Hybrid Work Models: Making Hybrid Working Sustainable

Sep 01 2021 | Insights

Hybrid work models may be starting to become the norm, but there are sustainability issues that need to be addressed before organizations commit to a full transition.

During the global pandemic many businesses were forced to adopt a remote workflow that moved away from traditional offices. It was temporary at first, to make sure business operations could continue to some degree. But the shift away from physical offices gave us the chance to see tangible benefits from adopting a remote workflow. We needed fewer physical resources, could save a lot of money, and many employees preferred to work remotely. Unfortunately, that was just the honeymoon period.

Now that the health crisis is starting to slow down and businesses are reopening, many of us expected that we’d be making a return to the office. But surveys show that we’re more likely to move towards a hybrid work model. Employees can go remote when they want, but it also gives them access to an office workspace when they need it. So is hybrid the perfect back-to-work model? Well, along with the advantages, hybrid work can present some difficulties. 

Among those challenges is maintaining a corporate culture. In fact, 30% of business leaders are worried about keeping their organizational culture if they were to switch to a hybrid workplace. 13% of respondents are also concerned about their ability to avoid parity between remote and in-office experiences. Clearly there are some worthwhile concerns to think about with a shift to hybrid workplaces. These could be business-ruining if not handled correctly.

Identifying the threats to a sustainable hybrid workplace

A recent McKinsey survey showed that 9 out of 10 organizations are switching to hybrid working. Clearly hybrid work is becoming more popular, but this could lead to disaster if we don’t address and remove the threats to hybrid work before they cause organizational problems. 

Let’s break it down: here are some of the biggest red flags that could make for a toxic and unsustainable hybrid workplace.

A lack of seniors working remotely

If a hybrid workplace is what executives want then it should apply to everyone, not just mid-level or lower-level employees. If all of the upper-level employees such as senior leaders are still working in the office, then it can raise doubts in other employees who have concerns about future advancements. Lack of office time means your newer employees won’t see the daily grind that goes into team leadership. If your junior employees aren’t exposed to this, how will they gain the experience they need to move up? You could also see more animosity between staff, leading to a toxic “us vs them” mentality in the workplace.

To adopt hybrid working and make it sustainable, you need to make it an option for everyone in the business, not just a subset of your employees. Lay out the pros and cons of hybrid work for all team members and let them decide what their best fit is. 

No clear plan has been communicated to everyone

Switching to a hybrid working environment affects everyone in your business, so clear communication is key for this transition to work. This way, people understand what’s changing, why it’s changing and how it can benefit them. Most of us don’t like surprises. Giving your employees choice is a lot better than springing change on them. That’s why communication is so important when attempting to make hybrid working more sustainable.

Your team shouldn’t feel forced into adopting a new work model without good reason. Let them know how these changes can work in their favour and you’ll see less resistance and a team that trusts your judgement.

Lack of a consistent work schedule

Working from home has thrown most of our internal (and external) clocks way off kilter. Since your employees will be split between working at home and working in the office, it can be difficult to coordinate meetings between teams or even the entire company, especially workers in different time zones. Does a 2 a.m. company meeting sound fun? Probably not. And this may lead to some employees feeling like their time isn’t being valued.

To adopt a sustainable hybrid working environment, your schedule needs to stay consistent. If scheduling changes do need to be made, allow for flexibility where possible and give your team advance notice so your employees aren’t making last-minute changes to their personal work schedules.

Discrimination against remote or onsite employees

Hybrid work really shows that different strokes are for different folks, but no one style of work is more valuable than the other. As a leader, It’s important to balance benefits and rewards between remote and onsite employees so that neither group feels discriminated against for their preferred work model.

Remote employees, for example, may be asked to take pay cuts because they’re working from home and they may be given fewer benefits to cover expenses such as travel or lunch. Not working in the office may leave them with fewer advancement opportunities and chances to communicate with the rest of the team.

On the flip side, onsite employees may see limited room for flexibility and they may be denied access to working remotely because of their important role within the workplace. Despite their importance, they may be given equal treatment to their remote colleagues which makes their time and skills feel less valued.

More and more companies are adopting hybrid work arrangements, but going in blind and hoping things will work out is a surefire way to run your business into the ground. It’s important to have a detailed plan to transition to a hybrid work model and it’s vital that you clearly communicate your intentions with your employees.

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