One of the greatest developments of the 2020s is undoubtedly the rise of hybrid working arrangements.
No matter where your opinion lies on the topic of hybrid working, it’s indisputable that the arrangement has both numerous benefits and challenges (or challenges that can be construed by some as benefits and vice versa).
Many employees enjoy the decreased commute time, increased time spent with family and pets, and saved funds from not buying a coffee everyday at the cafe next door to your office. On the other hand, lots of people miss their office, chatting with their fellow employees and venturing beyond their immediate suburb.
Hybrid workplace offers a solution to people of both mindsets, but not without some challenges that first need to be addressed.
What is a hybrid workplace?
In a hybrid workplace, employees work a combination of time at home and in the office. The hybrid workplace schedule may be dictated by management, or opposingly it can be up to the employees to decide when and where they work.
A successful hybrid workplace will combine the benefits of remote working with those of office life.
Benefits of adopting a hybrid work strategy
There are numerous benefits of adopting a hybrid work strategy. Hybrid working arrangements are steadily becoming the norm in Australia, and many employees now expect that their employers will accommodate remote working.
Some of the many benefits of enforcing hybrid work environment best practices include:
- Cost savings for employees and employers, including transport and food costs
- Helping to manage WHS obligations in regards to infectious diseases
- Greater work-life balance and flexibility
- Boost employee productivity
- Flexibility on where the employees work, whether that be in another city or country.
The Challenges of Hybrid Working Arrangements
While the benefits of adopting a hybrid work strategy may seem obvious, there are also certain problems that can unexpectedly arise from adopting a hybrid work place model. Problems concerning office space, communication and technology best practices have left many HR departments wondering how to manage the hybrid workplace in a way that is practical and profitable.
Luckily, the challenges of hybrid working arrangements can be mitigated if the right precautionary steps are taken.
Below, we’ve summarised 8 of the most common challenges of a hybrid workforce, and how to most effectively enforce hybrid work environment best practices.
1. Managing office space and real estate
Real estate in Australia is expensive, no matter whether you’re renting an apartment or leasing an office space.
Renting an office may be excessive under a hybrid workplace if employees only utilise the space on certain days. One option may be downsizing your office so it’s more affordable, and arranging your hybrid workforce schedule so the number of people venturing into the office on a certain day is capped. Hot-desking apps can also allow individuals to pre-emptively book their space, ensuring that nobody shows up one day only to find that the only desk available is the kitchen bench.
However, work spaces don’t have to be offices. Hybrid workspaces are becoming a popular alternative to the office, as recent trends shift away from the traditional office set up. Sub-leasing workspaces has more benefits than just replacing rent with singular, obligation-free payments per booking.
Hybrid workspaces can incorporate practices of hot-desking, or businesses can book certain days in advance for a designated space. Some hybrid-workspaces also offer computers and technology, so you don’t have to worry about employees lugging their desktops every time they want to work in an office environment.
If you feel that traditional offices may no longer be suitable for your organisation, then hybrid workspaces may be the way to go.
2. Aligning work schedules of remote and office-based employees
Different work schedules will suit different businesses, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid working. It’s important to properly align work schedules for your remote and office-based employees, so people can easily communicate with those who are in their teams.
Three popular work schedules amongst hybrid workplaces include:
- Split-team: Some employees are full-time in the office, while others work full-time from home.
- Shifts: There are designated times for different staff or teams to work in the office.
- Flexible: Your employees have the option of choosing where they work, whether that be from home or in the office.
Whatever schedule you choose, you should first ensure that everyone is working in a designated time frame and are available for catch ups at specific times within the day. Even if one employee is in the office, they should still be able to facilitate easy dialogue with a colleague at home.
3. Managing communication between remote and office-based employees
A hybrid office is only as effective as its communication system. Technology provides us with a space where communicating is arguably even easier than it is in real life, so it’s only appropriate that hybrid workplaces take full advantage of it.
When a mixture of employees are working remotely and on-site, communication tools become crucial to ensuring productivity. All hybrid workplaces must find the communication software that suits their specific needs. Do you rely on video calls? Or are your employees more likely to chat on a messenger app? Is your work highly sensitive, making communication difficult online?
It’s important you map out the necessities for your communication tools prior to researching the ideal communication system for your team or making any big commitments.
4. Maintaining company culture outside of the office
Company culture is easy to maintain in an office environment, but how does it work in a hybrid workplace?
When some staff are working remotely, it can be difficult to arrange an appropriate time for team bonding sessions. You can’t just duck out to a cafe for a team lunch when one of your colleagues is on the other side of the country.
Solutions to this problem will appear differently in each organisation. Consider organising events after work, in which employees can travel to a certain location that is convenient for everyone. Digital events also provide a great opportunity for team bonding. Trivia and digital board games are both popular online events that can raise group morale.
You can also organise activities to be sent to staff that they can complete at home over video calls. Consider shipping your staff a craft kit, a recipe or a mixology set and organising a designated time for everyone to complete the activity together over video.
5. Balancing employee autonomy and leadership remotely
Leadership looks different when half the team is online and the other half is in person.
Effective online leadership must balance employee autonomy with managerial duties. Online leadership will look different to in-person leadership, and leaders of a hybrid workforce may find that their current systems do not accurately address the processes associated with an online workforce.
Prior to 2020, many leaders and managers were reluctant to trust their employees to work remotely. However, over the past two years, we’ve learnt that employee productivity can actually increase with remote working. In fact, some organisations have to deal with employees who work too many hours when working from home due to the increased blurring of home and work life.
The appearance of leadership will continue to transform as face to face interactions decrease. Leadership coaching and online courses provide timely insights into leadership best practices, helping those in higher positions within a company to effectively navigate hybrid working.
6. Promoting employee wellbeing and avoiding isolation
One of the most notable problems that can arise from online working is isolation, which can damage employee health and wellbeing.
If your staff voice concerns that they are experiencing isolation, encourage them to come into the office more days. You should also ensure that your employees are given the right tools and information so that they know where and how they should reach out if they are experiencing distress.
Staff bonding – both online and in person, can be a great way to encourage communication and build friendships amongst different teams. Friendships amongst staff are an important contributor to ensuring positive mental health in your workplace. Employee engagement can still be actively facilitated within a hybrid work strategy if employees are provided with the right tools for their personal needs.
7. Overcoming technical issues remotely
We’ve all had problems with our technology while working remotely: whether it be a faulty display that refuses to connect to our laptop, or volatile WiFi.
Accepting that technical issues are going to happen is the first step to overcoming them. Even the most comprehensive IT system is going to have its off days. To overcome technical issues remotely, ensure that your employees have the proper equipment that they need to do their job at home. This may include several desktops, a keyboard, an appropriate desk or an ergonomic chair.
It’s important to build a dedicated system that supports technical issues remotely. Consider an online help desk or a telephone number helpline for those instances where the WiFi drops out completely. If an employee’s remote setup is particularly prone to failure, then you should have a procedure in place that will allow them to use the office as much as they need to.
8. Mitigating cybersecurity risks as work moves online
Cybersecurity can be easier to manage if everyone is working on the same network, with adequate firewalls and blacklisted IP addresses. However, when people are working from remote locations, it can be difficult to ensure that their networks are reliable and will protect your organisation’s sensitive information. We are far more vulnerable to cyber security attacks when working from home.
It’s important to control the risk of cybersecurity as more work moves online. Organisations should provide their employees with the correct tools and knowledge to mitigate risk on their end at home. Guides that outline the correct processes to store passwords, documents and sensitive data are necessary for hybrid working.
Consider investing in other systems that are dedicated to protecting your employees’ online presence. Setting up two step verification tools and ensuring that your anti-malware software and cloud security are consistently updated are two recommended ways to mitigate cybersecurity risks. To identify any potential areas of concern, test your digital systems with a trusted third party.
Get expert advice in managing your hybrid workplace
Adjusting to a hybrid workplace brings many challenges that can be difficult to address under a singular policy. Ensuring that you receive expert advice in managing your new hybrid workplace is paramount to its success.
To find out more about how your hybrid work strategy can reach its full potential, get in touch with PerformHR’s dedicated team for expert insights and personalised advice.