As organizations reopen their offices post the pandemic, experts believe we are entering a new era of hybrid work where workers enjoy a mix of remote or in-office time. In fact, many companies around the world are already experimenting with the hybrid approach, trying out new practices to see what works and what doesn't. Implementing a hybrid work model is no easy feat. When implemented at scale, it can be way more complicated and challenging than even a fully remote model. Let’s explore the top five challenges of a hybrid workspace:
1) Workplace Experience
One of the major challenges organizations face when implementing hybrid work is offering a consistent, improved and tailored workplace experience (tools, resources, technology, infrastructure, environment, culture) to employees that juggle their lives between a virtual home office and corporate premises. The reality is that there is no uniform blueprint and the needs of a hybrid worker might be totally different when they are working at home versus when they are stepping into the office.
2) Lack of Engagement and Alignment
As work becomes increasingly hybrid, managers have limited visibility on workers and employees have less facetime and opportunities to spontaneously communicate and collaborate with leaders and colleagues. This lack of emotional, technical and physical connection can result in workers feeling disengaged at work.
Another major issue between in-office workers and hybrid workers is the latter can feel excluded or not being equally involved just because they are not in the same room. While remote work may have its benefits, in-person workers are more likely to get promoted due to proximity bias. It’s important that managers overcome these biases aided through use of collaboration tools and technology that are tailored to the needs of the worker.
4) Productivity and Work-life Balance
For hybrid workers, in contrast with the traditional 9-5 office environment, drawing the line between personal and work life can get blurry, which is why 70% admitted to working on weekends during the pandemic. Recent studies indicate that “The Great Resignation” is actually “The Great Reprioritization” of workers finding new meaning to work and life post-pandemic and are looking for organizations that better support their evolving needs.
5) Building and Sustaining Culture
Building and sustaining corporate culture and providing a more consistent experience in the workplace is probably one of the most challenging things to achieve for an organization, especially if their model is a hybrid one. Organizations must establish protocols and systems so that employees can work efficiently, exchange scheduling information and optimize their availability as much as possible. In the end, employees must feel they are able to strike a balance between their home setup and their corporate setup and the business is able to support their entire staff, regardless of where they’re working from.
Best Practices That Help Overcome These Challenges
The concept of hybrid work is still relatively new and organizations transitioning to a long-term model will need to evolve, adapt, rethink and reinvent the workplace. Here are five best practices that can help you get started:
1. Design Digital Workplace from the Ground Up: Most business leaders have an idea in their head of what the traditional workplace looks like (desks and cubicles, meeting rooms and shared amenities). Hybrid working on the other hand needs to be designed in a way that supports interactions that cannot always happen in person and are inclusive. This can solely be supported through intelligent workplaces like those offered by Citrix which offer an integrated and personalized secure experience to people working from anywhere.
2. Transform Role of the Office: Since a majority of workers are only going to step into the office when they have team meetings or a need to collaborate face to face, it might make sense to dedicate more areas to collaboration spaces. Office spaces should support tools like always-on video conferencing capabilities, asynchronous meeting capabilities (where you can talk about the meeting before it starts, you can understand whether you actually need to participate or whether you can give your point of view in advance) and tools such as virtual whiteboards so that remote workers can participate effectively.
3. Invest In Workplace Intelligence to Empower the Worker: A digital workplace can only become an intelligent one when it understands the needs and adapts to the worker’s requirements. For example, instead of making the user search for required screens, menus and commands, relevant actions and insights from those applications are presented in the most-simple way. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can automate mundane tasks or provide intelligent nudges so that workers can be better at multitasking and be more productive.
4. Don’t Just Communicate, Engage: When people are in the office, their sense of common purpose is shaped by regular communication with colleagues. When employees are separated, leaders need to be more intentional about communicating goals regularly and ensuring that people feel their work is not going unnoticed. Technology can play a vital role in bridging the gap.
5. Use Data Science to Measure Productivity: Clearly outlined responsibilities, schedules and outcome-focused metrics will be critical in measuring productivity of workers going forward, regardless of their location. The next generation of workspaces must provide advanced analytics that can enable leadership to measure productivity at scale and make smarter decisions at improving efficiencies, workplace experience and the overall wellbeing of workers.
The transition to a long-term hybrid work model is not an overnight exercise. It’s a transformational change in the way work is structured and technology will truly be the cornerstone that unites, engages and supports a long-term hybrid model that rewards people with higher productivity.
About the Author
John Ellis is Global Lead, Modern Work and Security for Fujitsu, a Japanese multinational information technology equipment and services company founded in 1935 and headquartered in Tokyo with 126,000 global employees. Contact him at [email protected].
Future of Work Contributor
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