Hybrid work is not perfect, but SCIENCE can help us improve it

Hybrid work is not perfect but SCIENCE can help us.jpgsignature13bcb5cb9331d5dc8c72d6e42340d65c

COVID-19 has changed the way we work.

Even before the pandemic, U.S. workers relied heavily on remote collaboration technologies such as video conferencing and Slack. The global crisis has accelerated the adoption of these tools and practices in a way that has never been seen before. By April 2022, around half of companies reported that over 80% of their employees worked from home because of COVID-19.

That shift has been made possible by decades of research into, and subsequent development of, technologies that support remote working, but not everyone uses these technologies with equal ease. As early as 1987, modern research has identified some of the challenges faced by women working from home using technology. These included childcare difficulties, homework segregation and staff growth opportunities.

Since then, we have learned a lot more about meaningful collaboration. As an associate professor of information systems, I am interested in what we can expect as we are very much looking forward to the future after a pandemic. One thing stands out: hybrid work preparation - that is, employees who do some office tasks and almost others - is clearly going to be a big part of the picture.

One survey from April 2022 shows that 99% of human resource managers expect employees to work in some sort of hybrid arrangement moving forward. Much has already begun. For example, Dropbox, the file hosting service, made a permanent move during the pandemic, allowing employees to work from home and hold team meetings in the office.

The definition of "hybrid" varies in other groups. Some staff may be in the office a day or two a week or every other day. Other businesses may only need a small amount of face-to-face time, perhaps meeting in a centralized location once a quarter.

At the very least, research shows that many companies fail to implement a meaningful workforce.


    Face-to-face work in the office

    Office work promotes structure and transparency, which can lead to increased trust between managers and employees. The development of an organizational culture occurs naturally. Unusual office conversations - an employee walking down the hall for a quick and unorganized conversation with a colleague, for example - can lead to knowledge sharing and collaborative problem solving. This is difficult to reproduce in a virtual environment, which often relies on pre-registering for online meetings - although this is still possible with adequate planning and communication.

    But if you look at different meters, in-office work loses out to work from home. My recent research found that remote workers report being more productive and enjoy working from home because of their flexibility, ability to wear casual clothes, and shorter travel time or which does not exist. Remote work also saves money. There are significant cost savings for office space, one of the largest budget line products for organizations.

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    Hybrid arrangements seek to bring together the best of both worlds.

    It's not perfect

    It is true that hybrid work faces many of the same barriers to face-to-face work. Poor planning and communication, ineffective or unnecessary meetings and confusion about action responsibilities occur remotely and in person.

    Probably the biggest problem when working from home is: technology and security concerns. Home networks, an easier target for cyber threats, are usually more vulnerable than office networks. Remote employees are also more likely to share computers with someone outside their organization. Hybrid organizations need to invest in advance to work through these complex and often costly issues.

    With hybrid work, managers cannot see the work taking place. That means they need to measure employee performance based on outcomes with clear performance measures rather than the traditional focus on employee behavior.

    Another potential danger: Fragmentation lines can develop within hybrid teams - that is, misunderstandings or misunderstandings between those in the office and those at home. These two groups may begin to split up, which can lead to tensions and conflicts - a situation against us.

    Establishing a hybrid environment

    There are a number of suggestions on how best to develop a hybrid model. Here are some of the best ideas.

    Meeting too often or for little reason - that is, meeting for a meeting - leads to fatigue and burning. Not everyone needs to be at every meeting, but a fine from the management is needed to make sure no one feels left out. And days without meetings can help productivity and allow employees an uninterrupted block of time to focus on complex projects.

    Listening to employees is crucial to ensuring that the hybrid environment works. It is also important to seek feedback, through one - to - one discussions, focus groups or human resource surveys. It therefore recognizes and rewards employees with personal or meaningful kudos for their achievements. Performance incentives, such as financial rewards or tokens of appreciation including food delivery, help develop a supportive culture that increases employee commitment.

    Finally: Both managers and staff need to be transparent in their communication and understanding of hybrid plans. Policies need to be in place to define what activities will take place in the office and remotely. Access to reliable communication is essential, especially for remote work. All employees must receive the same information at the same time, and in a timely manner. After all, whether in the office or online, employees do not want to feel that they are the last to be known.

    Written by Alanah Mitchell, Associate Professor and Chair of Information Management and Business Analysis, Drake University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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