If you're making the transition to a hybrid schedule, there are a few challenges you'll need to overcome
June 7, 2023 - Hybrid work was born of the wild swings of the pandemic. It seemed we all went home to work, then we all came back to the office — only to be sent home again when another viral wave or variant began to surge. Eventually, we settled into a world where the hybrid model becap norm: Some workers remained fully remote, some returned to the office every day, but most began to split their time between the two locations.
Navigating this new state of "hybrid permanence" has its challenges. While entire books are being written on the subject, we've narrowed down what may be the five biggest roadblocks to adopting this model of modern work and how to remove those barriers:
One tool that can go a long way toward helping an organization understand just what they need to ready themselves for the transition to the modern hybrid work model is the Crestron Modern Work Readiness Score, an online survey that can help determine just which of the roadblocks below may need the bulk of your attention.
The first may likely be the toughest — a transition to a hybrid work model demands a change in mindset. And it's a change that starts in the C-suite.
A prime example is this exchange below from the Crestron blog. We asked Distribute Consulting — a firm that specializes in helping organizations make this very transition — the question: "Are some executives still reticent (as in, still harboring fears of remote workers "slacking"), or are we past that?"
When something has been done a certain way for a very long time, people can be very averse to changing — and where we work is no exception. Even though many businesses found that their staff was more productive while working from home during the pandemic, we still hear things like, "Well, how will I know if they are working?" It seems that, particularly in the last year, we are finding ourselves … talking to C-suites and again having to educate them on the future of flexible work. They are feeling the pressure from staff, their industry, and the world as a whole, and yet they still can't shake those old myths and outdated opinions.
Offering hybrid options, though, is absolutely critical to employee recruitment and retention, especially when it comes to younger workers. As Crestron notes in its recent analysis "At the Tipping Point: How Modern Work is Going Mainstream and Why Companies Need to Be Ready:"
[P]eople are unwilling to relinquish new freedoms they first tasted in the pandemic; for example, research by Nordic facilities company Coor in 2022 revealed that 41% of employees were willing to leave their job if not offered flexibility. This number increased to 51% among 18-30-year-olds.
Those stats aren't outliers. This report from McKinsey, for example, notes that finding a flexible work schedule — that hybrid blend of in-person and remote work — is one of the top reasons workers are looking for a new gig. The survey further found that most staffers will absolutely take advantage of a hybrid schedule if offered the chance, and most averaged three days of remote work and two days in the office setting weekly.
But don't sell off too much of that precious commercial real estate: A Unispace survey of European firms called the "The Reluctant Returner" (quoted in Crestron's "Tipping Point" analysis) found that "69% of 18-34-year-olds want to go back to the office on a full-time basis ... This could reflect a need to socialize after years of lockdown and remote working, as well as a need for learning and development or mentorship opportunities which have been lacking in recent years."
Clearly, a blend of remote workers and in-person staff on any given day is the ticket.
Crestron was an early adopter of the hybrid model. The team tasked with implementing the policies that ensured success worked with Distribute Consulting and began the audit process that was integral to the transition:
"We created employee lists and collaborated with the department managers to determine what roles can work hybrid, which ones definitely need to be on-site, and which ones could be fully remote?" says [VP of HR Operations Marcos Negron].
"We had to work a little bit closer with the managers to say, 'Hey, if Andrew and Marcos are doing the same job, why is Marcos designated as fully remote and Andrew has to be on-site?" says [Anthony Morin, EVP of corporate operations]. The process demanded complete transparency with each employee and their manager and considerations for coverage that kept some portion of every hybrid team on-site on a given day. The plan keyed on Wednesday as the prime day for in-office collaboration, and for, say, a team of 10, five would also come in Monday and Thursday, and the other five would add Tuesday and Friday to the three-day work week.
Employees were expected to sign contracts that outlined their individual agreements. Nothing was "squishy" about the process: "All the information was out there, in writing, from safety protocols to attendance expectations," says [Senior Director of Real Estate and Workplace Services Andrew Razgaitis].
Creating a successful culture for hybrid work goes beyond scheduling, however. In another article from the Crestron blog, we spoke with Karin M. Reed and Joseph R. Allen, Ph.D., authors of "Suddenly Hybrid: Managing the Modern Meeting." Reed and Allen lay out nine steps to ensure great collaboration when half a meeting's attendees are virtual, and half aren't. Their tips run the gamut from establishing what's known as a "speak up" culture (to help recognize every participant in a meeting no matter their locale) to creating a training program so that everyone understands both the "rules of engagement" and the technology that facilities a hybrid meeting — a real blend of hard and soft skills for the workplace.
There's a surprising benefit to this shift, too: Joseph Allen's research on the subject has concluded that hybrid meetings are actually superior to other types of collaboration. In this piece, Allen outlines how "hybrid meetings encourage more participation, less counterproductive meeting behavior, and greater inclusivity than other meeting modes." (It's an excellent counter to any "hybrid naysayers" mentioned in Roadblock Number One.)
The pressure of the hybrid model on the help desk shouldn't be underestimated. The challenge is creating a frictionless transition between the home office and the in-person experience. Is the employee shifting between a work and home desktop? Are they transporting a laptop back and forth? Is their monitor, keyboard, and mouse setup consistent? Are the proper security protocols in place on every network? Is there a desk scheduling system in place, or are some chairs simply empty three days a week? Has the team accounted for BYOD ("bring your own device") needs as employees (and guests) use outside gear for collaboration and presentation solutions?