Seven hybrid working fails and how to avoid themby
It seems that hybrid working is here to stay but there are many ways it can go wrong if it’s not implemented thoughtfully. Here are some of the common pitfalls of this new flexible approach and how to avoid them.
Hybrid working has become a bit like hot yoga – everybody seems to be doing it, it appears to solve a lot of aches and pains, and there are so many different types floating around that it’s hard to agree on a consistently defined dictionary definition.
Hybrid working is a type of flexible working that involves employees doing some of their work remotely and some of it in the office. There’s a great deal of stretch in that definition, however, from who makes the decisions about where they are working, to how it is applied across the organisation.
Give staff more flexibility to begin with so they can gradually readjust to being back among others.
With so many types of hybrid working, it’s easy to make the mistake of choosing the wrong one and instead of creating the environment that everyone wants, you’ll be creating a situation that nobody wants.
Indeed, that’s the other thing that unites hybrid working and hot yoga – if practised incorrectly, it can end up a hot mess.
Here are some of the types of hybrid working that nobody wants to see, and how you can go about avoiding these pitfalls.
1. 'Nobody’s in the office' hybrid
If people choose the days they work from home themselves, there’s a risk that team mates may end up in the office on different days – and those who have schlepped into the office find themselves on as many Zoom calls as before, slightly defeating the point.
Solution: workplace thinker Nicholas Bloom believes that employees shouldn’t be allowed to choose their work from home days. Instead, teams should decide their work-in-office days so everyone is there at the same time.
A less prescriptive solution is to use a desk booking tool so people can book with their colleagues and see who else is in the office.
2. 'Long-weekend' hybrid
Some think that most people will choose to work in the office on Tuesdays to Thursdays in order to have a ‘long weekend’ by taking it easier at home on Mondays and Fridays.
This is a problem for many reasons, but particularly if your company wants to use hybrid to downsize their real estate.
Solution: allocate days when people have to come in so distribution is spread throughout the week.
3. 'I can’t find a meeting room' hybrid
As people are spending fewer days in the office – and as one of the reasons they’ll be going into the office will be to meet with colleagues – there may be more demand for meeting rooms at particular times.
Time wasted traipsing around various meeting rooms seeing if they are free is frustrating for employees, and a waste of their time in the office.
Solution: Rework offices so there’s more space for collaborative work, especially as there will be less demand for desk spaces for solitary work.
Use a meeting room booking tool so that people can reserve meeting rooms and don’t have to spend time searching.
4. 'People have lost all sense of office norms' hybrid
Nose picking and flicking, walking around shoeless and blasting out music – these are just some of the unsociable habits that people may have picked up while working at home and, unfortunately for their colleagues, may keep up as they return to an office environment.
Even less extreme examples can cause frustration, particularly when people have gotten used to a home environment that they control entirely and are no longer used to working in noisy offices or tolerating their colleagues' peccadilloes.
Solution: give staff more flexibility to begin with so they can gradually readjust to being back among others.
In addition, it’s important to use official and unofficial communication channels to remind employees of office norms. Reset expectations around office work, both around what is expected of employees and what they can expect of each other.
5. 'I don’t have any friends' hybrid
Employees are ten times more likely to stay in a job for a friendship than a pay rise. That makes facilitating relationships between coworkers crucial to retention, and decidedly harder when people are working remotely a couple of days a week.
Solution: Friday drinks don’t cut it when 40% of the team isn’t there. Make sure that there are enough socials organised that everyone who wants to attend can do so.
6. 'Forced to work from home' hybrid
Kids in need of homeschooling, flatmates squabbling over the WiFi connection, and ironing boards standing in for desks – these were some of the working from home hazards during lockdown. For some people, working from home will remain a less than perfect solution, either due to their home setup or because they simply don’t enjoy it.
Solution: for those who can’t – or don’t want to – work from home on their allocated days out of the office, give them access to third party spaces, like co-working spaces or regional office space.
7. 'Office cliques' hybrid
There’s a danger that those who regularly go into the office will form stronger networks and, as a result, have more opportunities for promotion. This is a particular problem because those likely to choose to work from home are more likely to belong to groups that are already less represented at the higher levels of management, like women (who are twice as likely as men to have caring responsibilities) and black people (who are seven times more likely to want to work from home full-time).
Solution: as well as mandating set office days, closely monitor promotions and whether there’s a correlation between those and office attendees. Implement organised mentor schemes so that networks aren’t left up to chance but open to all employees.
These are just a few of the ways that hybrid can go wrong. Ultimately, hybrid is a wonderful solution for many reasons and will be a great benefit to many employees (after all, it’s what the majority of them want). It's also important to think about the potential issues before you start implementing it, however, so that you can take steps to ensure that its rollout is successful. Also remember that, much like with yoga, you need to do some initial preparation before you can start being flexible.
Interested in this topic? Read Refining the art of hybrid working in six steps.