The hybrid work model offers many benefits for both employers and employees. However, these environments don’t come without challenges.
For the past 16 months, working from home was the norm. And for a while, it didn’t seem like returning to the office would ever be an option. But as the world begins to reopen and more employees receive vaccinations, more companies are taking a hybrid approach to work.
According to Gartner’s recent report, they predict that up to 48% of the workforce will remain in remote work or hybrid model situations where many employees are working remotely at least some of the time. And a significant number of employees have reported feeling more productive in a hybrid working environment.
Knowing that most enterprises will be changing to this model of work through the end of 2021 and likely well into the future, we can’t ignore that this work model comes with its own challenges and considerations for CIOs.
Gartner outlines 4 challenges of hybrid work
The hybrid work model offers many benefits for both employers and employees, including cost savings on office space while maintaining some level of in-person face time. However, these environments don’t come without challenges.
CIOs will face a few obstacles as they tackle this new way of working, specifically:
- Lack of sufficient productivity, document sharing, and collaboration tools to make remote work feasible
- Logistical hurdles created by in-person versus remote meetings, or a merge of the two
- Standardization of digital tools and processes across multiple corporate and home offices
4 key areas to address when implementing a hybrid working environment
As CIOs start planning for this work style, Gartner suggests they address these four key areas:
Pre-COVID, most offices had open floor plans to enhance communication and collaboration across teams. While this setup may change in our new world of work, Gartner reminds us that enterprises still need to make space for the natural collaboration and innovation that comes from employees engaging with one another.
In a hybrid work model, CIOs should consider the following to ensure agile workflows and collaborative environments:
- Identify tasks, processes, and activities that require dialogue and discussion, using the pre-pandemic, in-person experience as a baseline.
- Determine which of those tasks and processes — from training to knowledge sharing — employees were able to continue doing successfully while working from home.
- Learn from that success, and make the processes and tools that made it possible available enterprise-wide.
- Address what hasn’t worked well while working from home (i.e. in-person knowledge sharing and brainstorming) ways to make it work better for remote employees.
2. Your team’s psychological needs
While working remotely certainly has its advantages, it can also leave employees feeling disconnected. The lack of social engagement and in-person meetings can be difficult. So, how do you achieve the right mix to keep your team members happy and engaged? Gartner suggests the following:
- Identify how your employees have typically stayed socially and professionally engaged with one another.
- Work with your team to create a “connection or contact strategy” that provides a balance of virtual and in-person engagement.
- Develop and try a variety of approaches to promote virtual employee interaction, whether that means implementing online drop-in sessions or scheduling virtual socials.
- Mix it up by ensuring engagement opportunities are varied and interesting. It’s easy for a monthly virtual social to feel stale. Keep new engagement options meaningful with buddy systems, mentoring opportunities, and team-based professional development.
3. Use of office space
With more organizations adopting the hybrid work style, the office isn’t what it used to be. Maybe only a small percentage of employees have to work on-site all the time, meaning a company may not need to lease as much office space. Or perhaps the office has become primarily a place for meetings and events. In this new hybrid working environment, it’s important to give the office workspace a value that differentiates it from the home office.
Gartner recommends the following:
- Consider making the office a destination and event space for training, professional development, important team meetings, TED-type talks, or social events.
- Establish dedicated collaboration spaces for both large groups and small teams.
- Create open and safe communal areas for socialization.
- Set up a hot desk environment that makes it easy for any member of the team to use the corporate office when needed.
- Think about employees who are working from home part time. Put together packages of office furniture and tools they can use in their home office, and outline what they must have for their remote workspace.
One of the most critical challenges is ensuring integrity — of data, security, and even internet connections. If your organization has employees working in an array of environments, risk of data breaches, communication breakdowns, and confidentiality becomes higher than when everyone is working in the same corporate office using the same communication devices and software.
Here’s how to ensure integrity of your organization’s proprietary information and client data:
- Review each employee’s workspace from a risk perspective, and determine if you need to make changes to it.
- Persistently reinforce organization policies on security, confidentiality, and liability.
- Confirm employees understand that communications with clients are confidential.
- Encourage transparency, and make sure company guidelines on business ethics are clear and easy to understand.
- Establish back-up plans for situations where remote workers lose lines of communication due to power outages or internet service issues.
The better CIOs can prepare their organizations for hybrid work, the more nimble their enterprises will be. Learn more Gartner insights to stay up to date on the latest enterprise-critical digital transformation initiatives for CIOs and IT leaders.