hybrid office design Office Design Trends

The Biggest Challenges of the Hybrid Workplace Model

Tech enabled meeting space

The hybrid workplace model has become the predominant office model, especially for knowledge-based industries. And it is clear as employees have pushed back on the return to work initiatives from many companies, that hybrid work is here to stay. It’s time to shift the focus to how to make it work best. With employees working part of the time in the office and part of the time remotely, there are challenges. With 87% of employers planning to offer some sort of flexible scheduling, the time is now to get the hybrid workplace strategy right.

The Hybrid Workplace Model

hybrid workplace modelWhether they worked remotely before the pandemic or not, an astounding 54% of fully remote workers said they would look for another job if forced to return to the office full time. And 38% of their hybrid colleagues said the same in a Gallup study of over 140,000 US employees. With these numbers alone, it is clear that organizations that do not offer at the minimum a hybrid working schedule are at high risk for attrition.

Major companies like LinkedIn, Verizon, Amazon, and even the Mayo Clinic have adopted some variation of flexible scheduling. Each company’s hybrid workplace strategy looks a bit different, but what they have in common is that they are putting the needs of their employees first. In return, they are seeing improvements in engagement, performance, well-being, and retention.

Yes, the hybrid workplace model is here to stay, and the benefits to the employees are clear. However, there are some challenges that are arising that must be addressed.

The Communication Gap

We are communicating. Since the pandemic, time in meetings is up nearly 150%, and the number of emails sent has increased by 4o billion. In addition, Zoom reports that the number of daily meeting attendees is up 2900% since December 2019.  At least according to the numbers. But everyone has experienced a meeting where the majority of cameras are turned off. And a study by Cisco reports that half of employees stay silent during video meetings. Another 4 out of 25 employees actually admit to sleeping during these remote meetings. These numbers are startling, but in addition, sometimes the technology just doesn’t work. Many employees report struggling with connectivity in meetings or not having adequate resources to work effectively in a hybrid model.

When establishing or refining your hybrid workplace strategy, consider these communication tips:

  1. Plan how communication will work in your company. With many employees operating primarily remotely,  communication needs to be intentional.
  2. A meeting isn’t always an answer. Zoom fatigue anyone? If a phone call or email can be used to address the issue, skip the meeting!
  3. Add visuals to written communication to clarify and keep messages engaging. In a remote world, infographics, and short videos can go a long way in making information more easily understood.
  4. Be aware of your tone. Read the words, “We need to talk.” Now emphasize different words and see how it changes the meaning. Now think about how your written communication could be received.
  5. Celebrate success. Many employees report that the only time they hear from their supervisors is when there is an issue. Communicate often to recognize the good too.

The Right People. In the Right Place. At the Right Time. (And on the Right Day!)

people discussing hybrid workplace strategyThe deadline for the big project is approaching. Collaboration has been a crucial piece in making it work. Today is the final day to really pull the pieces together. But Sharon is working from home in “focus mode”, and Bill won’t be in until 2 pm. Alex is leaving at 12 pm. Time zones got confused and Ryan can’t make the planned zoom meeting to accommodate the geographically separated team members. And to top it off, Susan thought the meeting was tomorrow.

Without some level of planning and scheduling, crucial pieces of the puzzle could be missing.

Ok, so chances are not that many things would go wrong. And if it really was a huge project, your team would coordinate their schedules better and make sure that everyone was working together on the last push to the deadline. But the keyword here is coordination. Without some level of planning and scheduling, crucial pieces of the puzzle could be missing.

Transparency can help remedy this situation. If you have a completely flexible hybrid schedule, ask employees to be open and honest about when and where they’re working. This isn’t to micromanage your team. It is to help everyone know where their teammates are and how they can best be contacted. If your hybrid workplace model has more structure (which 6 out of 10 employees actually want), make sure to communicate big project days in advance to help your team choose the best days to be in the office.

Loss of Connection

two employees collaboratingIt was touched on in the section about communication, but we are in an overly connected disconnected world. 38% of those fully remote workers actually want to work a hybrid schedule. The number one reason for that? Collaboration.

Much of the social aspect of the office is lost when employees don’t run into each other in the halls, or in the breakrooms. And even if one-on-one meetings start with a brief personal check-in at the beginning, much of the bonding and camaraderie is still lost.

When employees aren’t working from the same location, their interactions are seldom spontaneous. Most of these interactions are scheduled and often on screens. And as any creative person would tell you, you can’t schedule innovation. But in a hybrid workplace model, planning and scheduling is a must.

“To unleash innovation in this context, leaders must empower employees to collaborate more intentionally,”

says Alexia Cambon, Director, Research, Gartner.

“Our research shows that teams of knowledge workers who collaborate intentionally are nearly three times more likely to achieve high team innovation than teams that do not use an intentional approach.”

So what does intentional collaboration look like, and how can a leader prioritize this in an organization? For a hybrid team these collaborations will occur in the actual office building, completely remotely, or a combination of both. Create collaboration areas throughout your office that are flexible and can accommodate both in-person and remote employees. When inspiration strikes, the team needs to be able to jump in no matter if they are in the same building or in different countries.

Company Culture

collaboration table as part of hybrid workplace Imagine you have just been hired for your first job. Your interviews were all completed remotely, as well as your job acceptance. Today is day one, and you are given a login to the company project management software. Where do you begin? What is the company’s mission? The vision? What role does your work play within the organization? Chances are you can answer none of these questions as you sit at your remote desk. If you were in the office, you would find a friendly face to ask. Working remotely, you could contact your supervisor, but might be afraid. So you begin checking boxes without a clear picture of priorities or direction.

Culture doesn’t always translate well without the community that comes with it.

Get the point? Pre-pandemic, company culture was experienced and shared most often through in-person interactions. Through lunch with the boss. In client meetings where goals and visions were shared. Through chance interactions and spontaneous conversations with colleagues. Maybe there are onboarding videos that you encourage your team members to watch, and online training modules to complete. But culture doesn’t always translate well without the community that comes with it.

Experiencing company culture isn’t only important because it makes the employee feel like they are part of something bigger. It is actually important to company success. Research by Kotter states, that when company culture is strong, organizations see improvements in revenue growth, retention, stock price, and net income.

Hybrid Culture

team members connecting To convey company culture in a remote and hybrid team, extra steps need to be taken. When it comes to community and culture, proximity matters. People are usually closest to the people they see the most and interact with on a daily basis. In a world where people are working from everywhere, proximity isn’t always possible, but a feeling of community and connection can be. This can happen when leaders at all levels are more intentional about communicating purpose. The overall goals of the company, and how the work a team member is doing directly connects to that goal.

It is important for leaders to be not only visible but accessible. It is very common for remote team members to not only feel separate but actually forgotten. Many leaders actually admit that remote team members are “out of sight out of mind”. They tend to get passed over for promotion opportunities as well as excluded from important projects. Encourage the leadership team to check in with their team members, both remotely and in person regularly. And keep these remote team members connected to each other by pairing them often with other colleagues on assignments and collaboration opportunities.

Creating a Hybrid Environment

team working in a hybrid workplace modelA hybrid work schedule is centered around flexibility. No matter if there is a strategy in place for scheduling days in the office, or if the choice is completely in your team’s hands, many of your team members will be spending only part of their time in the office. Creating a welcoming space that is ready for whatever the day might bring is important to ensure your team keeps coming back. This doesn’t just mean retention, although great office designs are shown to help.

Create an office space that is as flexible as your hybrid schedule. Mobile options allow the space to flex with your team. Is there a large group of people in the office who are looking for individual workstations? Are several small groups working on separate pieces of a project and need planning and brainstorming space? Do two colleagues need a space away from the noise to concentrate and converse? The right hybrid office layout has all of these things. There are many challenges to succeeding in the new hybrid reality, but an outdated office space shouldn’t be one of them.

Design your hybrid workspace with StrongProject!

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