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Part Two: The 7 Biggest Challenges to Hybrid Work

Hybrid workplace
Brendan O'Neil
Published on

In part one of this two-part post, we detailed the big challenges to hybrid work around trust, necessary changes to management, and supportive tools and technology. In this second post, we’ll explore challenges around determining in-office frequency, differing understandings of what hybrid work actually means, use cases for the hybrid office, and the evolving future of hybrid work. Let's get to it.

Challenge #4: Finding the Right Frequency Of In-Office Coming Together

As I see it, there are two separate lanes to consider regarding how often people should be coming into the office: (1) the team frequency and (2) the individual frequency. The team frequency should be outlined by the mid-level manager setting expectations and defining a playbook with the team, aligned with organizational goals (see challenge #2). There's no right or wrong frequency here, only what works best for the team. 

Individuals, on the other hand, can come in as often as they want. If your home environment is crowded and loud – maybe you have multiple roommates competing for space and wi-fi – you might come into the office more often. An employee caring for an elderly parent or a sick child might come in less often. I think the team frequency is akin to setting a floor (i.e., it’s the minimum), while the individual preferences would set the ceiling. 

Again, there’s no rigid, one-size-fits-all approach to in-office frequency that will work for everyone. No matter the in-office frequency, Robin can be used as an essential enabler allowing people to coordinate their work week.

Challenge #5: Differing Definitions Of What Hybrid Work Means

The definition should be based on an understanding of what’s the default workplace. So for some organizations, like those focusing on software development, it might be a remote default. If you're a manufacturing or warehouse facility, on the other hand, you’d need people onsite – so it's an on-location default. If you're in between, if you're able to do virtual work, but you also have the option of a shared workspace – that's hybrid work. 

I think the in-office frequency might ultimately be three times per week, but that’s just an average. There will be differences within organizations – you might have different approaches within operations versus sales versus the development/design team. Hybrid just means flexibility – it doesn’t require a rigid policy that everyone must comply with.

Challenge #6: What To Do With Underutilized Office Space

Hybrid work means the office is not necessarily the default workspace for everyone everyday. Organizations need to make the in-office experience attractive, maybe by upgrading specific amenities and maybe by not focusing on others as much as before. 

Programming and events will be important for making the office attractive. Mid-level managers should have a budget so that if the team has an onsite day, there's a template: maybe two key meetings and we’ll buy lunch for everyone or maybe a dinner-slash-happy hour celebration. 

Tools and templates are needed for hybrid work. You send out a templated email, you book event space a certain way, you check in with operations a certain way, and make it easy for teams to coordinate programming. Office layouts will need to be shifted to more collaborative spaces. 

What happens in the office cannot be just sitting at a desk or going to a meeting room. Organizations must ask themselves: What are those other, attractive in-office elements that can help us thrive in a hybrid work environment? Ask your people and respond with appropriate action.

Challenge #7: The Need To Experiment And Evolve As We Go

We’re in a grand experiment right now. Organizations need to understand and accommodate expectations around hybrid work, following where the data and feedback lead. 

The biggest pain point for the next six months or so is going to be hybrid meetings and people saying, “I went into the office and just sat on zoom all day.” They can do that at home, without the hassles of commuting. Visibility is going to be key – a tool like Robin lets people know who's going in and when. 

The second big issue is elevating the connectivity inside of meeting rooms, especially the microphones – so that it doesn't matter where you’re having the meeting.

Organizations need to give employees visibility around when their teammates are going into the office so employees can make choices on their own and really understand the unique benefits of the office. It’s a good idea to hold an anchor event once a quarter or half-year to get everyone on-site, to see the office, get them familiar with it, see their colleagues in person again, and remember that powerful, face-to-face energy of the office.

Hybrid Work And Problem Solving

Hybrid work is constantly changing, and we're all doing our best to keep up. As challenges arise remember to face them head on and find a solution that works best for you and your teams. The best way to move forward is to remain open, accepting of change, and honest with your teams. You may not get this right the first time, so try, try, try again until you do.

We may not know exactly what the future of work will look like, but we're sure it's flexible and people oriented. At Robin, we believe you should put people over places. As long you keep your teams in mind, you'll build a hybrid strategy that promotes productivity and success.

If you're looking for resources to help you along the way, check out Robin's collection of reports and blogs.

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