Is your hybrid work model set up to fail?
It’s a question most HR leaders haven’t considered. In a rush to transition to work from home – and then to a hybrid model – many organizations didn’t have the time to consider what could go wrong.
Part of the problem is a hybrid work model is a bit like communism: It looks good on paper, but in reality, it isn’t good for everyone.
Another problem is the ideal workplace is a work in progress. Even Henry Ford’s revolutionary 118-year-old assembly line continues to evolve today.
But hybrid work – like that assembly line – is likely here to stay. Almost two-thirds of employees say it’s exactly how they want to work – with flexibility between an office and their homes, according to research from Atlassian.
Of course, reimagining can lead to failure. So, to help you avoid that, here are eight signs a hybrid work model will fail.
Sign 1: Employees took control
The whole idea of a hybrid work model is to create more flexibility, agility and autonomy. But if you give away too much of that, you could hinder performance and business results.
As we’ve noted before, Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor and codirector of the Productivity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, says managers need to set hybrid schedules.
When employees set hybrid schedules, teams work physically together less often – or not at all. That hurts productivity and employee satisfaction. Bloom’s research found leadership-driven scheduling eliminates biases, improves career and promotion equity, and promotes diversity.
Tip: Managers will want to get employee input before they set the hybrid schedule. And then regularly review the schedule to be sure it still works as well as intended.
Sign 2: Schedules remained rigid
A hybrid work model allows flexibility on location – home or office. It’ll fail if you don’t allow – at least some – flexibility on when employees do their work.
Even if management sets the days in and out of the office, employees will need flexibility to handle the changes the pandemic presented. For instance, they might need to care for parents, attend to school age children or take care of their own medical needs.
Tip: Instead of the traditional 9-to-5 schedule (or whatever your team’s schedule was before COVID-19), designate times for collaboration (Zoom or in-person meetings). Those can be anchor points for individual work at employees’ convenience. As an example, Atlassian found most teams needed employees to overlap four hours a day for optimal collaboration.
Sign 3: Employees met unfairly
When people move back on-site, there’s a tendency to fall into the old way of doing things. And that presents this threat to a hybrid work model: On-site, co-located people will dominate meetings with their ideas and opinions.
Remote employees will struggle to hear, be heard and have an influence in group meetings.
Tip: Set up virtual meetings if any attendee can’t physically be in the same room as the others. Even employees on-site should join the meeting from their computers. That creates a level playing field for everyone.
Sign 4: You limited options
Every employee has different reasons for wanting – or not wanting – a hybrid work model. And those reasons play into how well they’ll accept and adapt to yours.
If employers make a hybrid work model that limits options, it will fail – or push people out the door.
Tip: Of course, your hybrid work model will need structure. But don’t create it based on the idea that every employee wants to be in or out of the office for the same reasons. Instead, talk with and survey employees to find out why they prefer what they do so you can make the best decisions.
Sign 5: Technology overwhelmed
Nearly a third of employees feel exhausted from going back and forth between technology applications throughout the work day, a Templafy study found. About the same number of employees think having to bounce around like that in a hybrid work model will negatively impact their productivity.
Simply put, too much technology will get in the way of a successful hybrid work model.
Tip: Simplify your technology as much as possible. That might be a matter of giving more people access to more apps. Or it might mean streamlining apps so all work is shared through just one. Work with IT to determine what’s used most, what’s most critical to operations and how much training you’d need to get everyone in sync with the least number of apps as possible.
Sign 6: Relationships put at risk
Employees’ relationships with colleagues and their bosses were strained while people worked apart. If people continue to only exist in their silos, work will become more transactional. Relationships – which build morale and employee satisfaction – will suffer or completely deteriorate.
Tip: Create opportunities for employees to reconnect. Call for team meals again. Set up a company picnic. Build time into meetings for socializing, too. But give employees the option to participate so they only do what they’re comfortable doing.
Sign 7: Practices remained the same
Hybrid work is not the same as remote work. Yet, some organizations and their employees continue to rely on remote best practices in the new model.
Everyone had to adapt, adjust and find new best practices when they were sent home. Hybrid work requires the same amount of figuring out, adjustments and best practice creation.
Tip: Recognize it’ll take time to figure out how meetings, workflows, responsibilities, schedules and relationships will work best. Encourage teams to establish best practices – then regularly review them so they continue to be effective.
Sign 8: Email, apps ruled
When nearly everyone worked remotely, they mostly communicated through email, chat, text and internal platforms. Video calls were popular, but got overwhelming as many people suffered Zoom Gloom.
So they went back to electronic communication. Problem is, it’s not the most effective, efficient way to communicate. And if employees continue to mainly rely on it in a hybrid work model, they will miscommunicate, waste time and make mistakes.
Tip: Leaders and front-line managers can set the example on this one. Check in with people individually. Get the group together to share news, rather than send a mass email. Stop chats or texts when they involve too many people or messages. Instead, make calls or meet.