The hybrid workplace is a familiar term today, but what does it really mean for organisations with their own distinct culture, people, teams and community? Vysus Group is helping a range of clients to tackle the challenges when mixing remote and office working, and maximise the opportunities for a safe, productive and healthy future.
Across industries globally, the working week feels different as we emerge from the pandemic. Many of us now divide our working time between the office and home. The hybrid workplace is ever-more common, often with a general assumption that everyone is happier, healthier and more productive. Isn’t this approach the best of both worlds?
In theory, yes. In the real world, as employers offer their people flexibility and meet employees’ new expectations, cracks are appearing in the hybrid work environment. These gaps are likely to get bigger, unless addressed, with the risk of organisations losing what might be one of their strongest assets: a well-functioning interaction and collaboration between employees.
Why introduce a hybrid workplace?
Reduced operational costs, greater efficiency, an improved work-life balance and, with that, enhanced employee wellbeing are common benefits. Opportunities to work remotely can also be attractive when attracting new talent, as reported by recruiters.
But hybrid work is a complex business, with no off-the-shelf solution. Figuring out how to develop effective strategies to mitigate the risks and optimise the possibilities is challenging. Choosing the right approach is key.
Flexibility means different things
Our consulting experience highlights that around 80% of employers want a hybrid workplace, a figure supported by studies elsewhere. However, we see considerable variations in people’s preferences for the distribution of days spent in the office and remotely. Moreover, ‘formalised flexibility’ can quickly feel not like flexibility at all, but something enforced.
Characteristics and challenges of modern working
The opportunity to work flexibly affects both the physical and the psycho-social working environment. Several workplace characteristics can be linked to the main challenges with remote working. In turn, many organisations are identifying remote work as a contributing factor to reduced employee performance and wellbeing. That is, the very opposite of what the hybrid workplace is trying to achieve.
A hybrid work environment limits the opportunities for on-the-job training for younger and less-experienced employees. In these conditions, senior members of staff can be around less regularly in the office to show colleagues the ropes. We would add three further psycho-social issues that have emerged from recent projects.
First, employees can experience a growing feeling of loneliness. This is not just when working remotely, but also in a depleted office. Secondly, when physically away from the office, team members can feel less recognised. It’s hard to avoid proximity bias, focusing on who you see around you. A line manager may well not pick up on an overworked employee who’s operating remotely, but doesn’t mention the pressure they’re under. Last, but not least, employees often tell us in their own way that they’re experiencing the loss of a sense of community – a ‘one-company’ feel. This is concerning. Sharing a collective mindset is key to any organisation’s ongoing success.
How these and other hybrid working challenges are tackled should always be seen in the context of the individual organisation.
Developing an effective hybrid workplace strategy
We find time and time again that, being trusted independent specialists, brings benefits. Employees open up more than they would with, say, their own HR team to identify critical insights. They value the objectivity of the process and welcome the opportunity to be heard, as well as more reflective.
There are three main stages to our support, which is tailored to each organisation. Typically, we carry out:
desk research and document reviews to pinpoint the surveys required, facilitate effective conversations, and aid strategic debate
surveys and data analysis for a ‘temperature check’
face-to-face interviews, ideally covering the variety of employees within the organisation.
When assessing the influence of hybrid work on the work environment, several factors unique to each organisation will be considered. These include types of teams, tasks and interactions. The process might need to be adjusted for different teams within an organisation.
Our three-fold goals
To understand how the hybrid workplace currently operates within an organisation’s unique environment, and its positive and negative impact
To identify the root conditions that affect hybrid work challenges and outcomes
To develop strategies and measures to optimise the hybrid workplace
Learning from other organisational change
Our experience of supporting clients with organisational change shows that risks to employee performance and wellbeing can be mitigated by focusing on key elements, including working environment conditions and organisational characteristics. By using this knowledge effectively, gathering data on the current situation, and developing action plans and strategies, your hybrid workplace can be safe, productive and healthy.
To find out more, contact:
Catharina Lindheim, Principal Consultant
T: +47 920 27 879