What Is a Hybrid Working Environment? How to Adapt?
Organizations everywhere are trying to design better workplaces. Many of them have turned to remote working arrangements. With that, the hybrid work environment has come into play. Some employees work at home, while others stay at the office.
Such a distributed workforce can impact the company’s daily operations, but it can also upset productivity and other needs. With the internet readily available in almost every city, it is now possible to work from anywhere.
Still, having a hybrid work environment isn’t easy. Let’s learn more about what it is and what hybrid work environment skill options you need now.
What Is a Hybrid Workforce?
A hybrid workforce is a flexible working structure. Some of the employees work remotely (at home) and others work at a centralized office or location. The hybrid structure allows employees to decide which option they prefer. In a sense, they can choose to work at the office or anywhere remotely. Most remote employees tend to pick their homes as the base of operations because it’s much easier for them to wake up and not have to travel anywhere.
What Is a Hybrid Work Environment?
In terms of employees and employers, it means that the team doesn’t conform to one work environment. It lets employees work differently and in the best way for them. Thus, employees also get managed differently.
Hybrid teams can’t make it without the right support, technology, and resources. If a company offers remote options, employees should be encouraged to use remote days or have a flexible workspace. Sometimes, employees don’t feel comfortable taking remote days, even though it is technically allowed.
Leading by example is a great way to bring everyone on board.
However, you also have to think about the technology necessary. You’re going to need a video conferencing platform, messaging app, and the ability to share documents and files. On top of that, a quality internet connection is necessary for every person who wants to work from home.
9 Skills to Adapt to a Hybrid Work Environment as a Manager or an Employee
The flexible working model can’t work if you don’t adapt and have the right hybrid work environment skill options. In most cases, that means the employees and managers are going to have to rethink what they do, when, and how often.
It may be much easier to work in the office because you don’t have the same distractions. However, you may want to work remotely so that you can spend less on fuel and vehicle maintenance. Weighing the benefits and disadvantages is crucial. On top of that, you also have to know how to switch back and forth between the office and home. That way, you’re prepared for the changes and differences you face.
1. Flexible Hours
Remote working ends up merging your professional and personal life together. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does take some getting used to. Therefore, flexible hours can be one way to adjust for both managers and employees.
In a sense, you’re permitting yourself to move tasks around throughout the day. You can still get your children on the school bus and cook dinner, but you work around all of that.
This hybrid work environment skill is essential to have, but it might take some time to perfect it. Many people find that the distractions from working remotely have them frazzled. It’s so much harder to take that call when the kids are fighting or focus on data entry when your spouse is trying to find something and can’t.
That can be a challenge and for employees and managers. Many times, supervisors have a specific way they want things done. Therefore, you may get your work on that day, but it may be later than usual, or you may do something else first because it fits within that time block.
If everyone can focus on what needs to be done and make sure it’s in by the deadline, there shouldn’t be problems. Managers have to know that things may be a bit mixed up during the day. Employees should do what they can in that time frame. Everything gets finished, and everyone is much happier.
2. Virtual Management
In the office, it’s much easier to manage an entire team because they’re all on the same floor or in the same building. However, virtual management gets a bit challenging. With a hybrid work model, you’re going to have some people at the office, some working from home, and others at a favorite coffee shop.
You may have some people who like the social interaction of the office and rarely take a remote day. Others may be homeschooling their kids and need to work remotely. As their kids start going back to school, they may change their preferences.
Managers have to get an idea of what the workers want and support them.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have meetings. In fact, you still must for things to run smoothly. Instead of forcing all the remote workers to come to the office (and who may not want or be able to), virtual meetings from Zoom and other video conferencing apps are the way to go. Those in the office can join one large group or do so on their own tablets, smartphones, and computers.
People working remotely can sign on at the specified time wherever they are. It’s a great way for everyone to come together to get the sense of teamwork and social interaction they require. Plus, the managers can provide any essential details for the day or what’s to come.
3. Time Management
For most people in a hybrid work environment, the toughest of all skills to master is time management and ways to achieve time management goals. If you’re seen daydreaming at work, a manager can gently nudge you back to the task at hand by asking a pertinent question. If you’re working remotely, that’s not possible.
While some companies prefer micro-managing, it’s ineffective for most people. Still, it’s easy to get into that role when there are remote workers and office staff.
It’s up to each remote worker to manage their time efficiently. There’s no reason not to have hourly check-ins or daily ones. That way, the managers know what the employees are doing, and the workers are still accountable for their actions.
However, there needs to be a definition of what it means to be productive and engaged. Technology fatigue is real and happens often in the virtual office. It indicates that people are tired from staring at screens all day, so they gradually slow down. Even if they take breaks for themselves (and they should), they may do so while viewing a screen.
Make sure that you take frequent effective breaktime and get away from the screen. Eat meals during working hours at the kitchen table. Go for a quick 10-minute walk, or just go outside for a few minutes.
Self-care is still important. If you normally go out to lunch when at the office to get a needed break, consider eating outside while working at home. This essential hybrid work environment skill may be the hardest to master, but it’s the most important.
4. Redefine the Workplace
As more employees consider going back to the office after quarantine, employers have to figure out what equipment is needed. That way, the remote workers can still interact virtually. For example, if one employee sits in a cubicle or an office to do their work, that could easily have been done at home.
Most office tasks can be done at home. Therefore, if employees are going back to the office, leaders should ask themselves why. It might be a good idea to talk to the employees and get an idea, too. They may feel that they’re not productive when they do twice as much work at home than in the office.
While humans are social and need that interaction with others, that can be achieved through common spaces in the office. Have a large break room with couches and bright colors to make it a fun place to be.
Everyone should look at how they move between the physical and remote environment. That way, they aren’t shell-shocked when they switch back and forth.
5. Be Adaptable
In a sense, everyone found out that it wasn’t important what the employee was tasked to do but what they could do. An engineer may have been hired to make automobiles, but because of the pandemic, they are creating ventilators.
Many industries found a new need within the marketplace, so organizations had to step up with the people they already employed. Your job description used to be your job and all you did. Training helped you climb that career ladder. However, with COVID, everything flipped. The recovery time is now, and it focuses more on creating an environment where a person’s potential is seen as a hybrid work environment skill.
6. Be Supportive
Everyone should be supportive of each other while hybrid working. However, you may feel that one employee works from home too much or too little. They may have specific reasons for that. There’s no reason to deny them what they like doing most as long as they’re completing the tasks assigned to them.
It’s easy to focus more on what others are doing instead of what you need to do. However, it’s relaxing to forget about them and do what’s right for you.
Another issue for support is for managers. You still have to support your employees, and they probably need more of it when they’re working remotely. However, you may be pulled in many directions from those working at home and those in the office.
Consider talking to colleagues in the office in the mornings and have one-on-one video chats with remote workers throughout the day. Find out what’s going on in their lives and check in periodically. That way, everyone knows they can turn to you when they need a lift.
7. Create Expectations and Follow Through
Another great hybrid work environment skill to have is the ability to create expectations. Have a talk with the team about new protocols and practices. This is a great opportunity that you don’t want to miss.
They may have ideas that you haven’t considered, so let them be part of the process. Discuss how everyone is going to communicate and when. Also, make sure that they know those meetings are important and must be attended.
If you send an email, require that a response is always given. That way, you know everyone has seen it and is on the same page.
8. Inclusion Is Key
It’s often harder for remote workers to feel included. Proximity bias means that those in the office appear to get preferential treatment. You talk to them more often because they are there. Practices should be in place to prevent that tendency from happening.
Establish a base ground rule that every team meeting uses Zoom, even if people are working at the office. That way, everyone is included, and remote workers don’t feel like they’re being singled out or left out.
9. Look for Burnout
People working from home might do so to make life easier, but they have different stresses than those in the office. Pay attention to stress levels and employee burnout signs. If you’ve got good communication practices going already employees are likely to tell you they’re stressed or overwhelmed.
Try to help them prioritize their tasks. They may feel that each thing is very important, but only two of them truly are. Either take it day by day or task by task, depending on what the employee is having trouble with.
If nothing else, you can ask them to switch the way they work for a few days (from remote to in-office and vice-versa).
Hybrid Work Environment Benefits to Business and Employees
As businesses resume post covid, many have seen the success of operating remotely. But, on the contrary, many others cannot move to remote working and require most employees to be in office for work. Primarily, the nature of the industry and the role of employees is a major deciding factor in remote working.
Hence most businesses are trying to utilize the benefits of both – being in office and remote working for optimization of resources. As a hybrid work environment takes preference with business leaders, we have examined the benefits to employees and businesses. Here are the top five benefits listed down.
1. Stronger collaboration
As meetings take place virtually, employees have an opportunity to work across geographical boundaries. This benefits employees and companies as employees reach out to each other for resolving work concerns or strengthening them for speedier and efficient deliveries.
2. Increased Talent Pool and Development Opportunities
With geographical boundaries behind us with remote working, employers have larger talent pools for resource optimization. Employees benefit as they now have access to new opportunities across different geographical locations. A recent McKinsey survey shows that employees are happier working from home. Reduced commute times, the stress of the commute, and the ability to manage family give ample time for attention to self. A McKinsey research reports that eight percent of those surveyed were happy working-from-home.
As a result of hybrid work environment benefits, there is an increase in the talent pool. As a result, companies save on cost, provide development opportunities for employees, have high resource utilization, and more.
3. Improved Work-Life Balance and Happier Employees
Research by Harvard Business Review indicates that happier employees will be more productive. A hybrid work environment benefits employees to manage their work and personal needs, and achieve a flexible work-life balance. Employees can manage their week or day, using lunch breaks or other times to manage personal chores. Employees can manage personal chores like dropping kids off at school, managing a doctor's appointment, and more. As employees are happier, they are productive and perform better, says another research.
4. Reduction in Costs
A Gallup report suggests that up to fifty-four percent of U.S. workers surveyed are ready to quit their job in exchange for one that gives them remote working. Companies are happy to have remote employees. With lower rental costs, the need for office space has decreased. As an example, AT&T has reported savings of 30 million USD alone. The additional capital and operational costs on utilities, infrastructure, and more are big savings to each company. Employees are happy with reduced costs of commuting.
Hybrid Work Environment Challenges
1. Dilution of Organization Culture
As remote and hybrid workers are not in the office daily, building an organizational culture or retaining one and strengthening it will be a challenge. An employee's physical presence in an office adds much value to the culture. Employees may feel disillusioned, cut off from the organization, and distant from a company's way of doing things. What then is the solution? Companies have a renewed chance of building a hybrid work culture. A special task force can shape a new culture consciously. A strong review between business leaders will help retain the strengths and give new opportunities to shape the new culture.
2. Connectivity with Hybrid and Remote Workers
Those employees who are not in office may face challenges in minor issues like knowing if a business leader is meeting away from their desk. However, there is nothing better than being present in a physical environment as remote workers may be seen as spending 'free' with their families.
Business leaders and managers must connect with hybrid and remote workers without any difference, just as they do with in-office employees. Hybrid work technology is advancing to provide better networking with hybrid and remote workers. In such times, business leaders and managers must provide opportunities for enhancing visibility, especially for the hybrid and remote workers. In addition, training managers for handling remote teams will bring in advantages.
3. Transparency in communication
One of the hybrid work environment challenges is to provide an equal experience for all employees. If there is a lack of open and transparent communication, it will affect employees negatively, reports a study. Nearly 60% of hybrid and remote workers miss out on important information as this was shared in person and reports another research.
This creates an opportunity for companies to adopt processes to provide equal employee experience in the hybrid work environment to all. For example, many companies have done away with the dual/hybrid meeting modes, where in-office employees attend a meeting [physically present in a meeting room while all others are joining through a virtual model. Instead, these companies have made it necessary for all invited to join virtually only.
4. Employee Well-being
As per a report, 80% of those surveyed in the U.K. reported that working from home had affected their mental health. As a hybrid work environment best practices, many companies started programs to manage employee health and well-being; some of these included relaxation, being happy, and taking care of your health. In addition, companies extended such programs to employees' families for participation.
Of those surveyed, 25% said they would want their managers to check their health and well-being. Companies must train managers to manage a hybrid team for effectively managing such workforces.
Here lies an opportunity to engage with employees and provide programs and options that allow employees to work when they want. Companies could define guidelines around this so that employees feel empowered to choose when to work. As a result, employees will be happy and be productive. Choosing when to work is one of the main strengths of hybrid work arrangement. This must be retained and promoted in all circumstances.
5. Deepening Employee Engagement
The value that a relationship creates makes employees more productive and happy at work. One of the hybrid working challenges is to create such relationships as physical meetings are distant. As human resources teams provide engagement platforms, managers must encourage their team members to share information and connect. As per a Gallup survey, employees that have a best friend at work are seen to be engaged in their jobs up to seven times more than any other employee.
With a hybrid work environment, companies now have an opportunity to redefine and invigorate such relationships. For example, some companies practice 'bring your family to work' days; others have started 'away days' where employees come to the office to meet with the in-office employees. For example, a fully remote working company, GitHub, practices semi-annual meets where all employees meet twice for a summit.
A hybrid work environment is here to stay, and if these challenges are not attacked, the repercussions to companies could be huge in terms of talent and financial losses. Therefore, as hybrid working poses challenges, it is important to keep working on them to stay ahead of the race.
What is a hybrid environment? You learned that it’s where some people work remotely and some go to the office. It’s a great work model, and many companies find that it helps all employees work in the best way for them.
However, it does take some effort on everyone’s part. Employees and managers may have to develop a different hybrid work environment skill or two to keep up with everything.
The flexible work arrangement with hybrid models requires organizations to reinvent their workplaces and find out what works for everyone. Employees have to expand on their skill sets. If everyone works together, it can be a great feature for any business.
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