16 Minutes of reading

What are the challenges of hybrid work for companies and employees?

The integration of hybrid work in companies is no longer an isolated phenomenon, reserved for certain "pioneering" organisations. Now, hybrid work is becoming the norm. However, according to a survey by Sapio Research and workplace platform provider Envoy, most UK workers prefer to spend some time in the office with 57% opting for a hybrid work model. Meanwhile, 38% indicated they preferred to work at the office full-time, and only 5% would like to work remotely all the time.

 

In other words, we are observing a mixture of office-based work and remote work. As a result, an increasing number of employees are experimenting with the flex office, coworking and smart office formats - concepts that Rise Up highlights in this article.

 

Another major theme related to hybrid organisation is the role of the manager, which is now crucial.

 

More broadly, it is now essential to identify the challenges of hybrid work and, of course, to overcome them. Rise Up will give you all the tools to get there!

 

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What is a hybrid organisation?

 

Hybrid work: definition

 

Hybrid work, hybridisation of work, hybrid mode of work: these are all concepts that are increasingly present and that need to be precisely defined.

They all cover one reality. It involves organising a work schedule to combine office work and remote work. Remote work, or telework, can of course be carried out from home or from any other location, as long as the digital equipment is suitable.

It remains for companies to find the right balance. How many days per week, or per month, should employees go to the office? Should being present on the company's premises continue to be the basis of the work organisation? Each structure should consider its specific objectives, culture and problems.

In addition, it is of course essential to reflect on the consequences of mixed work on the motivation and progress of employees.

 

What are the different types of hybrid work?

 

The flex office

Hybrid working sometimes leads to the flex office mode. In this case, the employee does not have a fixed workspace. Depending on their current tasks, they can opt for a free space within their company's premises, or move to a café or coworking space, for example.

 

Let's not confuse flex office with desk sharing. Basically, it means that employees sit wherever they wish while remaining within the company walls. Desk sharing does not necessarily involve a type of hybrid work.

 

Collaborative space

The collaborative space or coworking space is sometimes part of the hybrid work mode. It involves a shared, equipped workspace that can also be set up in a cafe or rented office space.

 

Coworking, then, leads to working independently while exchanging with other "coworkers" (remember that "coworking" means "working together"). The result is an interaction that benefits everyone. In addition to the company's employees, the collaborative space attracts freelancers, consultants and start-ups and in turn offers networking opportunities. Plus, collaborative spaces obviously favours a collaborative working style.

 

This organisational method offers attractive advantages in terms of hybrid working.

 

The smart office

Based on digital and technological innovations, the smart office concerns more and more companies adopting a hybrid work mode. The smart office is an intelligent, connected and flexible work environment with services that meet the needs of employees and provide optimal working comfort.

 

This type of organisation removes the rigidity of traditional workspaces and puts people back at the centre. The aim: to promote creativity, encourage employee development and make their work more flexible. The smart office therefore has its place in the context of hybrid work.

 

 

Woman working remotely on her tablet device.

 

What investments should be taken into account when setting up a hybrid organisation?

 

Before opting for hybrid mode, the company must weigh up the costs. There is a variety of costs, and they reveal just how complex hybrid working can be (it's not just a matter of combining in-person and remote working!)

 

On the technical and technological level, financing is required for digital equipment (laptops, smartphones, etc.), software and collaborative tools, as well as for systems and networks maintenance. Investments are also made in workstations, often involving the reorganisation of offices and financial support for employees to make them feel at home (e.g., with ergonomic office chairs).

 

In addition, a hybrid organisation often requires organising training courses. These are aimed at employees, so that they can take charge of the hybrid work organisation, but also at managers, who must adapt their supervision methods. We will discuss this in detail later in the article...

 

Finally, hybrid working brings data security and data protection into play more than ever before, and this too comes at a cost.

 

Adapting employees to hybrid working

 

Hybrid work brings a whole set of challenges for employees. They see their work organisation disrupted and the boundary between work and personal life becomes blurred. The importance of skills comes into the equation here.

 

Employees must prove to be adaptable, independent and flexible. In addition, they must have proficient knowledge of digital tools, particularly collaborative communication solutions. There is still a gap between employees who are comfortable with hybrid work and those for whom remote work is more difficult. Of course, there are training programs to meet these needs.

 

It is therefore not surprising that most HR managers do not take hybrid work for granted.

 

How can managers organise hybrid working?

 

The manager plays a key role in the hybrid work model. Individual supervision, as well as creating and maintaining team cohesion, can no longer be carried out in the same way when remote work is introduced.

According to the Harvard Business Review, "If leaders and managers want to make this transition successfully, however, they’ll need to do something they’re not accustomed to doing: design hybrid work arrangements with individual human concerns in mind, not just institutional ones". The main reasons: employees are more independent and work with increased autonomy.

While hybrid work is set to become the norm (based on the opinion of nearly 80% of managers worldwide, according to a study by the Adecco Group), how can we define the hybrid manager? What skills are required for effective hybrid management? We're about to find out!

 

Hybrid management: definition

 

Hybrid management emerged during the pandemic, almost overnight, when employees had to work from home at least part of the time. The manager had to become a "hybrid manager", having to juggle on-site and remote management, without any real preparation beforehand. Therefore, hybrid management is a whole new way of managing, instils new practices and organisation, and leads to the adoption of new habits.

 

The need to develop the skills of the hybrid manager

 

This is a changing role that involves acquiring new skills and abilities. The set of essential managerial skills now expands in order to adapt to the challenges of hybrid work. The managers' objective: to ensure employee development, a healthy and stimulating environment and team performance, while having employees in separate geographical locations.

In this context, soft skills play a vital role. For example, remote work involves a certain amount of trust in employees. The above-mentioned Adecco study also demonstrated that for 75% of employees, interpersonal skills are the most important for the hybrid manager. This is followed by agility, the ability to communicate at a distance, the ability to ensure team cohesion and empathy.

To promote effective hybrid management, Rise Up offers training solutions designed for managers. The aim is to promote the rapid acquisition of skills, in particular through learning in the flow of work. The idea: to learn while continuing to work. The training does not interrupt ongoing tasks, and it fits naturally into the employee's usual work schedule. Learning in the flow of work makes it possible to overcome obstacles along the way, but also to continue a long-term training course during a break, for example.

 

This is why the Rise Up LMS is integrated into Microsoft Teams. What's in it for managers? To find the information they need and receive training while staying in their daily ecosystem, in their 'natural' work environment.

 

Capitalising on communication

 

As we have mentioned, one of the key skills of the hybrid manager is interpersonal communication. The ability to convey a smooth and clear message seems to be more difficult when there is greater physical distance. Moreover, relationships with others seem to suffer.

 

For this reason, hybrid management requires effective communication skills. In addition to being careful in what they say, it is in the managers' interest to have more contact with their staff and to be available. Their commitment must serve the team as a whole. There is a real risk of increasing two-way communication, i.e., communication with each employee separately. Group cohesion and corporate culture are therefore affected.

 

As we can see interpersonal skills are paramount in the age of hybrid work.

 

A team of co-workers chatting

 

Setting a good example

 

When managers are convincing employees of the relevance of remote working and urging them to adapt to it when they themselves are in the office seven days a week makes little sense and, worse still, leads to a loss of legitimacy as a manager.

 

Hybrid managers must set an example to make their team feel they are part of a shared dynamic and demonstrate that in-person work is not a prerequisite for performance.

 

In parallel, hybrid management cannot avoid the issue of the right to disconnect. Working at home does not mean getting online at any time of the day or night. Managers must be mindful and respect their employees' working hours.

 

Advantages of hybrid working

 

Cost optimisation

 

When it comes to hybrid and remote work, the first advantage that springs to mind is a reduction in property expenses. This is because companies can now aim for smaller premises, thus paying less rent and reducing the number of offices.

 

However, rather than savings, we should talk about cost optimisation, because part of the budget can be redirected towards coworking or even flex and smart office arrangements, as we have seen.

 

Remote work is just as productive as in-person work

 

Despite a certain amount of fear when implementing hybrid working, often brought about by the pandemic, managers have found that working from home does not lead to lower productivity. Better still: employee efficiency might also increase.

A survey by PWC discovered that 57% of respondents stated that their organisation performed better in terms of performance and productivity over the past 12 months, compared to just 4% saying their company performed significantly worse over the same period.

The high productivity level is therefore one of the key advantages of hybrid work.

 

A boost in a company's reputation

 

Another asset of hybrid work is that it generates a positive image of the company. Hybrid work is a mode sought by candidates as well as by existing employees. The influence and attractiveness of a company is therefore increasingly based on its "conversion" to hybrid work.

 

Today, integrating this dimension into an employer brand is quite simply essential. At stake: hiring the best talents and retaining them.

 

The disadvantages of hybrid work

 

The issue of equity among employees

 

The first pitfall linked to the introduction of hybrid work is that some employees may experience feelings of inequality and unfairness. Why? Simply because they are not always involved in the company's decisions. Being forced to work from home when some of your colleagues continue to come into the office five days a week can be annoying. On the other hand, it can be frustrating for employees who would like to work from home but are not allowed to, as they can feel left out. Simply put, hybrid work can potentially harm the employee experience. Companies must be aware of this.

 

A challenging set-up

 

When it comes to organisation, adopting the hybrid mode is no mean feat for companies. Working at home part of the time and at the office the rest of the week and taking into account approaches that can vary from one employee to another, all require seamlessly managing schedules and equipment. It may be that there is not enough office space or meeting rooms.

 

In addition, the manager has to "juggle" everyone's time, which complicates interactions and general communication. In short, hybrid working is a real challenge in terms of organisation.

 

The challenge of cybersecurity and data protection

 

Hybrid work has increased IT security breaches; and cyber-attacks seem to be on the rise since the onset of hybrid working. In 2020, 9 out of 10 companies were subject to cyber-attacks.

 

Working remotely increases these risks. This is due to the increasing use of cloud solutions and programs that are not protected or even authorised by the employer. However, intrusions into information systems endanger the protection of company data.

 

What is a successful hybrid organisation?

 

The combination of technology and people

 

We must bear in mind that a successful hybrid organisation means greater attractiveness and better talent retention. These are key issues for companies! Managers have understood this and are stepping up their efforts to change the internal culture. After the rapid implementation of remote working during the health crisis, they are now focusing on a sustainable mixed working pattern.

 

A smooth-running hybrid organisation is based on two pillars: technology and prioritising the human factor.

 

Specifically, companies must ensure the quality of their digital infrastructure:

 

  • A robust IT network
  • Data safety
  • Access to relevant and functional online collaboration tools
  • Cloud access
  • Availability of quality equipment, e.g., sufficiently powerful laptops.

 

In terms of the "human" factor, meeting new expectations and providing excellent work conditions, it is important to:

 

  • Strike the right balance between work at home and at the office
  • Rethink workspaces, moving towards the smart office
  • Offer flexibility using flex office or coworking modes

 

Other requirements may arise. For example, working remotely may inspire some to move away from big cities in favour of a better quality of life. This implies a much lower presence in the office than before. More and more companies are adapting to this requirement.

 

Training: a crucial element in an effective hybrid organisation

 

Putting employees back at the centre means that they must be comfortable not only with digital tools, but also with remote working and its upshots, such as possible feelings of loneliness and trouble carrying out tasks independently. Training is the most important tool to ensure each individual can develop accordingly.

 

This applies even more so to managers, who have often felt powerless in the face of the rapid onset of hybrid work. They are the leaders in how hybrid work is rolled out. On-the-job learning must give way to targeted training, adapted to the new needs of the hybrid manager.

 

Whatever the problem they encounter, employees and managers expect training to be easily accessible, enabling them to find solutions quickly. Learning in the flow of work is proving to be one of the most relevant responses. Hence Rise Up's choice, once again, to integrate its LMS directly into Teams.

 

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