5 Pitfalls of hybrid working

Microsoft’s first Work Trend Index Report found that 73% of employees want remote and other flexible working options to continue post-pandemic. Couple that with the same report stating 67% of people want more face to face contact with their teams, and we seem to have a clear case for a future featuring hybrid working.

Certainly, there’s no shortage of pundits who would agree. However, with very few employers ‘going large’ on remote working in the past, hybrid working may be popular, it may even be smart, but it’s also a significant shift in working practice and culture for most organisations. And as business chatter focuses on hybrid working as a viable future (as opposed to a give-everyone-a-laptop-and-send-them-home emergency measure) we need to consider the potential pitfalls to be skirted…

Hybrid working pitfall #1 – separation from the team

The idea of hybrid working is that the stresses of constant office working are avoided, while the flexibility of home working is maximised. But it’s just as likely that the time spent in the office is extra stressful while the home working element increases isolation. Whether working fully remote or hybrid, the team is divided and scattered – managers need to consider the degree and type of contact with each team member, and what use is made of the rare occasions when the whole team are together.

Hybrid working pitfall #2 – the physical environment

How many people have a space at home that they can dedicate to working? And whatever space they have, how is it equipped? The HSE is clear that employers have the same duties of care and responsibilities toward home workers as they do to any other employee. If those employees have a display screen and keyboard setup, those responsibilities include ensuring use of an ergonomic workstation. If hybrid working becomes your norm, this will likely include home workstation assessments and, where necessary, deployment of special equipment.

Hybrid working pitfall #3 – cyber security

An office-based team are all accessing the same systems via the same route/connection/server. When the team is scattered to the four winds, that same access is via as many different devices/routes/connections as there are team members. Home and hybrid workers need a greater awareness of IT security and cyber threats. Likewise, your choice of antivirus software, firewall and other protection tools becomes, if not more important at least more complicated.

Hybrid working pitfall #4 – burnout

Despite certain company bosses labelling home workers as lazy and unproductive, the reality is that remote working brings a greater risk of stress and burnout, due to isolation, lack of structure, and bosses who may overcompensate by becoming more demanding. Adapting to changed circumstances, developing new effective work habits, blurred work and home boundaries (you’re now working in the home) … all this is potential stress and remote working means you’re further away from the support you’d potentially have in an office.

Hybrid working pitfall #5 – potential discrimination

Avoiding discrimination means treating everyone in the workforce fairly – which doesn’t necessarily mean treating them the same. Some groups of workers may have different needs (e.g. see the mention of specialised equipment above) and some may find remote or hybrid working more challenging (e.g. the CIPD recently cited a Work Foundation/CMI poll that found people with caring responsibilities find it harder to connect with remote colleagues).

Then there is the risk that certain groups of employee might be more likely to opt for remote working, leaving them (even more?) under-represented in the workplace (the same poll found that a fifth of managers saw a potential risk of women workers missing out on workplace interactions). Again, the lesson is that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid working. Different teams, different employees will have different circumstances and therefore different needs. Establishing those needs and finding reasonable ways to meet them is likely to be one of the more common and important workplace conversations in the future.

We’re in a period of transition. The pandemic is not yet over. New ‘better-fit’ practices are being explored and adopted but it’s early days yet and each organisation will likely have its own wrinkles to iron out, it’s own adjustments to make in order to find that sweet spot where productive work is being done, business objectives met, and a workforce that feels fully supported to do that.


If you need support with flexible or remote working practices, check out our available training programmes  (all of which can be tailored to your needs, and run in-person or online); or give us a call on 01582 463462 – we’re here to help.

Categories: HR

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