Consequences of A Hybrid Workforce & Its Counter-Measures

What is Hybrid Work?

Hybrid Work has been touted as the next major development of work spaces, with experts, such as Forbes, BBC and the Harvard Business Review, predicting such a shift in the not so distant future.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic terms such as “Remote work” and “Telecommuting” rose to the forefront, headlining the spatial transition of work. Globally, this transition operated on two fronts: (a) The geographical transition of people from offices to homes and (b) the accelerated digitalisation of information and transactions.

On the other hand, Hybrid Work has not enjoyed such prominence. Many regard Hybrid Work as a workforce consisting of both staff that work remotely and physically in-office. At its crux, the Hybrid Work model offers employees the flexibility to choose where and when they get their work done. Despite the flexibility that it grants companies with regards to adjusting across the spectrum of remote work, hybrid work to physical work, organisations need to be mindful of the consequences of Hybrid Work and intervene with necessary counter-measures.

#1 Overlooking Social Engagement

The lack of quality time definitely exacerbates the challenge of forging bonds with colleagues, that are now spread out in their homes. Beyond the obvious consequences such as increased isolation and stress levels, there are key social complications that are likely to be neglected.

According to the Harvard Business Review, having some employees working physically in-office and others working from home will likely breeds an “‘us versus them” mentality. This unintentional segregation might sow discord between workers, which will harm efficacy of collaborations in the long-run due to increased tendency of groupthink and thus difficulty of introducing new ideas. This exacerbates the current issue of shrinking networks plaguing remote work, as identified by Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index. Analysis of Outlook emails and Microsoft Teams meetings illustrated strengthened interactions within immediate team members at the expense of interaction with external members.

Furthermore, the challenge of forging meaningful relationships is more pronounced amongst the newer employees, fresh to their companies. This has led to Millennials and Gen Z workers reportedly faring worse than their older counterparts. The 2021 Work Trend Index also highlights this consequence, with the former becoming noticeably less engaged and more exhausted by work, impairing their contribution and insights during discussions.

To prevent these three social consequences, managers can must intentionally provide opportunities for social connection. Some potential methods include:

#2 Measuring Performance

The lack of visibility between employers and employees will lead to concerns unique to each party.

For workers that choose to telecommute, there will be worries around potential bias in performance assessments compared to those working in-office. This will drive those working remotely to work longer and harder, raising their stress and anxiety levels. as the 2021 Work Trend Index notes, although such efforts have produced greater productivity amongst workers, 49% of respondents indicated feeling overworked, and 39% feel exhausted.

For employers, both the need to fairly evaluate and supervise employees (regardless of whether they work remotely or physically) will weigh on their head. However, there is a need to acknowledge the reality that it is unsustainable to monitor every move employees make. The best solution is adopting a results-based culture, built on trust in employees to choose the best place, time and means of working thorough their assignments.

Successfully establishing such a culture is reliant on 4 actions:

#3 Communication

Communication and collaboration were named the greatest challenges of remote work in Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work Report. This difficulty will inevitably be heightened by the addition of simultaneous physical work, with the further complication of unintentional exclusion.

These two hurdles impairing communication require the following pre-emptive steps so as to effectively mitigate them.

Looking Ahead

Buoyed by the increasing vaccine rates, companies around the world have kickstarted plans to return to physical operations. However, the emergence of the a new Indian variant in May has reignited fears of a similar spread, leaving work arrangements as uncertain as ever. The current uncertainty around business re-opening and the protracted nature of lockdown worldwide has made the transition to hybrid work necessary to be ever-ready for any changes. Though hybrid work grants companies the flexibility to adjust across the spectrum of flexible working arrangements (from remote work, hybrid work and physical work) organisations need to be mindful of the consequences and intervene with necessary counter-measures.

Reflection: To what extent has your company encountered these consequences of hybrid work? How has your company attempted to counter-act the consequences of flexible work arrangements?

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