Solving the Pain Points of Your Hybrid Workforce

Illustration of an orchestra throwing paper airplanesAccenture reports that 83% of employees view the hybrid work model (i.e., working remotely 25-75% of the time) as optimal. A recent emergence, understanding the unique benefits and challenges of the hybrid model, and particularly how hybrid employees may struggle, is critical for many organizations.

Five commonly cited pain points for hybrid workers are building and maintaining social connections, integrating into company culture, effectively contributing to meetings, collaborating with their team, and balancing work and life. Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.

  1. Building social connections

Studies have repeatedly shown the importance of social connections at work, impacting everything from employee retention to performance ratings (often influenced by proximity bias). Regardless of where employees work, they want to feel like they belong, and social connectedness is a significant determinant. Often, hybrid employees need help building rapport and social capital with colleagues and leadership.

Since most hybrid and remote workers interact with fewer coworkers (at least organically), organizations must actively help hybrid and remote workers build social connections. Here are a few strategies:

  • Incorporate short, get-to-know-you-better questions into meetings.
  • Make space for personal updates during weekly huddles or monthly newsletters.
  • Organize and promote employee resource groups (ERGs) or employee clubs (e.g., book club, running club, etc.) where folks can connect with individuals outside their teams or departments.
  • Reserve space and time for hybrid employees to meet with colleagues for informal get-togethers
  • When hybrid employees are working onsite, allow time and space for relationship-building.
  1. Integrating into the company culture

Building and maintaining company culture is more of a challenge with a hybrid workforce. New hybrid employees may also struggle to pick up on — and integrate into — the existing company culture due to a lack of modeling. Without the consistent ability to observe how others behave in business situations, witness the nonverbal communication between colleagues, and engage in spontaneous conversations, hybrid employees have a limited cultural experience and potentially a more difficult time shaping that culture.

To cultivate your company culture within a hybrid work structure, here are a few ideas:

  • Explain your organizational culture using words and pictures, and routinely share stories of good examples. 
  • Plan in-person events that are accessible to hybrid employees (e.g., coordinate travel, provide parking and food, etc.)
  • Plan virtual team-building events that help mingle people who do not typically interact or collaborate.
  • Reward managers who discover effective methods where hybrid employees build social capital, contribute to a positive culture, and share those ideas with other managers.
  1. Coordinating inclusive hybrid meetings

Hybrid meetings can present unique challenges, as it can be difficult to balance the needs of in-person and virtual employees simultaneously while making all employees feel included. Due to technical limitations, this may default to in-office employees participating like remote employees. Ideally, your company would have video conference rooms where in-person employees can be seen and heard as a group, with remote employees visible on a large screen. The logistics will depend, of course, on the number of participants — and your onsite and virtual configurations — yet the key is to ensure both virtual and in-person participants can be seen and heard. You may consider having a spokesperson coordinating speakers and responders for larger events. At the same time, someone else monitors a chat for questions and comments and pulls people forward for an on-camera conversation.

  1. Collaborating with colleagues

When your hybrid workforce is well-coordinated and scheduled, it is far easier for teams to collaborate. But here’s a warning: a Microsoft study recently found a double-edged collaboration sword. “Employees satisfied with their work-life balance attend 25% fewer meetings and spend on average six fewer hours per week collaborating compared to those with neutral or unfavorable work-life balance sentiment.” Does this mean collaborating 15-25% less promotes a healthier work-life balance? Or does this tell your most active collaborators might be feeling overworked? Something to keep an eye on.

One idea is to prioritize quality collaboration over quantity. Here are a few strategies:

  • Minimize back-to-back meetings by scheduling meetings that end before the top of the hour. Use end times of :20 or :50 to provide employees with a bit of run-over time and at least a 5-minute break before the next scheduled item. 
  • Keep large group meetings to a minimum; a meeting should be for active participation. 
  • Schedule short, routine meetings for brief conversations with the most significant impact and action outcomes.
  • Provide accessible, shared agendas that employees can view and contribute to before meetings.
  • Encourage employees to schedule and block out focus time where they do not need to respond to messages.
  1. Balancing work

When employees work from home, it can be tricky to separate work and life, depending on how they can structure their at-home office setup. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work, Gallup reports a few in-office days (each week) is optimal for most employees. However, many companies may, over the long term, resist the expense of leasing and maintaining office space for part-time use.

To help hybrid employees achieve a better work and life balance, here are a few recommendations:

  • Provide recommendations for the optimal work-from-home setup, including ergonomics, camera positioning and backgrounds, noise elimination, lighting, and microphone and headset recommendations. An excellent at-home office layout will significantly impact their worklife and productivity.
  • Provide office equipment stipends, or extend office equipment assignments beyond laptops to include additional monitors, headsets, lighting, or even chairs and desks. 
  • Encourage remote employees to schedule breaks and flextime so other employees know when they are available.
  • Normalize logging off at the end of the workday. Some virtual workers struggle to disconnect from work, as they might be online earlier or later doing personal tasks. Remind employees that setting and maintaining work boundaries is essential, as is accomplishing a whole work week.

Minimizing pain points for hybrid workers

Hybrid work arrangements vary by company, but many hybrid employees experience similar challenges. Whatever your work model, try to minimize hybrid worker pain points by helping hybrid employees build social connections, integrate into company culture, feel included in hybrid meetings, balance work and home life, and collaborate with their colleagues. Your efforts can help hybrid employees feel like they belong within your organization.

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