID-19, and we wish to incorporate them into our work life in the future. Before the lockout, for example, many employees had little contact with their CEO, often far from the front lines in influential organizations. Many CEOs began using Zoom to inform staff during COVID-19, aligning their personnel to the organization’s goal and values without the noise and distortion that may occur when communications pass via a management level.
Employees have also benefited from working from home, including decreased commuting time, greater freedom in where they may live, the option to be with their pets, and control over when, where, and how they work. Organizations will want to keep some of these perks or risk falling behind competitors and struggling to recruit and retain talent by improving the employee experience.
Managing a remote or hybrid team isn’t as difficult or unpleasant as it may appear. You may experience a better work-life balance, greater flexibility and engagement, and more productivity from your staff if you manage the problems correctly and adapt to the changes.
Companies have embraced virtual work technology astonishingly quickly since the epidemic, and employees realize the benefits of greater flexibility in where and when they work. Leaders embrace a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reset work using a hybrid model as they understand its full potential.
If leaders and managers can effectively migrate to a hybrid working paradigm, the consequence will be more purposeful and productive work lives.