Home Business Insights & Advice Managing the challenges and opportunities of hybrid working

Managing the challenges and opportunities of hybrid working

by Sarah Dunsby
13th Dec 22 2:20 pm

Is your business in the throes of dealing with hybrid working, is it something you see as the future for your business? Has your business embraced it or are your still adapting? It’s certainly an arrangement that is helping businesses to become more agile and attract or retain quality staff members as they adapt to the post-COVID world.

Hybrid working brings many opportunities, but that doesn’t mean it’s without challenges. Yet, once you overcome these, you could have a perfectly balanced, agile and flexible team to give you better prospects to withstand anything the future may throw at you.

The challenges of hybrid working don’t just involve the mechanics of making it possible for people to work remotely. They include ensuring good levels of productivity and employee well-being too, all while focusing on the essential team-building aspects that generate ideas to make your business future-proof.

Other challenges include the inevitable workspace changes, which must be addressed should you wish to truly benefit from flexible, hybrid working. Should you downsize or repurpose spaces, and what should you do with surplus or infrequently used equipment?

Here we look at ways to adapt to hybrid and remote working in a flexible way that leave options open for whatever the future brings.

Space challenges and opportunities

The move to hybrid working means employees don’t have to live near the business premises, so your current staff may move on, but new employees may want office time. Or you might decide a hybrid approach is not working and wish to return to a full-time onsite presence. There is no one answer for different businesses and different industries.

If even a few of your staff move to hybrid working, you could find you have desks and equipment no longer in everyday use. If you don’t want to downsize and dispose of items just in case the situation changes, this can present a problem. Hybrid working is still in it’s infancy so it pays to keep options open. Don’t make any permanent or rushed decisions you could go on to regret.

Also consider whether unused workstations, space and equipment can make the workplace look disjointed and understaffed, damage morale and not look the best to visitors or prospective clients.

Commercial storage is increasingly becoming the solution for businesses that might be reluctant to dispose of their currently unused equipment or furniture. Storing items at a secure off-site storage facility enables businesses to move equipment they don’t need all the time out of the workspace, so they can either repurpose or downsize. Using business self-storage rather than warehouse space offers great flexibility for both long and short-term storage.

Teamwork challenges and opportunities

Even if some of your employees don’t rely on others to complete their work, they will often appreciate the camaraderie that time in the workplace brings. Losing this with hybrid working can cause low morale if time isn’t spent communicating and enforcing a sense of belonging. Many hybrid working environments use the space created as an opportunity to redesign and repurpose to give more social meeting places and communal areas so that employees can spend time keeping up the cohesion needed to work together when they do attend the office. Virtual meetings can work well in some situations, but they can also create an invisible barrier to brainstorming, new ideas and full and open communication. Physical time at the same workplace avoid these barriers and is also a chance for social interaction to boost morale. An employer who considers space and time for this will reap the rewards of happy and fulfilled employees who have the best of working remotely and in the office and are likely to be more productive and more content to stay with the company.

Management challenges and opportunities

Another challenge that may need adjustments  to how managers and leaders work is that they cannot always see exactly what each person is doing each day when not in the workplace. For this reason, it’s crucial to establish clear lines of communication and set boundaries and expectations. That way, everyone knows what is expected of them. Managers need to understand the different approaches needed to effectively manage, motivate and monitor from a distance, to maintain wellbeing and productivity at the highest possible level.

They must also recognise that some flexibility in the times people work from home can make for better work-life balance for employees. Plus, a quieter work environment often increases productivity as the distractions are fewer. Hybrid working can make time in the office feel less productive and more social, in some cases. Therefore, having effective methods to appraise productivity will help you to monitor overall output, so you can see and deal with deficiencies if any arise.

Final thoughts

Hybrid working has many benefits if implemented correctly and carefully. Decisions should be considered and flexibility to cope with future change should always be at the forefront of any decisions made. While hybrid working has many benefits to recommend it, it doesn’t work for every business. Therefore, it’s essential not to rush into taking any actions that could cost you dearly in the longer term, especially if you find that over time hybrid working doesn’t work for you and your staff.

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