Feature Issue 01 - 2022 MAGAZINE

Challenges of hybrid work and how to overcome them

Every day, more businesses are embracing a blend of remote and on-site employees.

Hybrid work culture has gained popularity in the past few years. With this, hybrid workers can benefit from the best of both worlds by working remotely and at the office on different days of the week or month. They can spend more time with their family and experience less stress by avoiding the traffic to get to the office. Moreover, they do not have to skip out on work since they can always bring their laptop or tablet wherever they go.

However, the hybrid model also comes with some challenges that you need to be aware of when creating your hybrid working schedule.

Studies from top research institutes like Harvard and Stanford confirm that workplace flexibility positively affects employees, employers, and company profits. A flexible schedule can be great. The biggest pro is that one can spend more time at home, during the holidays, or with family and friends. The worst thing about commuting, whether by road or train, is that it takes up most of your day. Hybrid work offers you the flexibility to work from wherever be it your place or a vacation home. Thus, you can hopefully save time during your regular office hours. Instead, they can organize everything around their own needs and schedules. This helps in maximizing productivity and allowing for a greater sense of freedom.

Working from a remote environment may help reduce stress, especially if you are sensitive to noisy environments. Work from home will also negate most effects of weather as you can stay in your cozy home office instead of suffering from rain or snow.

Further for working parents with small children at home, working from home can be very convenient. They can work and play with their child at home by saving time on the commute.

Every day, more businesses are embracing a blend of remote and on-site employees. According to an Upwork report, 22% or more workers planned to work remotely by 2022. The benefits are evident. Companies can reduce overhead by increasing employee productivity, while employees gain flexibility in spending their days.

Challenges with a hybrid setup
However, it can also lead to a significant downside: an isolating work culture and deteriorate work-life balance. Additionally, working from home does not always work out well if some workers need micromanaging and are not self-motivated. In absence of adequate monitoring options, there is no way to prevent workers from procrastinating or scrolling through Facebook instead of doing their designated tasks. Without a permanent workplace, It can be challenging for some people to transition into two different workplaces within the same week. Further, remote employees may feel isolated from their in-office coworkers. There may be fewer opportunities to build relationships or develop a sense of company culture.

Moreover, a workplace that’s not fully staffed may feel less dynamic than one where all employees are working in person. If half of a team works remotely on any given day, they may not have the chance to ask questions or bounce ideas off each other. This in turn will slow down the work process and affect their productivity.

5 Challenges of Hybrid Team Collaboration
1. Building virtual meetings
Since you don’t have direct access to your colleagues, it can be challenging to build relationships. So, figure out what tools and technologies best fit your style—phone calls, text messages, conference calls, video meetings—and use them regularly.

Add coworkers on Facebook or follow them on Twitter if that’s where they hang out online. Keep the conversation going about projects you’re working on and events at work. Even though you can’t physically show up at an office happy hour, try to get to know each other better virtually before you meet in person for your first time.

2. Poor remote work policy management
You do not want your employees to feel isolated. Work with them to create a working environment that makes sense for them. Remember, hybrid work culture doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. It can be tailored specifically to each person’s working style without compromising productivity. For example, consider pairing employees who like working alone with coworkers who thrive when they work together. This combination seamlessly integrates remote work culture into their schedule while maintaining frequent communication via meetings or phone calls.

However, employees also need time to focus. So, it’s crucial to schedule check-ins at set times throughout the day and week. You should also make sure everyone knows when quiet hours occur—during which no one will respond unless something is urgent.

3. Maintaining a remote-compatible culture
The first step to allowing remote work culture is creating and maintaining a culture that supports it. You need to trust your employees, but you must also set up guidelines for them. If they’re working from home, what are acceptable ways to contribute? When are they expected to make progress?
These may differ depending on whether you’re hiring full-time employees or independent contractors.

In addition, you need to let people know how they can communicate with their team—should they schedule daily check-ins or hold regular meetings? What do those meetings look like? A survey Gartner conducted with 127 corporate leaders showed that only 30% are worried about maintaining the company culture when they move to a hybrid work culture model.

People working remotely typically crave communication with their peers and managers. Thus, figuring out how everyone can maintain a healthy relationship over video calls and Slack should be high on your priority list once you decide to go remote or hybrid.

4. Lack of collaboration
One thing that makes working as a hybrid employee difficult is that you’re often expected to fill many roles. It can create confusion over who should be leading each project. Even if you have an assigned manager or leader, you may find yourself working on projects where multiple people are involved.

To avoid confusion and keep things running smoothly, take some time before establishing each project. State what everyone’s role will be and ensure each person is happy with their part in it. Then assign roles clearly and stick to them throughout the project.

5. Connectivity between the office and home
According to McKinsey, nine out of ten businesses combine remote and on-site work environments. This can be tough, especially if you’re starting your own business. There will always be gaps between you and your colleagues, with flexible work hours and remote communication.

Hence, be patient and communicate often. Plan for times when you might not be able to communicate face-to-face. Thankfully, many online tools exist that make instant collaboration possible. What’s more important is your ability to find what works best for each project or task at hand. The more comfortable you are working remotely, the more successful you’ll be as a hybrid worker.

The way out
Running a hybrid workforce isn’t without its hurdles—and many start with communication. With employees working from so many locations—home offices, coffee shops, restaurants, train stations—how do you keep lines of communication open and transparent? In other words: how do you maintain a work culture when your team members aren’t all working together in one place? There’s no magic bullet for overcoming these hybrid work culture problems.

A regular, timely feedback mechanism can be a good starting point. Set aside specific times to discuss workplace culture issues with your remote staff. For example, each Friday afternoon might be virtual meetings and conversation time. It doesn’t have to be much longer than 15 minutes per session—just enough time to ask questions and give updates.
Hold monthly calls or conferences via Skype, Zoom, or other video platforms like Google Hangouts. Inviting everyone in your virtual office to attend can be a team-building activity.

Before meetings begin, take a moment to make sure everyone has been doing well outside work. Let people know you care about their lives and careers outside work. Start with something like, “How was last week?” Is anything new going on in their life? Then, let them speak first.

Some distributed teams travel once a quarter for company-wide meetups. Whether employees live across town or oceans, they encourage physical encounters every few months. Not only does facetime improve work relationships, but it also helps build work culture through better interpersonal connections. Encourage social events where remote colleagues can connect informally, perhaps over dinner after work or drinks after work.

Combating resistance
One common challenge for telecommuters is dealing with return-to-office resistance. On the other hand, some employees may resist working from home because they feel disconnected from their office, colleagues, and coworkers. This clash can cause you to feel like your work isn’t as valued. If these sentiments prevent you from being productive while working from home, it may be time to implement a few new strategies. Create an open dialogue between yourself and your employer about successfully working from home.

Explain why working from home works best for you without sacrificing productivity or quality. Ask what else might make working from home more accessible for everyone involved. By talking openly about these challenges upfront, both parties will better understand what causes issues and how to avoid them or solve them before they happen.

Meeting other remote workers experiencing similar struggles regularly can work wonders. It can help you understand what others are going through and help prevent isolation. Meet in person for lunch every now and then, if possible, to maintain strong working relationships. Regular phone calls can also help keep communication lines open even when times are tough.

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