May 9th, 2022 by Brian Wakefield
With the appearance of COVID-19 turned into a pandemic, the rhythm of life that we had for decades changed completely. The last two years were the years of quarantines and lockdowns that resulted in the boom in telecommuting and distance learning. But as the worst part of the crisis is over and to return to normality, a new modality appears on the horizon: hybrid work.
The measure, which ended up remaining a real option among workers, has led companies to redefine their business strategies, considering the lessons learned from this remote period, including the functioning of hybrid work as a flexible measure to recover physical spaces in offices without neglecting the benefits of being at home. But how are the companies doing it? What are the challenges of hybrid work mode? What are its benefits? Here’s our explanation!
What is Hybrid Work?
When we refer to work, the hybrid model is a combination of remote and face-to-face work that can be presented in different modalities.
With a significant degree of the vaccinated population and fewer restrictions in the cities, the hybrid model allows for an equitable combination of face-to-face and digital, as there is no single way to apply it, and the companies themselves have found the ideal way to implement it, depending on the characteristics and needs of each job.
There are several examples, such as shift systems by the team, by rotation, and even defining days within the week that they must be in the office, while the rest is left to the worker's planning.
In addition, it can occur in 50-50 or 70-30 and even 90-10 ways, depending on the company's needs and the type of role that the workers occupy.
Some companies prioritize time in the office while others do the opposite and reinforce performance remotely. Thanks to new technologies and the popularization of the remote, more and more companies are opting for this management strategy. They even risk decentralizing their workforce by hiring foreigners from all over the world.
Mixed Work in Figures
One of the reasons the hybrid work experience arises is to mitigate the disadvantages generated by the 100% remote performance model. Although workers prove to be more efficient outside traditional workspaces, the aspect that suffers the most is the social or human aspect.
Without colleagues with whom to interact, the linking function that fulfills the fact of being inserted in a job is lost. And with this, the internal dynamics are harmed, and, therefore, the company's culture can also suffer big changes that are not always positive.
Another aspect that is also damaged by working 100% remotely is the balance between work and personal life, leading to serious scenarios of job stress and burnout.
According to a Microsoft report, the majority of employees are in favor of remote work options after the pandemic. However, those in need of more time with their teams also constitute 65% of the workforce. The similarity of the figures shows that it is necessary, at least in this case, to reconcile a model that benefits both parties.
In the same sense and, not least, is that future generations or what we already know as centennials or generation Z (those who are between 18-25 years old today) are the ones who find the greatest difficulties not only to be hired but to thrive in the world of work.
A survey called Work Trend conducted by the firm Edelman Data x Intelligence sampled some 31,000 full-time or self-employed workers in 31 markets between January 12, 2021, and January 25, 2021. The results, which can be seen in the Microsoft report, show that the future workforce is seriously disadvantaged in areas such as:
- Feeling involved with their work (employee engagement): 16%
- Express their opinions during meetings: 16%
- Contribute ideas and initiatives and have them taken into account: 14%
For the management of young talent, traditional forms of work do not respond or are consistent with how these digital natives relate to each other and their environment. Hybrid work then appears as a good possibility of integrating the different generations that make up the current productive fabric.
For its part, a study carried out by the multinational telecommunications company Cisco Systems yields surprising results that support the mixed work initiative:
- 58% of workers expect to work from home less than eight hours a day in the near future.
- 98% report great disagreement with conducting video calls from home.
- 97% demand changes to achieve safer work environments.
Hybrid Work vs. Telecommuting
To better understand what this modality is about, it is necessary to be able to have an understanding or a mental picture about how the different aspects are managed under one or another working methodology.
Although both are susceptible to use and compatible with internal communication platforms, there is a consensus and a single common communication channel for all workers and teams in remote work.
Whereas, for their part, when it comes to hybrid working, companies need to create policies to ensure that all information is transmitted consistently to internal and remote teams. This may imply the demands of specific strategies for this purpose.
The productivity of telecommuting teams has been demonstrated in hundreds of cases with concrete statistics. However, only those employees who can adapt well to remote work can perform better in this scenario.
The truth is that not everyone has enough tools, and in the same way, not all companies have the possibility of having an infrastructure designed to overcome this inconvenience.
One of the most recent human resources laws is the aforementioned teleworking regulation that requires the creation of a special contract to forge a link between workers and companies that takes place remotely.
The contract makes an exception: work performance outside the office must exceed 30% of the day. For this reason, a hybrid work model removes the weight of adding new document management to the HR department and being more comfortable and practical for the staff.
When work is done remotely, everyone involved invariably performs their tasks outside of a traditional office environment. This implies a significant saving of resources for companies. However, it can be counterproductive to comply with safety and hygiene regulations.
In a hybrid team model, there is more flexibility, and employees can decide if they want to work from their company offices or, on the contrary, do it from the case or from the place designated for that purpose.
Benefits of Hybrid Work
The main advantage of mixed work or hybrid work is reconciling the best of two worlds: the remote world and the face-to-face world.
It combines the possibility of obtaining the highest productivity rates from working outside the office while favoring team building or strengthening social ties through work. Other positive aspects that we can highlight about hybrid work are:
- Having come through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not a mistake to assume that the vast majority of us are more aware of health and the spread of viruses of all kinds. For this reason, by having fewer people in the same office space or meeting room, it is easier to follow social distancing rules, and the potential risk of infection in the office is minimized.
- Hybrid working allows companies to offer a space for optimal workforce performance while investing in strong company culture.
- Relieving stress and allowing people to maintain a healthy work-life balance makes them happy and productive, thus allowing employees to organize their schedules and attend to personal responsibilities while still fulfilling job-related duties.
- By reducing the time that people must spend traveling to the office, the carbon footprint or greenhouse-type polluting gases is significantly reduced. This helps companies be more sustainable and can preserve the community's natural resources.
- By ending the isolation of spending all day at home working overtime while fostering bonds and improving well-being, hybrid working enhances people's experience at a company.
The Challenges of Hybrid Work Management
The management of a hybrid team must consider several issues when setting it up:
One of the difficulties of hybrid management is maintaining good communication between all the players in the company. Indeed, the use of technology is likely to increase energy consumption.
Some employees also find it difficult to use video conferencing tools like Zoom because they feel tired from such software's intensive use.
Note that an asynchronous communication system must also be implemented. The aim is for all employees to have access to the same information.
The Team Cohesion Challenge
Hybrid working can affect team cohesion due to fewer face-to-face meetings and informal discussions, a situation that will create distance between employees. A duality between those who work from home and in the office can also be observed.
Accountability and Autonomy in Hybrid Management
The transition to a hybrid work model is not easy without support. Management must also adapt to all situations. Its main objective is to reconcile remote management and face-to-face management.
There must be a balance between collective intelligence and individual performance. To achieve this, individual autonomy is an essential element. The manager must therefore encourage accountability and initiative in the team.
How to Manage a Hybrid Working Model?
If you have already decided and you are determined to give life to the work project of implementing the mixed/hybrid work model, you must consider the issues mentioned above to guarantee success that requires appropriate tools and consistent processes.
Strengthen Internal Policies
Perhaps an organization can best function by designating specific teams to work internally while others work remotely. Or, at any rate, they may decide to stagger people's internal hours throughout the day.
Collecting employee feedback can make it easier to align with their personal needs and preferences. To find out exactly how best to structure this new model, it is a good idea to consult directly with the workers. For this, you can use anonymous surveys or not or request face-to-face feedback.
IT Security: as Essential as Ever
It goes without saying: it is essential to invest in the right tools and teach your teams the basics of IT security for effective and safe teleworking. The first reflex to adopt is secure remote access with a VPN. Also, consider consolidating your password management policy, requiring all your employees to set up two-step verification for their email and sensitive company software.
Invest in Workspaces
A new and different work model than usual, especially if we consider that we are going through a pandemic, is necessary to implement hybrid work and have appropriate facilities.
The new offices must respond to the needs of mixed work. This means having clock-in and time-control methodologies that are flexible and save time and money. This can be solved, for example, by having a facial recognition app that facilitates this aspect.
At the same time, there must be flexible desks or "hot desks" that can be reserved for those who decide to come to the office on certain days.
Define the Role of Each Employee
In hybrid management, communication is the key to success. As a manager, you need to make sure everyone understands the tasks to be done and the goals to be achieved. The ideal is to organize regular team meetings to discuss key projects and get an overview of the progress of the work to motivate the team.
It is not only about having platforms that allow the creation of virtual workspaces where the different workers can make their contributions. Daily "social media style" peer interaction will enable employees to make announcements and implement recognition plans, and survey team members on important issues that arise.
Video conferencing, especially, is a critical component of collaboration, allowing people to benefit from the nuances of seeing each other face-to-face.
Informal exchanges in the company make it possible to create relationships between employees. Therefore, even at a distance, it is possible to create a social link. But the manager must have the skills to know how to get all the employees to adhere.
To achieve this, you must create opportunities for discussion by creating, for example, a chat space for informal discussions, the organization of virtual breakfasts or the planning of virtual games, quizzes or escape games. You can plan a team lunch when the team goes to the office. The objective of these events is to create links with co-workers.
Essential Training for Managers and Employees
If managers and employees tend to support the virtues of teleworking generally, team managers seem, for their part, slightly more reluctant. Evidence indicates that only 50% of the managers favored remote work at the end of 2020, in question, particularly: the difficulties encountered in maintaining team spirit, a difficult implementation of teleworking, a feeling of isolation, etc.
No wonder: learning to manage teams remotely takes time and support! For their part, employees new to teleworking also need to be trained in good teleworking practices.
Management cannot exist without feedback. But in a hybrid team, it's hard to find the right time to do it. Therefore, it is recommended to devote time to discussing individually with employees on various subjects such as tasks, difficulties, and prospects for future development.
Feedback is the perfect time to congratulate successes and detect possible problems in the organization of hybrid work. The conversation will focus on the positives or negatives of hybrid working, opinions on collaboration in the company or the difficulties in carrying out the work. The goal is to create a space where employees can express themselves freely in complete confidence.
Combining face-to-face and telework, the hybrid work model is slowly establishing itself as the ultimate solution for companies wishing to take advantage of the benefits of remote without being burdened with its shortcomings. Better still: this skillful approach makes it possible to meet employees' expectations who attach particular importance to their well-being and balance. The whole challenge for HR and managers will be to offer a similar work experience, depending on whether you are in the office or at home.
Posted in: Hybrid / Remote Workforce