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The Struggle to Make Hybrid Work Models Work

A person mixing working in an office and working in a field

For many businesses, it was assumed that remote work would be a temporary thing. Once the pandemic subsided, things would return to normal, and workers would return to the office. But as new variants of COVID continue to appear, it is now clear that such a return is unlikely. Companies have been forced to delay a return to the office due to employee safety concerns. Likewise, workers have voiced their opinions strongly that they prefer remote work and hybrid work model strategies. But despite many businesses recognizing these preferences, they’re finding it difficult to deal with the top challenges of hybrid work models. It would seem that getting it right will be a continued work in progress for some time to come.

Many of the top challenges of hybrid work environments involve issues like equity, inclusivity, and effective collaboration. This is especially true for companies that have some employees in-house and others remote. At the same time, other challenges include those related to productivity, efficiency, and employee management. Finding the right hybrid work model strategies to deal with these areas has proven difficult. While many are leveraging data to help guide them in this regard, many are simply using trial-and-error approaches. With that in mind, there does appear to be some best practices when it comes to hybrid work model strategies.

“Conference rooms and the conference-room technologies were designed with remote work as an afterthought. We need to redesign them to be more inclusive.” – Edward Wagoner, CIO, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

Equity and Inclusion Concerns with Hybrid Work

One of the most common top challenges of hybrid work relates to employee equity and inclusion. This is especially true when some employees work from home and others are in the office. During meetings, virtual workers may feel “left out” unless steps are taken to made them feel included. A tendency for in-house workers to have an advantage when it comes to communications and collaborations is not uncommon.  As a result, specific hybrid work model strategies must be taken to address these issues. For all companies, it’s important to invest in equity and inclusion efforts. This is particularly true for hybrid work environments.

(Want to read a good book on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workspace? Bold Business has a book review to check out.)

Fortunately, there are several effective hybrid work model strategies that address these issues. One of the most important involves ensuring all members of the team use videoconferencing tools during meetings. If at least one employee is working remotely, this approach ensures everyone has equal access to visual and auditory communications. Likewise, companies must invest in technologies that support remote and virtual collaboration efforts. Some companies have even installed video walls where information can be more readily shared. Though these issues will remain some top challenges of hybrid work, these solutions can greatly improve worker equity and inclusivity.

“It’s an evolving set of concerns. A lot of [our focus] has been around collaboration equity and making sure we have the right set of tools so people can collaborate regardless of where they are.” – Sanaz Ahari, Senior Director of Product for Communication Apps, Google/Android

Managing Employees in Hybrid Work Settings

Many of the top challenges of hybrid work stem from varying degrees of worker autonomy and flexibility. In-house employees had less autonomy in the past, and their schedules and tasks were more rigid. In contrast, remote workers get a chance to better enjoy work-life balance and determine how they approach their position’s demands. Notably, as long as efficiency and productivity remains high, all should be fine. But for managers, knowing how best to manage diverse types of employees can be difficult. Many are therefore struggling with defining which hybrid work model strategies are most effective in these new environments.

A cartoon of someone seeing a big building on a giant laptop
Hybrid work model strategies are tough to implement–a lesson companies are learning painfully.

Overall, micromanagement approaches are poorly received and often lead to declining productivity for remote workers. Likewise, managers must be careful not to succumb to favoritism for in-house workers simply because they’re physically present. These can be among the top challenges of hybrid work for managers. Instead, effective management techniques require transparency, effective communication, and a culture of trust. This is not to imply that productivity, accountability and efficiency are to be neglected. But managers must allow greater degrees of flexibility and autonomy among remote workers in today’s workplace. Ensuring that managers find that right balance will be essential for companies to thrive moving forward.

“The folks that are in the office versus the folks that are not in the office…and how they operate together is, I think, still something a lot of CIOs are trying to figure out.” – Eric Johnson, CIO, Momentive Global Inc.

A Dynamic Situation with Changing Demands

While equity, inclusion, and management issues are some of the top challenges of hybrid work, they aren’t the only ones. In addition, companies embracing hybrid work model strategies struggle with office space management also. With more time spent remotely, less office space is needed. Thus, businesses must determine whether alternative arrangements such as coworking spaces and distributed small offices might be better. Likewise, compensation models for in-office and remote work workers might need to differ. Commuter travel compensation versus home office expenses might deserve compensation re-considerations. Finally, companies investing in hybrid work model strategies must redefine optimal onboarding procedures. These reflect additional areas of concern that today’s dynamic workplace demands.

Based on Bold Business’ survey and breakdown of the numbers, more than 90 percent of workers today want remote or hybrid work environments. Companies that refuse to consider these preferences will likely struggle with high employee turnover and vacant positions. Therefore, it’s important to adopt effective hybrid work model strategies, including those listed above. By creating a flexible and highly transparent work setting, and a people-first culture, success can be achieved. These efforts along with an ability to adapt remain the best solutions for the top challenges of hybrid work today.


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