The transition to the hybrid model is more than a mere schedule change. Realizing this format’s full potential requires thorough planning. In this article, we consider hybrid work’s meaning for companies. Then, we continue to discuss several common challenges related to the hybrid model and offer practical solutions.
What is hybrid work?
The hybrid work model is an increasingly popular employment arrangement that combines office work with remote work. Typically, the schedule is predetermined, but sometimes one can also choose in-office days.
Usually, the hybrid model involves software-managed desk sharing, such as “hot desking” or hoteling. Both terms refer to desk booking, however, sometimes the term “hoteling” is used specifically to denote the practice of long-term desks reservation. These bookable desks may replace all or some of the personally assigned workstations.
Why adopt the hybrid work model?
Firstly, it allows for unprecedented flexibility at work. This model makes it possible to work at convenient hours and choose the desired work environment. Planning in-office time only requires simple online booking.
Secondly, the model promotes employee well-being. Naturally, satisfaction with the workplace greatly affects mental health. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employee well-being has become especially important. The autonomy that this work model offers makes it easy to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Additionally, the hybrid format enables considerable resource savings – a significant advantage in today’s challenging economic conditions. For employees, days of remote work reduce the need to commute. This saves time and money, but it is also ecologically beneficial (easing the environmental impact of transportation).
For employers, the hybrid format enables substantial office space savings: fewer permanent workstations are needed as shared workstations are used for on-site work, and part of the workforce works from home. Since real estate costs are on the rise, the importance of these savings should not be underestimated.
Hybrid work’s virtue is its flexibility: theoretically, any combination can be achieved, from an office-centric work schedule to a remote work-centric schedule. This also means that there is no one-size-fits-all hybrid model. To ensure that all employees can enjoy the model’s benefits, one must adapt it to the individual needs of the company.
Sometimes, the transition to the hybrid work schedule can be challenging until the company finds the most favorable format. Here are several of the most common challenges, along with some recommended solutions:
1) Adjusting to a new management style:
The hybrid work environment may produce unfamiliar employment dynamics, and managers will have to develop appropriate management methods.
Traditionally, the prevalent management style was direct supervision, and often, employee performance was evaluated in terms of consistent office attendance and overtime work.
However, already before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, numerous employees were complaining about “presenteeism.” This term refers to the management’s uncompromising expectation to prioritize on-site presence at all costs. Unsurprisingly, many employees felt that they were measured only by their presence at work and that they had to sacrifice a lot just to show up at the offices regularly.
In the hybrid model, work is not tied to a fixed location, and it can be asynchronous. Therefore, leaders should adopt a management style based on mutual trust, employee empowerment, and open communication.
“McKinsey”, the global consulting company, proposed several practical courses of action for effective management in the hybrid work environment:
To promote high performance and healthy coordination, one should set detailed project goals, clearly define roles, offer support, and maintain personal contact with each employee. To foster resilient teams, managers must encourage problem-solving as a team, delegate decision-making to show trust, and invite team members to express their opinions openly.
Furthermore, to provide employees with a sense of belonging, managers should think of creative ways to generate employee involvement. These can include polls, brainstorming sessions, planned personal meetings with each employee, and even informal team rituals.
2) Hesitation in the face of the unfamiliar: naturally, the unknown may cause hesitation, and there will be certain employees who are less willing to accept the change. After all, before 2020 most of us have known only a single work format.
First of all, one must make sure that all employees understand what is expected of them after the transition. Everyone must have someone to turn to for support.
Likewise, sometimes the advantages of the new model might not be evident to some employees. It is essential to communicate to them what benefits the change will bring (e.g., less commuting, increased autonomy, working hours flexibility, and the ability to choose work environments according to the task’s nature).
Besides that, managers should be willing to listen to feedback from employees and accept negative feedback with understanding. It is essential that employees feel that their opinion matters. Constructive criticism from employees can be an excellent opportunity to learn about their needs and optimize the work environment accordingly.
3) Adaptation that takes time
As with anything new, some employees may take a longer time to adapt to the new way of working.
It is essential to allow enough time to get used to the new environment, but managers must make active efforts to ensure that the hybrid workspace is accessible and welcoming.
It should be remembered that the purpose of the hybrid office is different from that of the traditional office. Above all, the hybrid office is a place for face-to-face teamwork, planned meetings, as well as unscheduled professional and social interaction. Thus, it is essential to design the physical environment accordingly.
The offices should contain dedicated meeting spaces as well as inviting open areas that encourage unstructured conversations. When employing desk sharing in offices, one must make sure that all workstations are comfortable to use, and that the equipment is in working order.
4) A maladapted office environment
Some of the difficulties may be caused by insufficient technical adaptation of the hybrid office to the organization’s activities.
Suggested solutions: The hybrid model relies on adaptive digital tools, and they are what makes the model’s benefits possible. It is, therefore, crucial to take full advantage of this flexibility.
When switching to the hybrid model, the corporate premises must be adapted to the organization’s actual needs. Sometimes a simple technical change can make a substantial difference. For instance, a company that works with clients from different time zones may need software settings that facilitate desk booking around the clock and not only during regular work hours.
It is necessary to ensure that the desk booking process is straightforward, that video conference systems are easy to use, and that the office’s infrastructure allows for a smooth connection with numerous participants. If necessary, software and equipment should be updated to guarantee seamless communication between on-site and remote workers.
Thanks to the fact that it combines the advantages of face-to-face collaboration with the flexibility of remote work, the hybrid format is expected to remain an optimal work arrangement for the foreseeable future. That is why it is vital to learn as early as possible how to lead a hybrid workforce successfully.