Unsurprisingly, adapting to a different working model comes with some challenges. While hybrid working isn’t exactly new, the sheer number of companies transitioning to it means that many are still in the adjustment phase.
As with anything - if you spot the potential challenges before they arise, you’ll be much better equipped at dealing with them if they do. You may even be able to prevent them altogether.
Interestingly, many of the benefits of hybrid working can also be some of its greatest challenges. The impact of hybrid working is, well, hybrid.
1. Harnessing company culture
What is company culture without dress-down Fridays and post-work drinks? Hybrid working has forced us to rethink company culture, which is vital for employees to feel connected to their workplace.
Setting aside time for employees beyond the tasks at hand is especially important for hybrid working models - with less time face-to-face, companies must go the extra mile to create a positive work environment.
Whether it’s organising an hour of mindfulness or a virtual cocktail hour, employees need to feel valued beyond their work - and focusing on creating a work community, if virtual, is a good way to do so.
2. Maintaining a work-life balance
Finding the right work-life balance was already a challenge, but the ability to work from the comfort of your home adds an extra difficult dimension, blurring the boundaries between your work and home life.
As a result, companies must make an extra effort to make sure employees are really clocking off - mentally and physically. Avoid situations where employees are online or replying to messages outside their working hours - popping your working hours in your online profile is a good way to monitor this.
Having a designated work space is also really important - if possible, away from the bedroom so to mentally and physically separate areas for relaxation and work.
With no one at your desk peering over your shoulder, it’s possible that employees may find their time out of the office a little less productive. Our brains are sensitised to view offices for work, and homes for relaxation, so hybrid working can sometimes require a bit of reconditioning.
At the core of productivity is motivation, which is much more at risk in hybrid working models. This has led to a new phenomenon known as quiet quitting - more information on how to avoid this can be found here.
A good way to stay productive and motivated in hybrid working models is to act just as if you’re going to the office. Set an alarm a decent amount of time before you’re due to start, put on some smart-ish clothes - essentially, follow a routine which gets you into work mode.
If staying focused is an issue, try a time management technique like the Pomodoro method and reward yourself with mini breaks.
But don’t fear - data suggests that overall, hybrid working models improve productivity. A study by Prodoscore showed a 5 per cent increase in the productivity of its employees during the pandemic, where Owl Labs found that its hybrid employees were 22% happier than those who went to the office, and ultimately stayed in their jobs longer
Hybrid working models can sometimes make us feel removed from our colleagues and workplace, especially if we rarely communicate face-to-face. When company connection is less simple than grabbing a quick coffee break with a colleague, companies have to get creative.
At the core of staying connected is constant and quality communication. Regular feedback and general check-ins are key to stopping employees from feeling detached and devalued.
Connection is maintained by making the most of time when you do get together face-to-face. Put time and effort into creating social activities that appeal personally to your employees, whether that’s swapping the axe-throwing workshop to foraging in your local woods, or choosing the dates of a company retreat that align with employees’ parenting schedules.
Whatever it is, putting your employees' needs first and staying engaged is a great way to sustain a stream of positive communication.
When companies turn almost entirely digital, the future of collaboration becomes uncertain. How can you be a great team player when you’ve only seen your colleagues through a 13” screen?
Just like maintaining connections in the workplace, companies have to get creative when it comes to effective collaboration. If a company call involves people in and outside the office, a strong wifi connection is key to keeping the conversation fluid.
As well, think about setting a standard where speakers must raise their (virtual) hands before speaking up to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and collaborate.
A great invoker of hybrid collaboration is breakout rooms, where smaller, targeted groups can discuss plans or projects in a more focused environment outside of the main group call. This is especially important for the introverts in the workplace, who may not feel comfortable sharing ideas in big conference calls.
So there we have it, the challenges (and some solutions) to hybrid working. Keep these five things in mind to get the best out of hybrid working models.
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