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Hybrid Work: Definition and Challenges

hybrid work: definition and challenges
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Roughly three quarters of French employees say they would like to adopt a hybrid work method. Such is the conclusion of this Adecco Group study published in June 2020. Although it has already been around for several years, hybrid work (i.e. the combination of office and remote work) is now gaining ground. In fact, the crisis has forced companies to question their organizational model, and to consider new ways of collaboration

And if some are now turning to full remote operations, for the majority a mixed method seems to be the best compromise. Let’s look at the different challenges of the hybrid work model, as well as how management, human resources and internal communication can address it.

[This article is taken from our White Paper “Future of Work: Here Comes Hybrid Work! “>>> access the full white paper for FREE]

What is hybrid work?

There are several models of hybrid work. In some companies, teleworking (from home or from a third place) is limited to one day a week. In others, the share of telework and office work is more balanced. Sometimes, the employee can even choose the pace he or she wants to adopt. 

Also read: [Expert Voice] Bertrand Duperrin: Toward a Hybrid Work Model

Hybrid work can be combined with other working modes such as flex office, co-working or smart office. Hybrid employees therefore don’t necessarily have their own offices on company premises. Their space and working hours are more flexible than those of an employee working only on site, which allows them to be more productive

According to a 2018 OBERGO survey, 86% of French employees say they are more productive thanks to teleworking. This trend is also confirmed by a 2020 Airtasker survey which found that teleworking employees work 1.4 days more per month than those working in an office.

This hybrid way of working implies integrating the physical and digital workspaces: this is what we call phygital work. Since the 2000s, the phygital concept has been used in retail to designate a seamless shopping experience between the store and the e-commerce site. Used today in the professional sphere, this neologism testifies to the need to operate with more agility.

In the world of work, “phygital” means the possibility of working in the same way, whether one is physically present or remote (thanks to digital technologies). Phygital is therefore a concept that fits perfectly with hybrid work and facilitates collaborative work between teams, whether remote or on site.

Also read: Marie-Christine Lanne: “All Digital, so all phygital!”

The challenges of hybrid work

Hybrid working presents several challenges for companies. 

Access to information

Facilitating access to information is one of the key challenges of hybrid organizations. Indeed, if information is not sufficiently organized, employees may have difficulty accessing it, resulting in wasted time, wrong decisions, and misunderstandings between colleagues. To work in good conditions, employees must be able to share and access all the information they may need, regardless of its source. A challenge that can be addressed by an enterprise social network.

Also read: Webinar Summary: “Better Information-Sharing for Better Decision-Making”

Communication

Communicating as a team is often more difficult when the team is in part or at times remote. Indeed, exchanges are often less spontaneous—even less frequent—when the team is scattered across different locations. Whether formal or informal, interactions must therefore be more organized in a hybrid work mode.

In addition, a hybrid team cannot rely solely on oral communication. It must develop a written culture to ensure that information and decisions are shared by all employees, whether or not they have attended a specific meeting. 

Management

As you can understand, managing a hybrid team is more complicated than managing a team you see every day. Indeed, it is no longer possible to evaluate each employee’s work according to the time he or she spent on a task. This is why we are witnessing the rise of a results-based culture, which emphasizes the work accomplished and the resulting deliverables.

To keep his or her teams motivated and committed, the manager must organize meetings more regularly with each of his collaborators, and give priority to live communication modes (for example: chat rather than e-mail, and videoconferencing rather than telephone) in order to make communication more fluid. Of course, these exchanges should not be limited to one meeting per week. Collaborating remotely means maintaining close contact with your teams, even if it’s just to ask how they are doing, or to check if they need help with a specific project. Regular communication is the way to go.

IT security

According to a study by the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, more than 80% of employees admit to using IT solutions without the agreement of their IT department. This phenomenon, also known as shadow IT, can have serious consequences for companies: according to Gartner, one third of all IT attacks in 2020 will result from it.

Also read: Shadow IT: The Sword of Damocles Hanging over Companies

When employees work remotely, these shadow IT practices tend to intensify, which can increase cyber security risks. It is therefore the responsibility of the IT department to ensure that employees have everything they need to work efficiently and securely, no matter where they are.

The employee experience

Because of its flexible nature, hybrid work also tends to blur boundaries between work and private life. The risk here is that employees may lose motivation, find themselves isolated, or even feel compelled to be available 24 hours a day.

The company must therefore attach particular importance to each stage of the employee experience, and this especially includes integration and follow-up. For example, a support system can be set up for employees who feel the need, regardless of their level of seniority. 

Also read: The Employee Experience: Chatbots at the Service of Employees

Cohesion

Keeping in touch with colleagues is not always easy for hybrid workers. According to a Malakoff Humanis study carried out in 2020, 40% of teleworkers notice a deterioration of the quality of their relationships with coworkers.

An employee who cannot see his colleagues every day is therefore more likely to find himself or herself isolated than an employee who show up at the office every day.

According to the 2019 Paris Workplace study, teleworking even doubles the feeling of isolation. A lack of human contact that can lead to a loss of cohesion in the team, as well as a drop in motivation. To prevent this risk, communication is of course essential, both on the employee and company sides. Fostering the creation of links between employees is therefore a key issue for companies, as is strengthening the proximity between managers and their teams.

The importance of informal exchanges

When a company switches to a hybrid working model, informal exchanges may tend to disappear. Human resources and management must therefore do their utmost to recreate this type of communication remotely, for example by setting up team building initiatives.

Face-to-face interactions should not be neglected either, as it is essential for building relationships between employees. The challenge is to find the right balance between physical and virtual activities.

Business culture

The ultimate challenge in this change in working methods is maintaining a unified business culture. Little by little, we risk seeing the emergence of two different business cultures: the office culture and the virtual one.

To avoid these drifts, the company must break down organizational silos and encourage regular interaction among employees, and in an organized way. For example, it can bring all employees together on a collaborative platform to facilitate exchanges between employees working at the office and remotely.

Also read: 5 Best Practices for Keeping Your Company Culture Alive While Remote

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The implementation of hybrid work brings many challenges for the company, its managers and employees. Fortunately, a solution exists to facilitate this transition: accompanying this change with collaborative tools that smooth the way for information sharing and bonding between team members.

Also read: How to Choose the Right Collaborative Tool?

Access White Paper

This article is excerpted from our White Paper “Future of Work: Here Comes Hybrid Work!“, where you will discover: the 8 main challenges of hybrid work; the best practices to follow for managers, HR, internal communication, IT and employees; as well as the tools to implement to facilitate hybrid working.


Author: Emmanuelle Abensur


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