Events in 2020 have certainly flipped the tables on businesses. Having a remote workforce went from being an option to almost mandatory in just the span of months. Managers had to adjust their strategies on how to handle their teams in this “new normal”.
Yet while there were growing pains and concerns at first, team members and management have started settling into the rhythm of remote work. Others have adopted a temporary hybrid workforce setup. This begs the question: what happens once we can all start going out again?
For most team members, it would be a no-brainer. Having the option to work from home regularly is beneficial for them. They can avoid the daily commute, or not have to rent expensive housing near work to avoid the said commute. That in itself saves both time and money.
Businesses have a lot more to consider on their plate. Some companies are open to going full remote due to this years’ experience. Others are still hesitant or lack the capacity to do so. Yet not offering remote options or having the management and IT infrastructure for it could potentially hurt your company’s future.
Which is why there are those who say, why not get the best of both worlds? Thus, the idea of the Hybrid Workforce has been pushed to the forefront. But is it really the best option, and how will it affect your current management workflows?
The Benefits of a Hybrid Workforce
Having a hybrid workforce can be beneficial to both business owners and their team members, if done right. Here are some of the ways you can make the most of having the best of both worlds:
Flexibility at Work
First and foremost, having a hybrid workforce provides flexibility. For team members, this flexibility allows more freedom and autonomy to do their work. This has led to increased work efficiency in a lot of cases observed by top businesses, much to everyone’s surprise.
What was not surprising is the increased morale of team members. It has also changed the purpose of work and certain aspects of work culture. By being more output-driven rather than working at a set time, they now had the option to work at their optimal conditions.
This is not to say the traditional office space has no merits. Having a place to meet for work and socialize with fellow team members improves camaraderie and the tendency to work better as a team. While you can also foster camaraderie in a remote workforce setup, there’s still that slight edge of being physically together and communicating face to face.
Ideally, a hybrid workforce has the best of both worlds: structure and sociability on one hand, and independence and flexibility on the other. The trick is to strike the balance between those two.
Less Carbon Footprint and Reduced Office Spaces
Going hybrid will also affect how companies handle logistics. With most of the people at the company working from home on certain days, the need for larger office spaces to accommodate everyone has lessened.
That said, there is still a need for a physical office space. You need a place to host meetings once or twice a week or to access resources with sensitive information. You’ll also need the space to keep your IT infrastructure and other physical files like paperwork and such.
With the rise of hybrid office spaces, gone are the need for bulky PCs and cubicles. As most companies have shifted to issuing office devices to team members during the mandatory work from home this year, it would make sense to just shift office spaces to a more collaborative setting. That way, team members can just take a free space available, and not have a specific spot for themselves that would probably be empty for most of the week.
Having a hybrid workforce also means less carbon footprint for the company. Firstly, there’s the fact that everyone doesn’t have to commute as often as they did. This means fewer smoke emissions and reduced oil consumption. There would be less electricity consumed, and less up-time for centralized AC or heating. This would be a big thing, especially for companies who have team members on the premises on different shifts of the day.
The Downsides of a Hybrid Workforce
As companies are still exploring and experimenting with the concept of a hybrid workforce, it is normal to have growing pains and issues. Some might appear on a case-to-case basis, but here are some that companies might encounter in general.
Office Dynamics of the Hybrid Workforce
For some critics, a hybrid workforce may also have a built-in inclusion problem. According to them, under a hybrid model, a head office will always have a significantly larger share of power. Because of that, office regulars will have the edge over home workers in terms of visibility to superiors.
Another issue is how companies can build better camaraderie within their team members, especially if the schedule for coming to the office in the hybrid setting does not often match. This might leave some team members feeling more isolated rather than fostering an independent mindset.
Some suggest to just go full remote, dismissing the hybrid workforce as a “half-measure”. They say that going hybrid will just cause confusion and discord for team members and higher management alike.
If not planned properly, this kind of structure would have neither the interaction of face-to-face work nor the even-handedness that a fully remote workforce can aspire to. Worse, it may even spawn a divide between people mostly working in-office versus remote team members.
Quality of Work
One of the arguments to be made is the quality of work that will result from a remote workforce. Worries on interruption caused by technical and connectivity issues, as well as distractions at home were some of the concerns that needed to be addressed. Yet as more data rolled in, it turned out that it led to higher productivity.
So then, why not go full remote? It depends on the business, particularly if their whole process and workflows can transition to going full remote. If it can, then congratulations. For businesses that cannot go fully remote, either because of resources or to keep sensitive data secure, a well-established hybrid workforce is still a viable option.
Security and IT
Another topic naysayers tout is the security issues involved with having a remote workforce. While accessing files over the web can seem daunting, there are numerous ways to secure these types of information transfers.
From commercial VPN to providing secure devices with built-in protocols for company network access, we have come a long way with remote work Cybersecurity. Of course, nothing beats being vigilant when using your remote workstation. All the security in the world cannot protect from human error, so people must be held accountable for their company’s security measures at all times.
With the shift to a hybrid workforce, maintaining a network that can accommodate both remote access and in-house access has become the main concern. There will be an inherent need to have remote access on par with local access to the network. If more team members are going remote, they might need to boost remote access without sacrificing quality on the local side.
How to Make the Hybrid Workforce Helpful rather than Harmful
As we have said at the beginning, growing pains and issues are unavoidable when trekking into new territory. As you streamline your process and finish your adjustments, those concerns will eventually fade and you can enjoy the full benefits of having a well-established system. Here are some ways you can make a hybrid workforce helpful for your company rather than being a hindrance:
Communication is Important More than Ever
As your team members will not be accessible and within your line of sight at all times, establishing constant communication with them will be paramount to making things work.
This doesn’t mean that you need to micromanage them. A sense of autonomy, after all, is one of the things you should be nurturing with your team. Keeping in touch shows your team that you are aware of their efforts, whether they are in the office or working remotely.
If half or a majority of the team is remote, it would be best to have the in-office team log in to the web conferences on separate devices rather than being in one conference room. Having one group in one location and others in different remote locations might unintentionally foster an us-versus-them atmosphere.
Don’t Just Drive Right In to a Hybrid Workforce Setup
Before initiating your new hybrid workforce protocols and workflows, make sure that everyone is up to speed.
Team members need training on new or updated workflows and policies, especially with regards to security. Managers should also make themselves familiar with new approaches on how to handle a remote and in-office team at the same time and how to avoid bias for one or the other.
Having some training modules in place for new hires will also help them ease into your system seamlessly. Better to have them handy rather than having to explain everything to them only once they hit the floor.
Workplace culture plays a huge factor in talent acquisition and retention. As such, some had stated concerns about losing corporate culture from the traditional workplace. This year, the priorities have certainly shifted, and so should one’s company culture.
Now is the time for companies to invest in their team members’ well-being if you haven’t done so before. If you have, then double down even further and let your team members know that their continued well-being is not just a perk of working for you, but a core belief of your company.
One way of doing so is by introducing or improving policies that drive long-lasting positive impact. This can include regular team member-manager check-ins, recognizing team members for their hard work, or stating clearly that working remotely is not just an emergency option but a viable plan for the future.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this article. If you wish to share your thoughts about having a hybrid workforce, feel free to share them in the comments below. You can also reach us via Facebook or Twitter to let us know what you think about having a distributed workforce and how it can benefit your business.
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