Planning for Long-Term Hybrid Work

Since the pandemic-driven transition to remote work, studies on remote work are in consensus that workforces can be productive and efficient without being co-located.  

A hybrid working model – where teams comprise of employees working remotely and on-site – means less office space is needed and offers employees the possibility for flexible working, among other benefits. And although remote work can bring certain downsides, the home working ‘experiment’ has driven companies to consider alternatives to the traditional model of centralised work.  

Indeed, many companies have stated their intentions to continue with decentralised working, and some experts predict the leading working model of the future will be a hybrid oneIndeed, in a Gartner survey taken in June 2020, 82% of company leaders reported that they planned to allow employees to work remotely some of the time. 

So, with hybrid work appearing to continue long-term, what are the challenges and changes needed to support this new way of working and its long-term viability?  

One fundamental challenge for companies is bolstering digital infrastructure and ensuring it can handle organisational needs. In fact, more than half of HR leaders say that poor technology or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to an effective transition to de-centralised working. One way in which companies are adapting is by embracing cloud technologyso that employees can work and collaborate from any location. The challenge will then be ensuring that authorised users have access to what they need while securing the environment against malicious actors. 

Another challenge involved in moving off-site long-term relates to team structure and job duties. Some employees may be required to be present on certain days, such as for client meetings. It is therefore important to develop procedures and processes so that employees are clear about their responsibilities and schedules. 

Additionally, it is important that organisations are able to maintain the company culture, as this impacts employee experience, performance, retention and company image. For distributed co-workers, it is important to have a shared understanding of behavioural norms, such as acceptable working locations and videoconferencing etiquette. Since these can vary from team to team, one option is to create a ‘work manifesto’ which sets out norms and remote working best practices. This will help to ensure existing employees and new joiners are aware of mutual expectations within the team. 

Moreover, the shift to hybrid work offers an opportunity to review processes and check they accord with organisational values. For example, one company held inclusion as a principal value, so when it allowed for off-site workit introduced a rule that even if only one participant was working remotely, the meeting would automatically become remote. This meant no one was left out of the loop and allowed the company to reinforce its values. 

In sum, mass remote working is still relatively new, and companies moving to long-term hybrid work must embrace change, adaptationand reinvention. Being prepared when it comes to key areas including digital capacities, policies, and cultural practices can help to support a successful transition. 

References: 

  1. How to HR managers can prepare for a hybrid work model, November 2020, Inside HR. 
  2. This Is the Future Of Remote Work In 2021, December 2020, Forbes.
  3. 4 ways organization design can enable the hybrid workplace, January 2021, Human Resource Executive.
  4. The Cloud Is The Backbone Of Remote Work, June 2020, Forbes.