Blending the Best of Both Worlds: Navigating the Hybrid Work Landscape

Times are changing, and our work climate is no different. The tides are shifting more and more towards hybrid work, with 53% of people considering the transition in the forthcoming years

This shift can be largely attributed to the collective experience of the global population over the past couple years. Namely, from the start of COVID-19. Some call this shift “The Great Reshuffle”, where workers everywhere are changing the way they work and travel. This is especially evident within the Millennials and Gen Z, with other generations not too far behind.  

This means there’s now a big question hanging heavily over the heads of employers: What happens to the office? Companies have to figure out a way to meet their staff half-way by balancing staff expectations with the current unpredictable business environment. Leaders need to approach The Great Reshuffle head on, or risk being left behind.  

Employees are rethinking how they work 

It’s no secret that people’s priorities and perspectives have been remolded due to the previous 3 years. In Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index Annual Report, they found that 47% of individuals now put greater priority on family and personal life over work than they did prior to the pandemic. On top of this, 53% of respondents are more likely to value health and well-being over work. 

Microsoft’s data informs us that The Great Reshuffle is only just beginning. So, with our changing priorities, what are employees seeking when it comes to jobs? Positive culture (46%) is seen as the most vital, followed by mental health benefits (42%), a sense of purpose (40%), flexible hours (38%), and more than two weeks of annual vacation time (36%). 

After two years of remote work, there’s no denying that an adequate work and life balance is possible. For companies, it’s important that they give precedence to flexibility and personal well-being if they wish to gain a competitive advantage and push for long-term growth. 

Company leaders need to incentivise the office commute 

With hybrid work, the role of the office has transformed. Now, companies need to clearly define why, when, and how frequently staff should attend work in person. Each office is different, so a degree of trial and error is required before you find a routine that works for you.  

38% of hybrid employees say the biggest hurdle is understanding when and why to come to the office. Making matters worse, only 28% of organisation have formed team agreements and norms for hybrid work. The key is for leaders to learn and adapt based on what works for their team and establish clear team agreements.  

Alongside a clear routine, companies must accommodate for hybrid meetings. This includes adjusting in-person hardware, such as larger screens so everyone in the room can be present in the meeting. Another aspect to look at is software where everyone, including those present at the office, download group-call applications such as Microsoft Teams. This helps diminish the difficulties of long-distance and creates a shared experience. With 43% of hybrid workers and 44% of remote workers saying they don’t feel included in meetings, it’s vital for companies to create a suitable hybrid meeting environment.  

Understand and accommodate for flexible work 

Microsoft 365 accommodates for flexible work through its trillions of anonymised productivity signals; however, digital exhaustion is still a major issue for workers. Remote work has made work more accessible and flexible, but this can sometimes lead to a digital overload. 

For the typical hybrid or remote worker, Teams meetings and chat, workday length, and overtime work have increased. Meetings especially take up a bulk of that time, with the number of weekly Teams meetings having increased by 153% and overtime work by 28% since February 2020.  

To combat this, many individuals have taken control of their time by establishing clear boundaries through meeting-free work blocks and breaks. On top of this, people are using their vacation time a lot more, as seen by the 10% increase in out-of-office calendar blocks in the past year.  

Nevertheless, organisations can help reduce the digital load on their staff. There are several issues they’ll need to tackle: 

  1. Too many meetings, including back-to-back meetings. This diminishes your staff’s energy and greatly impacts their productivity. Try to look for opportunities for meetings to be emails and attempt to keep meetings as short as possible with breaks in between.  
  2. Emails outside of work hours. It’s important to place clear expectations with your team on response times for emails sent after work hours. You can also take advantage of Outlook’s delay delivery feature for emails sent outside of these hours. 
  3. Remote workers in different time zones. Sometimes, these varying time zones can clash and interrupt your employee’s workflow. Consider recording meetings and sharing any notes taken with invitees.  

Maintaining the work culture 

It goes without saying that remote and hybrid work impacts your employees’ interpersonal relationships. This is especially evident for remote workers, who tend to become isolated from their team. Bridging this gap and reconnecting employees within the organisation will not be easy; 43% of leaders answer that relationship-building is the biggest hurdle when it comes to remote and hybrid work.  

While hybrid workers haven’t had too much of an issue with remaining connected in the company’s social web, the same cannot be said for remote workers. Having a poor relationship with immediate team members can result in 14% less productivity, and more likely to change employers in the future. Company leaders need to step in and nurture the relationship between remote workers and the rest of the team. 

So, how can this be done? Well, the data shows that 48% of workers would prefer to spend more time networking as opposed to scheduling meetings and answering emails. By making room for networking-related activities, leaders will allow their staff to deepen interpersonal relationships. On top of this, they’ll also reap the benefits of social capital and drive a positive impact on the business.  

A final look at hybrid work 

It’s clear that the past couple of years has permanently changed the lifestyle and work habits of the global population. Company leaders need to understand and adapt to these changes otherwise they risk being left behind. It’s clear that hybrid and remote work are here to stay and with it comes a new array of hurdles and adjustments for organisations. 

Employees now place greater value on well-being and work flexibility, and giving them this agency is beneficial to them and the business. To cater to their needs and make hybrid work successful, leaders need to drive their work culture and recreate social capital for a digital team. Moreover, businesses should re-evaluate the new function of the office and establish practices that empower flexible work.  

Our team of experts have delivered over 40 AVD projects. If you need a hand modernising your workplace and getting your team up to speed with the most efficient remote working solutions, get in contact with our team now.