You’d think, by now, we’d have the problems with hybrid work figured out.
But there’s still no panacea for employees, their managers and the HR pros who facilitate it.
Despite that, employees want hybrid, flexible work. The most recent data is telling: Almost 55% of employees expect to continue a hybrid schedule going forward, a Gallup survey found. Two-thirds of employees who are working remotely would consider quitting their jobs if they were required to go on-site full-time, a Monster survey found.
“The ability to work a blend of remote and in-person relieves some of the anxieties that are often associated with challenges outside of work, too – whether it’s with child/elder care, or prioritizing personal health and well-being,” says Christina Schelling, SVP, Chief Talent & Diversity Officer at Verizon. “Research also suggests that a hybrid workplace decreases opportunity for bias. All of that adds up and ultimately, happier and healthier employees are more engaged employees.”
All true, but problems with hybrid work persist. These are the top four complications that still plague employers, plus strategies to avoid or beat the issues.
Harvard Business School researchers found hybrid and remote employees suffer from a lack of motivation. But the reasons you might suspect – such as distractions or the temptation to loaf – aren’t the major underlying issue.
The problem: working at non-standard times – such as weekends or holidays – cuts into people’s intrinsic motivation. They aren’t excited about or happy to do the work, mostly because they’re doing it outside of social norms (yep, they actually function better in a 9-to-5.)
So the very thing that people praise about hybrid work – flexibility – actually hinders their ability to do it.
Fortunately, the researchers also found a way employees can stay motivated when working outside “normal” hours. It’s all about mindset. Employees who put in odd hours and thought about how they were making good use of their time catching up on work – as opposed to thinking about time missed doing fun things – were 23% more engaged in their work.
So, to boost motivation, employees might need some encouragement to change their mindset when putting time in outside normal business hours.
It’s no secret: Hybrid work diminishes face time between employees, teams and their bosses. People can avoid conversations, interactions and certain colleagues when they want by choosing their days to be in the office.
Yet, Gallup has famously found employees with a best friend at work are more likely to be happy with their job and loyal to their employer. And nearly 20% of hybrid employees in a GoTo survey say they miss creating workplace friendships.
Those connections and friendships help foster creativity, collegiality and, at the most basic level, fun in the workplace.
The best solution: Mindfully schedule time on site. Ask teams to find one, mutual day a week to be on site and schedule all work collaboration that day. Then, when possible, give them the resources to do something more casual – such as a group lunch or coffee break – so they connect on a personal level, too.
Even though we’ve crawled out from the worst of pandemic isolation, people working remotely – all or part of the time – continue to suffer from mental health issues prompted by isolation and loneliness.
Stress levels and burnout rates continue to rise, especially for women, younger generations and the LGBTQIA community in the workplace, a trio of studies from Deloitte finds.
“While hybrid working presents an opportunity for both employers and employees to address some (mental well-being) challenges, our data shows that this runs the risk of exclusion and a lack of exposure to senior leaders – both of which can serve to increase stress and anxiety,” says Emma Codd, Global Inclusion Leader at Deloitte. “Companies have a critical role to play – to ensure that new ways of working are an enabler of well-being and to provide a stigma-free workplace environment where people know that it’s OK to not be OK.”
One way to help is to give employees more opportunities to be involved with ideas and groups that interest them. The best way is through your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), places and moments designed to make them feel “at home.”
For instance, at Verizon the ERGs are meant to “strengthen our culture and empower employees to bring their whole and authentic selves to their work and contribute their unique perspectives,” Schelling explains.
The key: Give employees time and resources to take more control of their ERGs. That helps them form relationships and break down isolation walls.
Technology still ties everyone’s hands a bit with hybrid work. Employees run into issues at home, in transit and even on site.
- Create systems that safely allow for bring your own device (BYOD). The key here is “safe.” Many companies have been reluctant to allow the transfer of company data to personal devices. So work with IT on a flexible infrastructure that support Remote Access Points (RACs) that are secured through a Zero Trust security model.
- Create the right space. For safer collaboration, try more “hoteling” in your workplace. Give employees space to work independently, plus the ability to book meeting space.
- Know and manage the drawbacks. Identify your biggest potential issues – from processes and technology to logistics and well-being – and work with IT on solutions to proactively fix each.