Bob works in the office four days a week, has great rapport with his teammates, and is the first to hear about new work opportunities. Shirley works from home three days a week, has few work friends, and sometimes feels like she’s working in a void. Bob and Shirley work on the same hybrid team but have vastly different experiences.
This is a common issue hybrid work managers deal with. Hybrid workplace management is more complex than managing a fully remote or in-office team because managers need to cater to two sets of employees on a rotating basis.
As our conversations with three hybrid work managers revealed, most managers struggle to provide equitable experiences to both remote and in-office employees. More often than not, remote employees lose valuable facetime with managers and opportunities that often go to their in-office counterparts. What’s more, managing workplace logistics while working hybrid is tricky too.
Below, we discuss the most pressing challenges of hybrid workplace management and offer practical tips to overcome them.
1. Work-related communication is siloed Most organizations suffer from communication silos as teams fail to share important information with each other. Hybrid work adds to this problem, as information now exists in two silos: in-office and remote.
Aman Kandola, Director of Business Operations at Courier, said most pre-pandemic projects in his office relied on in-office brainstorming and discussion. As a result, absent employees missed important context for their work. The team made a conscious decision to document information when they went fully remote during the pandemic, but the challenge resurfaced when people started coming back to the office.
The Courier team isn’t the only one facing communication silos while hybrid working — 60% of remote workers reported missing out on work-related information because it was communicated in person.
How to get rid of communication silos in your hybrid workplace:
Continue remote-friendly communication policies, even as you adopt hybrid work, so both remote and in-office employees have access to information.
- Record every work-related conversation, including stand-up meetings and project status updates (Zoom allows recordings), and make them available for everyone.
- Post announcements, updates, and even praise for employees on public channels like open Slack groups for greater visibility. Each time an employee uses a private channel for a discussion that everyone would benefit from, request them to use public channels.
- Assign specific channels for different types of communication to avoid confusion. For instance, Slack is handy for quick updates and giving kudos, while email could be the preferred channel for weekly updates and company announcements.
- Use only one or two documentation platforms like Notion, Quip, or Tettra to document information, so employees can quickly search for information. Here are some templates to capture organizational knowledge you can use.
- Use video messaging tools like Loom to create quick feedback or instructional videos. For longer videos, Wistia’s Soapbox tool works well too.
2. Remote employees miss out on informal interactions
Employees working majority-remote have fewer opportunities for spontaneous chats with colleagues during coffee breaks or in the hallway. So, they fail to bond socially with colleagues, and this may affect their happiness at work.
Remote workers are also less likely to experience “Aha moments” or business breakthroughs sparked through social interactions.
How to facilitate more informal interactions in a hybrid workplace:
Lack of social interactions is a downside of fully remote work, so encourage employees to come to the office at least once a week or for certain events. As Bella Catling, Operations Coordinator at Resident Advisor (RA), shared with us, proactive communication has coaxed more employees to come to the office.
- Ask employees how you can help them maximize their in-office time. For instance, you could add more spaces for social gatherings, casual brainstorming, and collaboration.
- Host in-person happy hours and games to help teams bond.
- Use apps like Donut (a Slack add-on) that pair employees randomly for a watercooler chat on a weekly basis. This can help facilitate spontaneous interactions between employees, irrespective of location.
3. Hybrid events are more prone to glitches
It’s easy to imagine why hybrid events are more prone to hiccups. Hardware and software often break, disrupting the event for remote attendees. Also, some activities may best be conducted in person.
Take a baking class, for example. It’s easier to conduct the event either fully remote or in-person, with everyone in their own kitchens or together in the office kitchen. Conducting the event in hybrid format requires the chef to demonstrate the same activity whilst focusing on two sets of audiences, in-person and remote. Also, you need a robust camera set-up and large screens to relay the event, which most kitchens aren’t equipped with and cost money that may not be in the budget.
How to host successful events when going hybrid:
Loreal Torres, Chief People Officer at Vested suggests rethinking the format of events to ensure fewer hiccups. Make a list of work-related and cultural company events you organize.
- Assign a moderator for hybrid events (like a presentation). The moderator can watch Zoom (or another video tool) for questions and comments from remote attendees. They can also relay comments from in-person attendees. This ensures both remote and in-person attendees are equally engaged, and the experience is as seamless as possible.
- For events best conducted in-person, make attendance optional so employees aren’t inconvenienced.
- For hybrid events, incorporate real-time polling, whiteboarding tools like Miro, and chat emojis to keep remote attendees engaged.
- Use hybrid event tools like Socio to manage registration, live streaming, and engagement.
- For activities easily replicable in a remote format—like a yoga session—conduct separate remote and in-person versions, so hosts only have one type of audiences to cater to.
- If possible, conduct events in two to three time slots to accommodate varying schedules.
- Prepare a post-events report for each event to note glitches and brainstorm ways to avoid them.
4. Remote employees have limited access to career growth opportunities
Managers often suffer from proximity bias — a tendency to look favorably at employees they see regularly and ignore the skills of those further away. As a result, managers may end up awarding new projects and promotions to employees with more in-office time.
A 2019 paper in Organization Science found that more face time with managers resulted in better outcomes for employees.
How to provide equal opportunities, irrespective of in-office time:
There are several ways to promote equal opportunities in the hybrid workplace. The most important one is to get managers and leaders to work from home more often. As Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora, explains, this prevents the office from becoming the “real headquarters” where your most lucrative opportunities and projects exist. Then look for other ways to promote fairness and equitability
- Open new work opportunities to everyone, not just those present in the office. Post opportunities in public Slack groups or announce them as part of company updates.
- Track employee promotions with respect to how often they come to the office.
- Run anonymous surveys to collect direct feedback from employees and take necessary corrective measures.
5. Traditional office design is unsuitable for hybrid work
Traditional offices have lots of desks and open-plan space, with limited spaces for team meetings. This doesn’t work for hybrid teams, as employees need more spaces for planned or spontaneous collaboration, individual meetings or calls, and deep work.
Resident Advisor experienced this shortcoming with office design firsthand when their newly hybrid employees were forced to take calls on the stairs or near the printer where it was quieter due to lack of space for these activities.
How to design an office suited for hybrid work:
Make a list of common in-office activities to gauge the types of spaces you need to add for hybrid work.
- Consider redesigning your office with more conference rooms for calls, casual seating for brainstorming, and spaces for deep work and one-on-one meetings.
- Be sure to add facilities for specific tasks like phone rooms or quiet places to help employees be more productive in the office.
- Implement hot desking, which is an arrangement where employees don’t have fixed desks and sit at an available desk when they arrive for work.
- Repurpose space saved through hot desking for other activities. For instance, Reddit has revamped their office space to include more casual, coffee shop-style seating, private spaces for focused work, and large bookable spaces for collaboration.
6. Workspace scheduling is inefficient
Tracking in-office attendance with tools like spreadsheets gets cumbersome, especially for large teams. Employees also find it difficult to manage bookings for conferences and phone rooms with tools like Google Calendar, which aren’t built for desk booking.
But tracking office usage matters too — it helps avoid overcrowding or underutilization of office space. Also, visibility into office attendance helps employees better plan collaborative activities.
How to make workspace scheduling efficient:
Use a desk booking software like Officely to track when employees come to the office, to optimize the use of office space, and to boost collaboration.
Desk booking apps also show employees the availability of desks and meeting rooms and let them book spaces in advance to avoid last-minute hassles.
Simplify hybrid workplace management with our hybrid work checklist
Transitioning to hybrid work can get messy. Before you jump in, make a plan for your employees and office to ensure success.
We’ve created an easy-to-follow outline that will show you how to gauge employee readiness for hybrid work, work through legal considerations, and create hybrid-friendly work policies. Download our hybrid work checklist to avoid the pitfalls most managers face.