Hybrid life will soon become the norm for many workers, who will split their time between home and the office. Although the concept comes with advantages, such as less time commuting and more opportunities to socialise with colleagues, working from multiple locations can take some adjusting to.
Most employees in the UK agree that the traditional 9-to-5 needs to be reconsidered. According to a survey of 1,000 UK adults, 77% of UK employees say a mix of office-based and remote working is the best way forward post COVID-19. A further 79% believe it’s important that their company is more flexible regarding how and where staff can work.
However, adapting to hybrid work can be challenging. Not only do workers need to make the most of their time in the office, communication becomes more important when employees have different schedules.
“The mix of being at home and in the office can cause challenges for team working,” says Cheryl Thompson, a career and confidence coach and mindset mentor. “It can cause office cliques or divisions, depending upon who is in the office at the same time.
“It can also create uncertainty for individuals having to change work environments frequently,” she adds. “Most people have workspace habits, which are now changing every other day. Inefficiencies in people’s work can be created as people adjust to the changes.”
Additionally, a lack of control over the workspace can be destabilising to people, which can create fear and insecurities. “Plus some managers may turn to micromanagement in times of doubt, which causes additional pressure on workers taking part in hybrid working,” says Thompson.
When employees are not physically located next to one another, there are fewer informal opportunities to connect with colleagues on a personal level. Although we have the technology available to communicate freely with remote workers, communication gaps can still crop up. Remote workers may find themselves missing out on important in-office conversations.
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Additionally, hybrid working requires managers and leaders to respect people’s boundaries on their "home" days. Employees may be expected to work longer hours instead of commuting, but this isn’t conducive to a healthy working environment.
“What employers and employees need to remember is working from home does not mean the employer has a right to anyone’s home — it has not become the property of the business,” says Thompson. “This new way of working involves mutual respect and trust. There are many reasons why working in this way can cause blurred boundaries if not addressed early.”
So what can workers and employers do to make the transition to hybrid working a little easier?
Work on clear communication
“Communication is crucial. Businesses and employers should be creating time and space to openly communicate fair and reasonable expectations for their teams,” says Thompson.
“Not focusing on productivity or log in/out times, but with paying attention to the wellbeing of people. If you get that right, the rest will follow. Happy workers do better work, which has been demonstrated over and over. Talk about isolation, talk about how to overcome, ask employees what they want, what would make them feel safe, how they feel about managing their life around their work and how can that work with the business so everyone benefits.”
Remember people have individual needs
Hybrid working can make it easier to strike the right work-life balance, but there will be times when working from home is difficult for some employees.
“Consider parents with children at home in the school holidays, how will that work? Talk about these things and allow honesty,” says Thompson. “And don’t do this once, have regular and relaxed check-ins with a culture of honesty and safety. This experience is new for everyone and so we must learn a new process together without fear.”
Prepare for office days
If you’re only in the office for two or three days a week, it’s important to make the most of the time. Schedule meetings for these days and organise coffees, lunches and after-work drinks so you can socialise with your colleagues. If you’ve already spoken in person, it will mean less time on Zoom or Teams on your home days.
Be honest about any challenges
Any work changes can lead to teething problems, but it’s essential to be honest about any challenges you encounter with hybrid working.
“Employees need to be honest and open despite any fears. If the change between the office and home-working isn’t right, then say so,” says Thompson. “This new way of working is undoubtedly a combined effort and needs willingness from both sides. “We’re all responsible for creating this brand new process and its success or failure will depend upon the courage of all.”
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