It’s crystal clear that most businesses have shifted to working remotely because of the pandemic outbreak two years ago. And today, as the world continues to learn and adjust to this new norm of the modern workforce, a lot of startup entrepreneurs, including big and small company owners, are embracing a more flexible work setup—a hybrid structure.
This mix-and-match approach gives employees the freedom to work from the office or independently wherever it offers multiple benefits. Still, it also presents a unique set of challenges. Read along as we share some of the biggest challenges remote/hybrid work is facing and the ways to overcome them.
Challenge # 1: Getting Effective Communication Right
When managing a remote/hybrid team, communication can be a huge challenge because of all the various aspects of working remotely that can be affected by it, like:
- Project management: Do you have a strategy for managing work priorities among your team members as activities pile up? How do you ensure clear communication and successful project management of commitments?
- Team communication: What methods can you utilise to organise and lead remote team meetings? How can you ensure that team and organisation information (such as new team members’ announcements and new HR policies) are disseminated to everyone consistently?
- Individual communication: What effect do language and time zones have on communication? How should you connect with people one-on-one? How do you enable ad-hoc conversations?
Many solutions are available specifically for addressing communication problems with remote/hybrid workers. As an SME company owner, you just need to explore or review your options and look for the ones that suit your needs. Here are some solutions to consider:
- Establish accessible and employee-friendly communication tools to encourage regular and organised communication across onsite and off-site employees.
- Provide clear and specific communication guidelines for how and when remote/hybrid workers should utilise email vs. instant messaging vs. video conference vs. phone.
- Make use of intranet software platforms such as Microsoft Sharepoint and Workvivo for functional sharing of work information and resources.
- Remind your remote team members that their online calendars should be updated to make scheduling one-off, recurring or ad-hoc meetings easier for everybody.
- Designate time in your calendar for short sessions for regular check-ins with your remote team.
- Recording your meeting session is a good idea so your new team members and those working from different time zones can easily replay the meeting during their working hours.
Challenge # 2: Inequality Between Non-Hybrid and Hybrid Employees
There seem to be biases about the new norm of the remote/hybrid work system. To illustrate, hybrid employees are at risk of not being treated fairly—they tend to get smaller raises and bonuses, fewer promotions and lower performance evaluations as compared to their in-person colleagues. This is because of an existing notion that onsite employees are more committed than those who work remotely when in truth, both are working hard just the same. On the other hand, onsite workers are also missing out on the benefits of a hybrid setup since they have to deal with rush hour and stressful long commutes every morning and when leaving their workplace.
To address this, you must ensure that all your employees, irrespective of whether they are onsite or remote—should all feel valued and be given equal opportunities and resources for growth and recognition. For example, consider investing in tools that allow smooth interactions between onsite and remote employees, like virtual spaces where everyone can get updates, make inquiries, share information and have the chance to provide their ideas or suggestions.
Challenge # 3: Creativity
Two types of creativity are put at risk with a hybrid work setup. The most apparent one is collective creativity. When a team is composed of people who are physically close to each other, you can notice that it’s easy for ideas to flow freely and for everyone on the team to contribute their thoughts and ideas. However, when members are working from different corners of the world, sometimes, it’s difficult for the team to share ideas and collaborate effectively because only some are on the same page or have reached an agreement. On the flip side, individual creativity can be injured, too, since distance and social isolation can hamper novel ideas and insights among employees.
Whenever something crosses your employees’ minds, you must encourage them to write down these ideas so they can organise and rectify their ideas further. Doing this also enables you as a business leader and the other team members to contemplate, assess and provide input on these ideas. Likewise, to prevent burnout among your employees, note that you must embrace distributed collaboration.
Challenge # 4: Lack of Trust
Truth be told, one of the biggest challenges of handling a remote team is building trust, which also goes both ways. Most business owners who have the traditional way of thinking fear remote work setups because they believe their employees are not considered productive unless they’re situated in the same office space where they can actually see them working.
On the other hand, employees are also concerned about whether they’re provided with the same resources and support system as office-based workers.
Building trust is really without difficulty because it requires time, patience, and persistence. But to successfully lead employees, especially the remote-situated ones, you must trust that your employees can be as efficient and productive working from their homes as they would be onsite.
Remember that transparency is essential to foster trust in both parties, especially regarding working hours, project expectations, status updates and payment timelines, so it is best to implement SMART goals and OKRs that your employees can follow.
Challenge # 5: Wellness of Team Members (Work-Life Balance)
Let’s face it. Employees all have different circumstances when working from home. Some might be happy and satisfied with that kind of work setup. But others might be struggling to keep a work-life balance which results in stress and burnout.
In fact, there’s one study from International Workforce Insights stating that ever since the pandemic, work-life balance has improved for most employees; however, the downside is some employees have also felt unable to switch off, and this negatively affected their mental health and well-being.
If your business chooses to stay hybrid post-pandemic, you must build opportunities for your team members to discuss their health and well-being. This could be in the form of virtual coffee breaks or regular one-on-one catch up where they can be comfortable speaking up about their problems or negative feelings about work because they know they will be supplied with the extra support and guidance they need.
Challenge # 6: Maintaining A Healthy Company Culture
Recreating similar feelings of community and belongingness existing in a physical office workplace is challenging. For instance, having a casual conversation with your colleague during lunch break when you’re both in the office is undoubtedly easier than working remotely.
Relationship and team-building activities are crucial for establishing and sustaining a positive and healthy company culture.
As such, you can host monthly virtual team meetings where you and your members can converse about non-work related topics devoted to specific categories, such as food, get-away plans or interests outside professional life. And to make these meetings more comfortable, you can announce a topic to discuss beforehand. Likewise, it’s also imperative to consider hosting real-life meetups twice a year. Organising these get-togethers can be a huge opportunity to get to know your employees better and form camaraderie with them. This will also strengthen their creativity as a group and avoid working in silos.
The Final Takeaway
The remote/hybrid work model has pros and cons, but one thing’s for sure—this kind of working arrangement is here to stay. As a leader of your organisation, you must learn to adapt to the changing times and look for creative and functional solutions that can help make your team productive, engaged, happy and motivated regardless of their working locations.
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