Working in an office full-time can be a downer, but full-time remote work has its issues as well — such as social isolation and invisibility. The best approach is hybrid work, in which workplaces function more like college campuses, offering flexibility, along with places to collaborate and learn.
At least that’s the ideal. The reality is hybrid work can be more complicated.
Consider the stress of hunting down information. For more than three in four managers and employees, it means daily stress, a recent survey of 27,000 managers and workers across the globe, released by OpenText, finds. With ever-increasing number of data sources, difficulty finding information, and not having the right digital tools for hybrid work all impacting stress levels, performance, and job satisfaction for employees.
A large portion of respondents to the survey, 26%, say they have to use 11 or more accounts, resources, tools, and apps on a daily basis. In addition, 41% of employees say they spend an average of one or more hours per day searching company networks or shared systems for work files or information. That makes things tougher for hybrid workers.
“It remains to be seen where the balance between remote and office work will land, but there is no denying that hybrid will be a permanent feature going forward,” says Kim Fulton, principal for leadership, change, and organization at Kearney. “Employees have seen the value of increased autonomy and flexibility in their lives and employers are recognizing that productivity has remained steady or even improved with hybrid work.”
For hybrid employees, however, information-sharing issues are amplified. At least 43% of hybrid workers in the OpenText survey feel they “are not or are only somewhat equipped with the right digital tools” to work remotely. These workers feel that they face a broad range of other challenges with more than a quarter (26%) saying that they cannot collaborate or share files with colleagues as easily when they are working from home. Another 26% indicate they cannot access corporate file systems and content as easily when working remotely. Almost a quarter (21%) are struggling to carry devices between homes and offices.
Another barrier to hybrid work “is conducting asynchronous work synchronously,” says Amy Williams, head of people operations at Mission Lane. “When everyone was in the office at the same time, folks would be working on things at the same time and could easily pop over to a teammate’s desk to ask a question or discuss a project. We want our employees to be able to work independently and in the location where they thrive the most, but the challenge is making sure that synchronicity doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.”
Still, with extra care and attention, hybrid work can be accommodated — if things are kept in their proper perspective. “Thanks to the myriad of technology solutions that streamline communication and business processes — email, Teams, Asana, Target Process — we’re able to work in a hybrid and remote environment efficiently,” says Brian Macias, president of Embrace Pet Insurance. “But productivity is just one KPI in life and business. There’s something to be said for stopping to chat with a coworker in the hall or popping into their office to ask a couple quick questions. It beats 10 emails back and forth to get the same answers and it forges a more personal connection. As human beings, we need social bonds. We spend much of our week working, it’s natural that we create those connections with our team members, and that’s harder to do over Teams or video calls.”
The key to successful hybrid work “is applying a people-first approach and allowing individuals to work how they thrive,” says Williams. “For example, to tackle the asynchronous challenge, we encourage teams to set up online group meetings to do asynchronous work together, which enables employees to pick a colleague’s mind or get pulse-checks on ideas. Another challenge and opportunity to hybrid work is keeping employees connected to the company and its mission by supporting them holistically – and employers need to take this seriously.”