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Managing the risk of a hybrid workplace

Tuesday August 31, 2021, By Manasa Sai Sekar

Written by Manasa and Neelavani

Hybrid work environment is a business concept that combines office work with remote working environment, abiding to conditions such as having proper internet connectivity. Hybrid work exercises greater freedom and autonomy compared to the traditional office work environment. Some of the types of hybrid models are: full-time remote working, on-demand office work, and using flexible work-weeks which we have explored in length earlier.

The whole world mandated hybrid working or work-from-home after COVID-19 started spreading faster than forest fires. However, across different parts of the world around 1900’s work-from-home was a thing because of increased gasoline prices and so on. Slowly, after several research, working from the office proved to be much more productive for the early 2000’s generation. After which, COVID-19 inadvertently imposed work-from-home, which gained momentum by the millennials because they prefer being digital nomads. Several organizations, irrespective of generational differences embraced hybrid workplace because of the uncertainty that came with COVID lockdowns. Hybrid workplace stabilizes the needs of individual workers by giving them a chance to occasionally visit the office for collaboration and by completing the rest of the tasks mostly from home.

A research by Cisco on hybrid workplaces found that 58% employees will work 8 or more days each month from home post COVID. The report also stated that 98% of meetings will include participants joining from home, although they are frustrated with the online meeting tools. 99% organizations are looking forward to sweeping changes at the workplace to make sure employees feel safe, and 77% of larger organizations considered increasing work flexibility while 53% will shrink their office sizes.   This research indicates that hybrid workplaces will become the new normal in the post COVID era.  As COVID-19 restrictions begin to subside in some areas, hybrid work has become a realistic middle ground for those who want to get back to the office, while still trying to sustain the productivity and comfort that remote work has come to be.

While a hybrid workplace seems to be the viable solution for the near future, it comes with its own risks. Being aware of these risks can help organizations mitigate them effectively.  Perhaps the biggest risk arising out of a hybrid workplace is employee retention.  Recent studies have found that employees who work from home reported being happier than those who work in an on-site office setting.  94% of employees who started working remotely as a result of the pandemic stated that they would like to work remotely for the rest of their career.  Since the pandemic, it is easier to find work that is completely remote and employees are likely to choose such organizations over one that did not offer remote work.  Employees are likely to switch jobs if made to fully return to on-site work, highlighting that employee well-being and preference need to be considered before deciding on a return to the office. Organizations must think through the need for their workforce to return.

At the start of the pandemic, organizations reported having increased levels of productivity from their employees.  Although this increase in productivity came at the cost of a non-existent work life boundary, the decline in productivity when organizations switch to hybrid models will be a glaring cause for concern.  Unconscious biases can creep into hybrid work models, especially if there are some employees that are always in the office and some that are always remote. To prevent unfair inequality, organizations must revisit performance keys and tailor them to a hybrid workplace.

Supporting employees through a hybrid work model can be challenging.  Disconnect and isolation are possible outcomes of an ill managed hybrid workplace.  Organizations must be able to adapt and make course corrections wherever necessary.

Whether or not a hybrid work model is required is highly dependent on the business that’s considering it. However, it is important to remember that the key to innovation and development is managing risks appropriately and not averting them entirely.  Hence, organizations that are looking at a hybrid model should be willing to continuously adapt and revisit their current approaches to build a safe and secure workplace while preserving the culture of the organization.

Author Profile

Manasa Sai Sekar
Manasa Sai Sekar
A Senior Consultant from Consulting & Solutions team at Avtar, has worked in four different industries such as Retail, Telecommunication, Agriculture, and HealthCare.

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