Alexandra Kozma of VCC Live discusses the pros and cons of hybrid working.
The events of 2020 forced most of us to work remotely. But in some cases, remote work was not an option – or simply not a preference – so the hybrid working model got more popular than ever before.
What Is Hybrid Working?
Hybrid working means that, in general, some members of your team work from the company office, while others work remotely some, or every, day of the week.
The choice between the two can depend on many factors: where the employee feels more productive and happy, the type of work they do, the distance from the office, disabilities, the company’s preferences and so on.
While this form of working is not new, most companies only just started adopting this model in the past year.
In many cases, the company had to adopt this new model overnight, due to the restrictions of COVID-19, without already having an established system in place.
There’s still a lot to figure out to overcome its challenges and make it work for every member of the team.
Thinking about switching to this model long term? Here are some of the main benefits and challenges of hybrid working to be aware of.
Benefits of Hybrid Working
Renting an office space, the utility costs, and providing all the necessary items and facilities to accommodate all the members of a company are expensive and limit fast growth. This is especially true for international teams that would need an office in each country.
The cost of daily commute and employee catering can also be lower if only a small number of people work from the office.
Happier Employees, Increased Productivity
We all have different personalities. Some prefer to work alone, while others can’t live without the buzzing office life.
Studies show that remote workers tend to be happier because they can focus better, get more done, and have a better work-life balance.
Remote work can eliminate a number of stressors too. Contact centres are often in noisy open-plan offices with no personal space and way too much distraction, which only adds to the already stressful nature of working in a contact centre.
That being said, some people have a stronger need to be social during the workday, and working remotely can make them feel lonely and unmotivated. Or, in some cases, the working conditions are not ideal at home due to distractions or lack of space. Having an office to go to is a great solution.
The company can tend to different needs and personality types, which improves employee satisfaction.
Everybody wins: happy employees are more productive and more loyal to their companies.
Saving Time and Stress on Commuting
Commuting to work tends to make employees even more anxious than the work itself. Sleep deprivation due to the extra time needed to travel; the noisy traffic, delays and other unexpected situations can make workers feel miserable, and recently, there’s the rising fear of catching an illness.
According to The Washington Post, the average commute is around 26 minutes one way, which means that we spend nearly 9 days of our lives per year commuting back and forth.
Reading, listening to podcasts or catching up with friends who share the ride with us can be great ways to pass the time, but it’s not always possible.
Getting rid of the daily commute saves up time for personal life and recharging, or even just catching up on sleep, which makes your employees healthier, more relaxed, balanced, and therefore more productive at their work.
Hiring Without Borders
Another great benefit of hybrid work is that you can expand your team without any limitations.
Do you need an agent that speaks a language at a native level or can cover a different shift? You can add any talent to your team without worrying about the distance from the office.
Remote Work Is an Option, Not an Obligation
Unless the commute would need to involve plane tickets, your employees can still decide to work from the office when it’s more convenient. Some employees might want to work from home every day, while others would prefer to be remote only three days a week.
With the hybrid work model, you can let team members work where they feel most productive. Those who need peace and quiet to focus can stay home and those who thrive better at the office have a place as well.
As long as it’s possible to get the work done either way, the hybrid working model allows the employees flexibility.
The Challenges of Hybrid Working
Communication Can Get Messy
When a team is used to working from the same location, it can be difficult to adapt to a new channel of communication.
The information from an in-person meeting might not get to the remote workers right away, and if they work from a different time zone or have a more flexible schedule than those who go to the office between 9 and 5, the response time can get even longer.
If the in-house team has to wait hours for their remote colleagues to approve an idea or get started on a project, it can slow down everybody’s work.
A solution to this problem is to stick to one channel of communication. Host every meeting online and record them, even for those that work in the office, and have every message go through the company’s own communication platform. This can make processes more efficient for every member of the team, because this way no information gets lost.
Many companies have chat rooms even for water cooler conversations that helps keep the human aspect of conversations as well.
Working Conditions Outside of the Office
Remote work might not be possible for some of your employees, but they might also be living too far away to be able to go to the office.
Maybe there isn’t enough space in their homes, or the internet connection is weak, so the calls they make keep dropping.
If a remote workforce is important for your business due to the location, language, or saving office maintenance costs, consider covering the internet bill or monthly co-working space membership fees of your employees.
Isolation From the Rest of the Team
When remote workers hear inside jokes, fun stories about office life and the spontaneous after-hour get-togethers, it’s easy to feel like they’re missing out and will never truly be part of the team.
Building strong relationships is harder online. Employees tend to feel that it’s harder for their opinion to be heard, because they will never just randomly run into their superiors by the coffee machine.
It might be easier to get a promotion for those who meet their bosses regularly in person, simply because they get more chances to show who they are and how they work.
It’s the company’s responsibility to acknowledge this and find solutions so that remote workers also feel included.
Organizing brainstorming sessions online, encouraging employees to share their opinions, having regular 1-on-1 feedback sessions with everyone, throwing Zoom parties and organizing company-wide meetups in different locations can all be great ways to tackle this problem.
You can encourage those colleagues that live nearby to work from the office every now and then, so they don’t miss out on connecting with the rest of the team.
With everyone working from a different network, keeping company data safe can be a challenge. Your remote employees might connect to the open Wi-Fi in the coffee shop they work from or have their laptop stolen. It’s crucial that your IT team takes some steps to provide maximum security.
This could be regulations like installing VPN on every device, making the use of two-factor authentication compulsory, encouraging work from mobile data rather than public Wi-Fi, restricting access to data and controlling company devices.