Hybrid Work Model: Challenges and Advantages

For many companies, hybrid work is a new reality. Especially during the pandemic, IT leaders learned how to manage their teams remotely. Let's explore the pros and cons of a hybrid work environment. 

Keyword(s): hybrid work, hybrid work environment

What is a hybrid work environment?

This all starts with a simple question: What does "hybrid work" actually mean? Well, there is no single blueprint for a hybrid work model. People interpret and implement hybrid working models in different ways. There is a consensus concept underpinning hybrid work, however: Flexibility. Hybrid approaches are intrinsically more flexible than more uniform, rigid models that require people to work entirely or predominantly in the same central location.

hybrid model can look like a simple solution to the present problems corporations face because they get to maintain their office area while also accommodating both those who choose in-person and those who choose remote work. Now the notion of "hybrid working" which mixes time working from home and time in physical proximity to colleagues at a workplace, is predicted to be a popular choice for many workers as corporations seek to attract them back to the workplace. Having defined hybrid work, it also helps to ask the question: Is it right for you?

According to a number of surveys, most individuals want a mixture of in-person and remote work, and some have said they would leave their jobs if not given that option.

To construct a hybrid model that works in your group, you should communicate with your workforce to study their needs. To adopt a hybrid work model, you need the proper technology, people and processes.

In a hybrid work model, workers have more flexibility to get work done when they're most efficient. Effective hybrid working successfully requires formal flexible working policies to be updated, whereas recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach rarely truly fits anyone.

We should keep in mind that, it isn't just about schedules and workplace space—leaders need to consider inclusion, trust, performance measurement, cybersecurity, and more.

How to manage hybrid teams

To attract and retain top talent these days, organizations need to offer remote or hybrid work options. But flexible work models are not without their challenges. A successful hybrid work model requires employees to navigate the blurred lines between work and personal time, to stay connected as a virtual team, and to be productive even while working across time zones.

For managers, it also requires a shared definition of what flexible work looks like for your team and an understanding of the right skills to help everyone thrive in this new environment. Here are four elements of a successful hybrid work environment that leaders should not forget:

1. Flexible office hours

The best remote or hybrid teams work as efficiently apart as they do together in the office, but team members don't necessarily all work during the same set of traditional working hours. Ask employees to determine their weekly schedule and be transparent about sharing their availability with the team–and respecting others' out-of-office times.

2. Continuous learning

Because it can take weeks and months to find quality candidates in today's competitive market, it's more important than ever to provide cross-skill, reskill, and upskill training. Integrating these training programs into your management plan enables your employees to grow in their careers as well as to transition to new teams and specialties when necessary.

3. Data and technology literacy

Hybrid work requires virtual collaboration tools, asynchronous messaging apps, video meeting platforms, and other tools depending on your industry and individual team members' work focus.

Online project management is a critical technology skill for hybrid teams. This provides visibility into the rest of the team's workload and priorities and is especially important for new hires. A shared running task list with up-to-date status notations allows team members to move forward while they await feedback on work that is under review. It also provides managers with insight into where blockers – including their own – can be addressed to avoid workflow bottlenecks.

4. A healthy work/life balance

A potential downside to flexible working hours is that team members can let professional time bleed into personal time (and vice versa). Burned-out team members are far less effective than those who take breaks to recuperate and unwind. Establishing "quiet hours" when teams refrain from sending emails and instant messages can help draw the line between time on and time off.

Hybrid work benefits

Hybrid work has created new job opportunities for some, provided more family time, and offered choices for whether or when to commute. However, they are not only benefits.

1. Hybrid work allows companies to attract top-tier talents

Given the high turnover happening now within IT and across companies, CIOs who can offer the option of remote work can immediately and exponentially widen the net for new recruits.

2. Individual performance improvements

Sam Babic, Chief Innovation Officer of Hyland says "Innovation is a big benefit I have found in the hybrid work environment." Employees have different work styles and operate best in different settings; hybrid work allows employees to leverage it to their advantage.

3. Hybrid work is a talent retention tool

In the same way that the hybrid work option increases the talent pool, build-in flexibility can be a retention driver as well. A survey from software company Limeade found that around 70 percent of employees want to keep flexibility in work schedules.

4. It increases productivity

A hybrid model can offer flexibility and empower employees to work to their strengths, which in turn boosts productivity. By encouraging a culture that views remote work as a positive alternative to completing deep-focus tasks in the office, teams can find a good balance of creativity and collaboration. Employees who need peace and quiet to focus or who thrive in an office setting can be given the choice to work where and when they're most productive.

5. It improves mental health

According to data from Microsoft, one in five global survey respondents says their employer doesn't care about their work-life balance. While work and life may rarely be in perfect balance, work-life fit is a vital aspect of any healthy working environment. And hybrid work enables each employee to fit their work and life together in a way that works for them. This reduces stress and helps prevent burnout. 

Hybrid work challenges

There are clear benefits of the hybrid solution, such as extending the reach of an organization's potential talent pool. But there are also quickly emerging challenges, particularly since this is new territory for many IT managers and employees.

1. Possible incremental costs

Depending on your organizational specifics, there can be added infrastructure costs to support in-office and at-home workers. “Paying for high-speed internet for 100 different employees so they can work remotely from their homes is an added cost that will be incurred and doesn’t reduce or eliminate the need for bandwidth at the physical office,” says Clint Padgett, president and CEO of Project Success.

2. Communication breakdowns

"The single biggest problem with communication,” the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “is the illusion that it has taken place.” And that is the single biggest drawback of the hybrid environment, according to Padgett. Written communication – text, email, Slack, etc. – can become the de-facto standard.

3. Maintaining organizational agility

"One of the challenges in the shift to hybrid work and managing distributed workforces is striking a balance between innovation and organizational agility" says ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi. It will be necessary to to understand how and where the existing workforce is deployed, and making sure that those employees are clear on strategies and goal.

When planned carefully and strategically, the hybrid work model has the potential to take your organization to a new level of productivity. The hybrid model used to be seen as an alternative style of work. But as more employees demand flexibility, it'll become even more common. Companies must meet the needs of their workforce or risk losing talent to employers that do.

Do you think hybrid work should be more common and your organization should implement hybrid work? Contact our team of highly experienced consultants and find answers to your questions!

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