By Carli Uys
Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)
As organisations begin to return to office spaces, they must consider a new way of work and the best way for them to do so. Most of us have heard people talking about hybrid work and we ask ourselves “what is it and what makes it different from virtual work?”. Hybrid work refers to organisations allowing employees to work both in-office and remotely. Remote work refers to where all the employees of an organisation work remotely, or where some of the employees are either in another country, province, or time-zone. Hybrid work has various models organisations can choose from to decide how best to go forward in this new world of work.
Remote-first means that organisations will be functioning fully remotely and still try to mirror their operations as if the employees were in the office. Most organisations will keep their office space for employees who do not have the means to work remotely. Some employees will not be able to have this flexibility, as their jobs require their physical presence.
Office-occasional refers to organisations who want their employees to go into the office a few times a week. This will allow employees who want to spend more time at the office to be able to do so, and for those who function better at working remotely, to only go to the office when indicated. This will allow teams to collaborate more effectively and help to sustain the personal connection between employees.
3. Office-first, remote allowed
This refers to organisations who designate the office space as the primary work environment and still allow for remote work. This model was very common during the height of Covid-19 as organisations had to only allow a small percentage of employees in the office who were necessary to be there. This model is very common when the entire leadership choses to work from the office. Employees are then likely to choose to work from the office to have the in-person experience and conversations with leaders, and to collaborate with others.
There are however a few challenges organisations and employees face with hybrid work. The following are a few major road bumps of hybrid work.
- Feeling isolated
Employees may experience a lack of social interaction and the connections and camaraderie established through day-to-day office collaborations might start to crumble.
Ways to overcome feeling isolated:
- Establish transparent communication among employees
- Regular communication reinforces a feeling of connectivity and fortifies shared experiences.
- Outside of work, check in with colleagues on a regular basis.
2. Building trust
Trust is seen as the heart of a successful hybrid model. When leaders give their teams work to do, they must trust that those team members will do their work and that they will not constantly need to be checked on to make sure that they are doing their work. Leaders should communicate their availability and feedback they require to make sure that the team members understand what is expected from them and if they require any assistance from the leader.
Ways to overcome the struggles of trusting employees:
- Trust can be established by providing connections via regular or frequent information exchange.
- Team leaders should craft their communication style and express their gratitude for accomplished tasks as well as faith towards the success of employees in their responsibilities.
3. Empathising with your staff
Time and empathy are important characteristics of effective leadership. Leaders should allow themselves to be vulnerable and acknowledge that there are numerous chances to improve. You cannot fake empathy in a hybrid working model. Organisations and especially its leaders must take a broad array of solutions.
How to overcome struggles with empathy at work:
- Employees should go out of their comfort zones and start forging links through shared experiences.
- Constant communication is integral for the hybrid work arrangement to be successful.
- A leader should set the tone for an empathetic workplace landscape and guarantee everyone on the pipeline acts with empathy too.
- Communication lines should be kept open to address similar issues and other mental health concerns that might arise when incorporating a hybrid work model.
- This all can be done with frequent virtual forums focusing on problem-solving.
4. Unbiased leadership
Managing hybrid teams calls for leaders to adopt a sensible approach when collaborating with their teams. This means taking into consideration all the limitations each employee faces, such as having no access to reliable internet.
How to overcome these challenges:
- Leaders should address unconscious biases and outcomes in their organisation’s processes.
- Leaders should challenge their own notions and incorporate a learning orientation by attempting to understand other people’s experiences and how these influence the way in which they execute tasks in a hybrid work model.
- Leaders should create a safe space in the hybrid work environment that is open to diverse viewpoints and foster participation.
- In online meetings, leaders should encourage attendees to voice their opinions and credit employees who have shared effective ideas.
- Leaders should celebrate diversity and be more sensitive to others’ needs by tailoring initiatives that meet those demands.
5. Upskilling and reskilling employees
Organisations should focus on improving their current skillset to match their office structure and the rapidly evolving needs of consumers.
How to upskill and reskill employees:
- Identify the skills that are required by employees in the hybrid work model.
- Existing training models should be reviewed and updated to cement the hybrid working arrangement for the future.
- Leading hybrid teams are agile and flexible, so organisations should target skills that can help teams embody those traits.
- Train employees to be well-equipped in areas such as data and analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
These are but a few of the challenges organisations and leaders will face due to hybrid work. Organisations should also focus on the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid work and find ways to convert the disadvantages into advantages.
With all of this in mind, we have come to realise that the hybrid workplace is here to stay and that we are able to adapt to its new requirements and challenges. It is important for organisations to take to heart all the challenges that come with a hybrid workplace, but to also know that there are many advantages that come with it.