Hybrid Work Challenges
December 22, 2021
What will work look like from now on? What challenges hybrid work will bring and how can we deal with all of that?
In 2021, many companies started to gradually go back to the office, but all this remote experience we lived through in 2020 turns this comeback into something full of uncertainty and doubts. According to Microsoft, 70% of the workforce wants to continue with flexible working conditions, but at the same time, 65% wishes they had more contact with their colleagues in the company.
One of the main doubts concerning remote work was how to maintain team collaboration without face to face interactions, but the many online tools recently created showed us that yes, we can work remotely as productively and with the same quality as we did onsite. Even the more creative dynamics, such as ideation and brainstorming meetings, were possible with the aid of visual tools, like Strytegy, that simulate the experience of an online board filled with post-its.
Although we figured out many ways to collaborate well working remotely, new challenges emerge with hybrid work settings, and it is important that companies recognize that no one has all the answers yet, and that this is a moment for experimentation.
According to consulting firm Mckinsey, the return to onsite work is generating a gap between the expectations of executives and employees in general. While many leaders are thrilled to go back to the office, most workers find it hard to accommodate this new reality. Many don’t want to lose the perks of working from home, and others are still dealing with trauma and psychological exhaustion caused by the pandemic.
A lot of the discussion about hybrid work has focused on determining how many days a week employees should come to the office, whether they can decide their work schedule or not, which activities can be conducted remotely and which can’t, how should we reorganize the workplace setting to accommodate new work dynamics… All of these are quite relevant issues, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Leaders hold in their hands much more complex challenges to deal with in order to ensure a motivated and collaborative workforce, comfortable with the new hybrid reality.
One of these challenges is how to deal with merit and employee recognition and compensation. Some studies show that not showing up at the office so often can lower your chances of being promoted. And, to add another ingredient to this scenario, women are more likely to opt for remote work options than men. Just like that, you have the perfect conditions for increasing gender inequality. So how can we ensure that the choice of working remotely won’t turn into a threat to your career ambitions?
Another issue, intimately linked with the former, is connecting employees. How can we ensure that people participating remotely in hybrid meeting won’t feel left out, and can collaborate just as effectively as the people participating onsite? How can we avoid that people who don’t come to the office so much feel excluded from social groups inside the workplace, that are knowingly easier to form and maintain in the office? The feeling of belonging and social bonds created in the workplace are fundamental to promote employee motivation and satisfaction. And a motivated and integrated team is very important to promoting creativity and innovation.
Some specialists point out that it is important to be transparent with your employees about which work style will be predominant. Asana, creator of a task management software, considers itself as an “office-centric hybrid”, while CommonBond, a financial technology startup, declares itself as “remote first”. This helps people better understand what the company expects from them, and dictates which work style will bend more often to accommodate the other. In Zillow, a real-estate website company, if at least one person is participating in a meeting remotely, everybody attends by video call, each in their own laptop.
The key to solve all these issues is, most importantly, to recognize that there are no right answers yet, many mistakes will be made and no one is capable of designing a new work system alone. To avoid increasing the gap between the expectations of leaders and employees even further, executives need to make the designing of hybrid work something collaborative, and listen to everyone involved to create something that makes sense. It is time for brainstorming, ideation sessions, constant feedback… Wether you are in the office covering the walls with post-its, or working remotely in a Strytegy whiteboard, this is the time to figure out together how we are going to redesign the reality of work.