6 challenges of hybrid work and how to overcome them
Sometimes, change is voluntary, but often, it’s inevitable; in both cases, however, it doesn’t come without challenges.
The past 18 months have been a real upheaval to our tried and tested methods of working, and most companies are now taking this as an opportunity to reevaluate their approaches and make lasting changes.
One of the most popular ways forward seem to be hybrid working arrangements, but the specifics are still being fleshed out. In this article, we’ll address 6 main challenges to implementing hybrid work and offer solutions for them.
1. Misalignment between in-office and remote employees
If implemented haphazardly, hybrid working can lead to a misalignment between those employees that are working in the office and those working remotely. Since one of the main appeals of hybrid is the balance between autonomy and collaboration, you need to make sure your hybrid working arrangement promotes both.
Solution: if you feel like this could hamper collaboration, set specific days for in-office work and make those days focus on collaboration, while the days when everyone’s working from home are reserved for more autonomous work which doesn’t require (as much) in-person interaction.
2. Balance during meetings
If you followed the approach suggested under the previous point, you’ll already have taken care of this. But for those who opt for a more free-for-all approach, where employees can choose how they balance office and remote work themselves, balance on meetings between in-office and remote employees should be a key consideration.
Solution: make video the default for all meetings if at least one of the participants is working remotely. This is a strategy also employed to great success in hybrid events which ensures that nobody is left out.
3. Office space and rent
Depending on how your company intends to balance in-office and remote work, you may feel like keeping a dedicated office with all its office perks would be a waste of resources. Yet you’ll still need some form of office space if you aim to go hybrid rather than fully remote.
Solution: one of your best options is probably finding a coworking office space and/or another company to share it with. If you want to keep your own offices, but not rely so much on a big central office (usually in a city where the rent is higher), you can instead look into becoming more distributed with several smaller local offices.
4. Overhead and labor costs
With remote and especially hybrid work, handling employee costs and expenses isn’t quite as straightforward as with fully in-house employees. For instance, it makes sense that remote employees aren’t entitled to a reimbursement of travel expenses and should instead be compensated for using their own internet and electricity. But how do you balance that in a hybrid setting?
Solution: the most important thing is to offer all employees a choice (if your hybrid arrangement allows for that) and let them know of the tradeoffs and/or changes to their benefits in advance. And, if you’re tempted to cut the salary of those employees who opt to go fully remote - don't!
5. Management and collaboration
Management of remote employees can get tricky, both from the point of view of managers and employees. How can the former properly do their job with a lack of in-person interaction, and likewise provide adequate feedback and collaboration to the latter without favoring in-office employees?
Solution: a culture of trust is essential to managing employees working autonomously and remotely. Frequent communication through well established channels is also key. It greatly helps if you have well thought out management tools. For example, we’ve recently implemented an internal dashboard for use by all our employees - read more about it in this article.
6. Differences in employee experience between in-office and remote employees
This point encompasses all the previous ones. In addition to daily workflows, team spirit and company culture are experienced much differently for employees who are mostly working in the office versus those mostly working from home. This is especially relevant for new employees who need to get onboarded in a remote or hybrid setting.
Solution: strive to keep the experience as balanced as possible and remember to offer everyone the choice. Plan company events with hybrid top of mind, potentially in combination with more substantial in-person get-togethers.
Don’t forget about birthday and holiday gifts and ensure that employees have the necessary equipment even when working from home. Finally, reevaluate your onboarding process to accommodate more remote onboarding.
Most employee-centric companies will opt for some form of hybrid work, and it only makes sense that those are also the types of companies that will want to ensure a smooth implementation at no expense to their employee experience.
We hope this article has given you a better overview of the most typical challenges of this transition and armed you with ideas on how to tackle them. If you’d like to learn more about guaranteeing the success of this transition, take a look at our article breaking down 5 key considerations for hybrid work.