Hybrid Remote Working - The benefits and the challenges

Remote working is the current normality for many offices, but as organisations plan for their return to the office, many are considering a hybrid remote working plan to keep employees safe and productive.

There are benefits and challenges that must be considered when planning an effective hybrid remote working environment. So we are taking a look at the positives, and the negatives from adopting this model.


What is Hybrid Remote Working?

Simply put, hybrid remote working means giving some or all staff the option to work at home, or from a workspace of their choice, while also keeping office space available for those who want, or have to work in the office.

Working from home is a great option for those with a quiet workspace, the right equipment and a good internet connection. But many with families, housemates or people living alone may be craving a return to the office to escape distraction, to see colleagues and get back into office culture or just because they are more productive in the office.


Who is remote working right for?

Shielding and self-isolation requirements aside, this essentially comes down to two questions:

1.       Can the role’s responsibilities be carried out effectively remotely?

2.       Does the employee have the environment and tools to be productive?

This must be decided on a case-by-case basis by managers and team leaders and reviewed regularly. An employee may really enjoy remote working at first but start to crave contact and miss office culture after a while.

Mental health is being increasingly recognised as an important factor in motivation and productivity and with uncertain times ahead for both businesses and the public, isolated remote workers may benefit from a temporary return to the office for both a change of scenery and some much needed human interaction.

This is one of the major benefits of a hybrid remote working model. It gives organisations the flexibility to not only keep their staff safe and productive if remote working is right for them, but also to bring employees back into the more structured office environment if they are struggling.


Saving and Attracting Talent

With remote working now entering the global zeitgeist, many professionals in the future will look for roles in organisations that offer flexible remote working. This means that offering flexible and remote working will become increasingly important for attracting and retaining talent

Tech developer, Gitlab for instance, no longer have an HQ. They fully support remote working but if a team member wants to work in an office they will fund a shared office or working space. CEO Sid Sijbrandij recently wrote in Wired, “This avoids the complexities of having to cater to onsite and offsite employees. It also fosters a shared commitment to our unique way of operating and iterating to improve over time.”

Hybrid remote working done right can save organisations a lot of money with lower overheads on office space, equipment and utilities such as electricity and internet bandwidth.

And it provides them with an easy way to reduce their environmental impact, a big part of brand CSR and attaining accreditations such as some ISO standards. In the near future it’s possible this will also have an impact on rates and taxes as governments seek to reduce their countries environmental impact.


The Collaboration Culture Challenge

But hybrid working does bring its own challenges which organisations must be aware of and provision to tackle if they are going to make the model work for them.

One big challenge is how to maintain office culture and keep teams communicating effectively. Many organisations were already trying to tackle issues of inter-office communication and siloed teams. A full or part remote workforce makes this even harder without the right tools.

We’ve previously talked about how crucial it is to have the right video conferencing platform and collaboration tools in place, along with the importance of having everyone on the same platform, and maintaining familiar workflows.

But there is also an onus on staff and managers to drive communication and stay in touch. From a productivity point of view it’s crucial for clear and regular communication between team members.

But also from a mental health and motivational point of view it’s important that recognition and ideas still flow and that staff feel connected, included and part of the team. A quick scan through the Linkedin home feed provides lots of great inspiration for innovative ways teams are keeping culture alive using video to stay connected to their team members.


In Conclusion..

This is all new and unprecedented. It’s very hard to see far into the future at the moment and business leaders face huge challenges steering their organisations through the next year or so.

Remote working has got a lot of us through and may well become the new normal for many. Likewise if approached correctly, and supported with the right collaboration tools and attitudes, hybrid remote working could be hugely beneficial to some organisations.

But if not properly supported with the right tools, or the right approach it could quickly put some businesses into a difficult position. And with the unstable global market and economic downturn, staying flexible, agile and competitive will be key to surviving, recovering and flourishing after the global pandemic.