During the pandemic, offices shut down and employees were forced into remote work life. For some, this was a welcomed change. Many employees had been requesting remote work options for years leading up to the pandemic. For others, it was a tough transition away from their normal office routines.
For leadership, the sudden and rapid shift required quick adaptations and policy changes. New technology had to be sourced, purchased and implemented, and teams had to figure out a new cadence in a remote work setting.
Now, as things return back to normal, many companies are requesting that their employees return to the office. However, for much of the workforce, this invitation back to the office hasn’t been welcomed. According to Gallup’s 2021 State of the Workforce study, 91% of employees who were able to work remotely due to the pandemic wish to continue doing so.
To meet employees in the middle, some companies have turned to an alternative solution—hybrid work. Hybrid work mixes remote work and in-office work together to, theoretically, provide ultimate flexibility.
However, hybrid work is not without flaws, and, for many, hybrid work has actually turned out to be more exhausting than in-person or remote work on its own. In fact, 80% of human resources executives report that their hybrid systems are actually exhausting for employees. Take a look at what can make or break the success of hybrid work for your business.
Why hybrid work can lead to exhaustion
Hybrid work sounds like the ideal blend between in-person and remote work. This style of work allows employees to continue to work from home at certain times while returning to work in the office part-time.
Unfortunately, while it sounds all very nice in theory, hybrid work can quickly lead to exhaustion and even burnout for varied reasons. The following are all reasons why hybrid work might not be as successful for your company as you had hoped:
1. Continually working in a state of flux
In some situations, hybrid work leaves employees exhausted from working in a continual state of flux. Employees might need to undock and bring home laptops and other workstation items each time they leave the office. Then, they need to set up their workstation at home, only to tear it all down and try to remember to bring along important components to the office the next day.
This can be an annoying extra task and may lead to inefficiency. Employees are continually starting and stopping what they are doing as well as wasting copious amounts of time setting up and tearing down workspaces.
Not only that, but daily routines don’t stay the same. This leads to a lack of consistency in daily life, which can be frustrating and tiring.
2. Having unclear expectations
One of the number one reasons why employees get burned out by hybrid work is because of unclear expectations. When hybrid work is rolled out without clear policies and guidelines in place, it can leave employees confused. This becomes a particularly messy situation when different managers give different answers to the same question.
If employees aren’t sure when they are supposed to work from home and when they are expected in the office, or what they are expected to accomplish in both settings, it can lead to difficult situations where employees fail to meet an expectation of which they weren’t aware in the first place.
3. Feeling disconnected from coworkers and the company
Moving between in-office and at-home work can leave employees feeling more disconnected than ever from their companies and coworkers. Communication can quickly break down, and employees might no longer spend as much time collaborating with one another as before.
This is particularly problematic when it is unclear what channels should be used for communication. Some people might be having conversations directly with each other in the office, while others are using digital channels to talk. Important information can quickly be lost in the mix, and key players can be left out of decision-making processes.
This can also create an imbalance in mentorship and networking. Those who are in the office more frequently might get more face-time with the boss. Those who spend more time at home might begin to feel disconnected and left out.
4. Being frustrated by desk options
When everyone worked in-office, employees usually had their own dedicated workspaces. Every day, they arrived at the same desks and the same setups. This made it easy to quickly start the day.
In some cases, hybrid work involves a rotating desk or open-space plan. Employees must find a desk when they arrive or sign up through an online platform to request a specific space. This can be irritating when there is a lack of availability. No one wants to show up to the office only to fight for a spot to sit down and work.
How to make hybrid work successful
Hybrid work can be exhausting, however, it doesn’t have to be. There are ways in which leadership can create a successful hybrid work environment.
1. Ask employees what they want
Start by surveying your employees to determine whether or not hybrid solutions are the right fit for your team. If employees indicate an interest in hybrid work, dig deep into what they believe that will look like. This can help you align expectations and prevent miscommunication early in the process.
2. Establish clear policies
In order to balance what your employees want and what the business needs, take the time to establish and communicate clear policies to every team member. Items you should cover in your hybrid work policies include:
- Expectations around scheduling. Will employees set their own hybrid schedules? Will their managers dictate when they show up? Are there specific requirements that have to be met? Make sure your policy details this information clearly.
- How communication should take place. With people working both in-office and from home, where should teams go to talk about projects? If someone has a conversation in the office, how should that information be translated to remote employees?
- Whom the policies apply to and why. You might not be able to offer the same remote flexibility to every department and team. If you are going to be operating with multiple styles of work, make sure everyone understands where they fall in relation to expectations.
3. Find the right technology for your team
It is incredibly important to keep information and communication standardized and synchronized. Make sure that you have the right technology in place for both in-person and remote employees to be successful. This should allow for collaboration that is seamless from any location and should make project management easier for blended teams.
4. Create culture in creative ways
Hybrid work doesn’t need to result in a disconnected workforce. In fact, there are companies that have operated as fully remote from day one. These companies are using creative ideas to instill company culture and connection.
For hybrid work, consider hosting an in-person event once a month where everyone comes to the office on the same day. Schedule face-time with remote employees and consider a virtual post-work event. Make sure that during onboarding, employees have the chance to connect with coworkers and that company values are clearly defined and reinforced.
Hybrid work holds a lot of promise. However, for many employees, a poorly executed hybrid style of work is more exhausting than remote or in-person options. Pay attention to your own workforce and look for ways to create a better approach.