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Ten biggest challenges to hybrid work

Our working landscape looks quite different now compared to a few years ago. Where once our ‘normal’ was typically office-based, we are now living in a land painted vividly in hybrid colours.

Hybrid working has brought with it lots of opportunities though it’s not without its challenges. We know these may differ between organisations, but there are some that will be universal. In no particular order, here’s our Top Ten.

1. Culture

With teams spread out over multiple remote workplaces, it can be a challenge to promote a connected and cohesive workforce.

Technology can play a big part in helping to keep teams integrated. Organisations can use a blend communication tools to facilitate everyday working, to hold in-person and online meetings and events, and to encourage colleagues to continue enjoying social occasions. Communication around the organisation and between managers and teams should be transparent, open and inclusive.

Companies should ensure they are leading the culture from the top, supporting staff to feel connected.

2. Equality

There is a risk that the experiences of those based predominantly in the office will be better than those working remotely. Remote team members may feel isolated if they’re not with their office colleagues and may feel they are missing out on opportunities by being at home. Sometimes referred to as ‘proximity bias’, or ‘accidental favouritism’, it refers to when those who are seen more often in person by colleagues and leaders being looked upon more favourably. Not just for work accolades or opportunities, but also in maintaining social connections.

Managers need to be aware of this risk and encourage communication between office and remote teams. Opportunities, including for career development and training, should be available to everyone regardless of their location, and utilising different formats, blending online and in-person. Companies should also consider a blended approach to where managers are based, and not have them permanently in the office.

3. Wellbeing

We know how important positive wellbeing is and hybrid working is a powerful tool in the wellbeing toolkit. It gives us time to work at home, without the daily commute, being able to prioritise home commitments and helping to provide that all-important work/life balance.

But there are still challenges for home workers. Staff may feel isolated, particularly if they are used to working in a busy office. They may experience ‘tech fatigue’ after hours of video calls and online meetings. And work/life balance may become difficult to reach if the ‘work’ part of the day trickles into the ‘home’ part of the day. We’ve put together some ideas to help you and your teams manage wellbeing when working remotely.

4. Productivity

It isn’t just the work/life balance you need to be alert to though, it is the balance between the needs of your people and the needs of the company. Hybrid working should work for both. When you are planning your hybrid working schedule, you need to factor in the business needs, aims and direction, and how these can be met using a hybrid working model. And you need to align these with your staff, so you come out with a cohesive, well-rounded model that works for everyone. Your model should work so that productivity is maximised and not lost.

5. Infrastructure

One of the challenges in introducing hybrid working is that your infrastructure may not be suitable and will need to be adapted. You may need to invest in equipment, technology, software, possibly a new office setup. If you plan to operate a desk-booking system, you may need less equipment than you did before.

Policies and procedures will need updating. Rules and regulations around working and employing people still apply when they’re home-based and companies should review all policies to make sure they are legally compliant.

6. Support

Many of us will be used to having an IT department on site who can come and help when the dreaded blue screen appears. When you have staff at home, unless you’re planning to build IT support sheds in everyone’s garden, you’re going to need to think about how to deliver IT support to them. This doesn’t just apply to IT, but for any business support function. Consider how the support will be delivered to remote workers and don’t be afraid to be creative with your solutions, perhaps even creating some literature and training for remote workers carry out ‘quick fixes’ for routine problems before they need to call the office.

7. Data

We’ve all heard the horror stories about people losing confidential data whilst travelling to and from the office. Thankfully, data protection legislation is very robust and there are a lot of tools to enable us to keep our data secure working in multiple locations.

That said, it’s important not to be lax about this when staff are working from home.

Data protection policies should be updated to reflect off-site working. This should include considerations of how data is stored, how company networks are accessed, and protocols for closing systems securely at the end of a day. It should also include security factors relating to the use of home broadband and any company services accessed via smart phones

8. Planning

Hybrid working adds more layers to your business so in turn it makes planning and coordination more complex than if your teams were based on one site. Using the right tools, you can plan how your hybrid working model will look, including what systems you will adopt for managing multi-site working.

9. History

Whilst it is exciting and full of promise, hybrid working can be unsettling when we’ve worked for a long time in the old ways.

It might be about the way we work: the equipment, the software, the technology. Or it might be about the way we think. Mindsets and attitudes built up over time can be difficult to alter. Views may be expressed that reflect people’s thinking about home working; for instance, that workers might be less productive at home, or easily distracted, when actually many report the opposite is true in reality.

Managers should take time to work with teams to help everybody move into the new ways of working and to counter any myths that may limit people’s thinking. Thankfully, there is a wealth of data coming out regularly now that shows the benefits home working brings to the workplace. And organisations can invest in training to upskill teams to be able to use new software and equipment.

10. Present

Hybrid working as a whole concept is a challenge. It’s uncharted territory, and it’s a landscape we are designing as we go. It will take time for businesses to adjust to the new world and it will take a lot of reviewing, reflection, tweaking and even perhaps some more substantial changes, as we go towards this becoming the future of our work.

This is our overview of the challenges facing businesses adopting hybrid working. Wherever you are on your hybrid journey, don’t forget, we have resources on our blog for whenever you need it.

Madeleine Thompson

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