Companies who wish to maneuver the hybrid work environment must tick off 5 aspects; communication, coordination, connection, creativity, culture.
Martine Haas Lauder, Chair Professor of Management at the Wharton School, in an article on the Harvard Business Review said that competence in these departments can launch any firm into hybrid work success.
This is an obvious concern to tackle. Technology-enabled communication requires staff to be knowledgeable in operating essential tools.
There are also practical difficulties hybrid work presents. Haas said there are questions that arise like, should everyone in the office log in from separate computers if some people are remote in order to level the playing field? Or does that create more problems than it solves?
Outside the lines of technology, the fact that some people are more comfortable speaking up over screens than others — and that’s in addition to the power, status, and language differences that already create barriers to communication in work settings.
Haas said “faultlines” can emerge between those who work together in person and those who work remotely. Coordination is a prerequisite to collaboration but with hybrid work it’s easy to unintentionally leave some team members out of the loop. Because of the extra effort required to coordinate with remote teammates, they get left out of small exchanges and minor decisions made by those who are working together in the office. Over time, as people get accustomed to who’s looped in and who’s not, they can get left out of bigger conversations and more important decisions.
The challenges of connection are not limited to technological communication and logistical coordination. Social connections also exist in the workplace. But hybrid work threatens it to extinction. Haas said that research shows that personal connections are socially sustaining and important for our psychological well-being. Hybrid working risks creating a “dominant class” of those who feel like they’re central to the organization and strongly committed to it and an “underclass” of those who feel peripheral and disconnected not only from the work, but also from the social life that creates meaning and bonds employees more closely to the organization. The consequences can be less happy and less committed employees who are more likely to search for opportunities elsewhere, Haas said.
Is hybrid work killing creativity? In the time of Zoom calls and meetings, collective creativity which entails brainstorming, could be endangered. Staff can brainstorm via zoom, but programmed times and formats for generating ideas may well not prove as fruitful as the more fluid conversations, sidebars, and unexpected things that can happen when we kick ideas around with others or work intensively on solving a problem together.
Haas’ research also points out that individual creativity can be endangered, too. Creative minds need alone time. Yet it isn’t clear that working alone over many days or weeks will prove generative for employees who must be constantly creative or innovative. On the contrary, there is reason to think that at least some social interactions and spontaneous conversations with colleagues, seeing random artifacts in each other’s cubicles, and even the changes of scenery involved in going from home to work may be important for creativity.
Many suggest that immersing new-hires into the company culture is crucial to making employees stay. Patti Waldmeir, contributing columnist to the Financial Times recently wrote a piece on the publication dissecting the importance of onboarding. When an employee is aware of the company culture, they get a better sense of what their jobs means and what is expected from them. It also breeds loyalty.
Hybrid working arrangements can be daunting for those about to adopt them and challenging for those who already have. But the good news is that we’re learning quickly where the biggest obstacles lie and how to minimize them in advance and manage them as they come up. Using the 5Cs checklist can help leaders tackle — and prioritize — the most common challenges of hybrid working.