Back in mid-March 2020, news of the COVID-19 outbreak suddenly changed the face of a global workforce. Seemingly overnight, employers and employees across industries shifted gears and set up shop at home as remote work became a necessary tool to combat the spread of the virus.
While the pandemic facilitated a historic work-from-home movement – accelerating existing digital transformation and automation trends – it didn't represent a sustainable or feasible solution for workplaces in the long term. For some, remote work led to increased productivity and job satisfaction, but for others, it perpetuated loneliness and digital miscommunication while stymieing innovation.
Over the last few months, as professionals have been reexamining their relationship with work, a new paradigm has emerged: the hybrid model. With the flexibility to balance days in the office with working from home, this approach has the potential to address the desire for independence while strengthening human connection and promoting well-being. But it also has its own set of challenges.
From remote and hybrid team management to communication barriers and finding a work-life balance, hybrid working arrangements can be daunting to both employers and employees alike. If you've found yourself struggling to navigate a blend of in-person and virtual work, here are some tips and resources to make these new arrangements work for you.
Due to the unforeseen circumstances of the pandemic, many professionals who had never worked remotely, previously, had to quickly create makeshift home offices that were not healthy, ideal, or sustainable for the long term. In addition to having the right equipment, the ergonomics of your workspace are critical for reducing strain on your body and avoiding any physical and mental injury while promoting overall well-being.
With the adoption of a hybrid work model, workforces will consist of a mix of in-person and remote workers, dramatically changing how we meet, interact, and communicate. While virtual meetings became our norm during the pandemic, hybrid meetings add a layer of complexity and require a different approach to ensure inclusiveness and productivity. From making each meeting purposeful to ensuring a positive outcome for all participants, here are a few things to consider to make it a success.
While a hybrid work model increases flexibility and allows for a more tailored employee experience, it also has the potential to create an unequal playing field. To combat these challenges, leaders of hybrid teams will need to prioritize self-awareness, vulnerability, empathy, and agility. Here's how you can tap into the benefits of a hybrid work culture while continuing to lead your team with inclusivity.
Since team members in a hybrid work model won't always interact with one another in the same workspace, unique communication challenges may arise. Hybrid teams can use these communication tips to plan, collaborate, and work effectively, whether working at home or in the office.
Working part-time in the office and part-time time at home requires setting, and maintaining, effective boundaries. From creating a routine to practicing mindfulness and maintaining a social support system, taking a few measures to maintain your mental well-being while establishing your own wellness best practices can make all the difference.
Amid the uncertainty, and as we shift our collective focus away from crisis response, a hybrid work model could catalyze issues exacerbated by the pandemic, such as employee health and safety.
"Since the onset of the pandemic, some industries and companies have had employees continuously on the frontlines, while others have had employees working remotely full-time," noted Hilarie Warren, director of Georgia Tech's OSHA Training Institute. "Both of these scenarios – and all of those in-between – have transformed the concept of a safe workplace from a deadly fall or hearing loss to include physical, psychological, and social security."
At a time when the workforce has shifted considerably, employers now face the challenge of reimagining their organizational culture, benefits, and interactions, with new employee expectations surrounding well-being, work-life balance, and opportunities to flourish in their personal and professional development.
While adapting to hybrid work will require trial and error, it's also an opportunity to create an environment ripe for employee engagement. But it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Accommodating these new working arrangements will require a people-first mindset, emphasizing employee safety and health first and foremost. Failure to do so could be to the detriment of retention and recruitment efforts.
"Leaders, alongside their teams, who are willing to engage in conversations around these topics, foster transparency, ask hard questions, and take action to define what work looks like for their organization, will find that their employees are more productive, more effective, and more likely to stay at their job," says Warren. "People want their work to have value, and they want to be valued for their contributions to the organization, and if they don’t feel that, they might look at other options, regardless of in-person, virtual, or hybrid work models."