With so many benefits, hybrid working is now the norm for many organizations. However, it does pose some challenges – like communication, culture and connection. Thankfully, these are not insurmountable. Check out our tips below.
- Various challenges arise when hybrid working for example managing geographically distributed teams, achieving effective communication using the right technology and organizational approaches, preventing stress, creating a sense of culture and community, and more.
- These challenges can be overcome with the right strategies and tools.
- Investing in up-to-date video meeting technology, designed for hybrid meetings, is key.
10 Challenges in Hybrid Work Environments (and how to overcome them)
1. Adapting to different work environments
The challenge: Working from home and being in the office are very different vibes! At home, you’re likely to have far less tech and dedicated work/meeting space. The kinds of work we do in each environment differ too, for instance, many of us like to ‘get our head down’ when WFH, tackling the tasks that require maximum concentration. Office time by contrast is an opportunity to connect with colleagues and brainstorm ideas. Of course, the dress code is also quite different in the office. PJ bottoms rarely go down well at in-person client meetings!
The solution: Allow yourself time to adapt when embracing a new, hybrid working arrangement. It can take a while to find the rhythm that feels right for you and optimizes your productivity. Make sure you plan your daily tasks in line with where you will be location-wise, focusing on high-concentration tasks at home and high-connection tasks in the office. Always make the effort to look professional and presentable too, honoring whatever dress code is the norm at your company – especially when meeting in person.
2. Hybrid team dynamics
The challenge: ‘Faultlines’ can occur between those who work in the office vs. those who WFH when team members get left out of conversations, typically because the people involved haven’t effectively coordinated themselves in a ‘hybrid’ fashion.
The solution: Think hybrid. Save project chat for hybrid meetings as much as possible. Also, schedule regular hybrid status updates for everyone on the team, so ppl have a predictable moment in their week when they can ensure they are in the loop.
3. Balancing personal and professional responsibilities
The challenge: Interruptions from kids and pets, housework piling up, and pings from your personal mobile phone. Let’s face it, it’s so much easier to get distracted when WFH because the environment simply isn’t exclusively reserved for work.
The solution: Designate a space for work when WFH. This may take a bit of planning ahead, so take the time you need to set yourself up in a quiet area with all the furniture and technology you need. If you’re WFH but limited on space, there are plenty of ways you can get creative with zoning, storage, and more. It’s also important to minimize potential disruptions from others, so get clear on any childcare or pet-sitting arrangements you may need. Also consider switching personal phones to silent, and using separate browser profiles for work and play. Creating a separation between professional time and personal time is the goal.
4. Maintaining effective communication
The challenge: Feel self-conscious and uncomfortable when communicating via video? You’re not alone. ‘Taking the floor’ can also be a challenge, aka seizing the opportunity to make a statement or ask a question, amongst all the other dialogue that is taking place between teammates.
The solution: Practice practice practice. If you’re relatively new to video meetings then accept it may take you some time to warm up and that’s ok. Make use of props that boost your confidence: keynote slides that underline your point, eyeglasses that help get you into ‘presenter’ mode, and even relevant textbooks in the background to help you feel more confident in your ‘on-screen’ presentation.
Also, experiment with using the hand raise function on your video conferencing platform. They’re a great way to signal you have something to say, without feeling that you’re interrupting someone else’s flow. Try some conversation openers too like “I’d like to add something’ or “Can I share my thoughts on that?” A little bit of meeting etiquette goes a long way.
5. Navigating hybrid collaboration
The challenge: Not having adequate video conferencing technology either in the office, at home – or worse still – both! Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence at a point in time where hybrid working is still relatively new. There is still far too much legacy video conferencing equipment in play, that wasn’t designed for hybrid-first working and is therefore not up to the job. To make matters worse, some video tech is also complex and fiddly to use, posing unnecessary additional challenges to the user.
The solution: Choose the right tech for your workforce, focusing on delivering a smooth and seamless hybrid experience that blurs the line between in-office and at-home teammates – instead of exasperating it. Do your research before you buy, for instance, look on manufacturer’s websites for information about how their video collaboration devices specifically address the challenges of hybrid working. A demo is also a must. Finally, take time to train your workforce in how to use their video technology, and provide easily accessible support so that more difficult problems can be solved by IT professionals in good time.
Did you know? Neat’s award-winning video collaboration devices were purposefully designed with hybrid working in mind and are easy to set up, use and maintain – no training required.
6. Effective time management
The challenge: Back-to-back video calls can quickly lead to video fatigue. Humans aren’t designed to sit in one place all day, focusing intensely forever and a day. We function much more productively when there’s some variety in our schedule, and some physical movement too, but when others have less visibility of your workload because you’re WFH it’s all too common to end up with a jam-packed schedule.
The solution: Block out time in your diary for yourself and do not accept invites to calls or video calls at these times. If you feel nervous about doing this, remember that all good managers will understand the need for you to manage your time in the way that works best for you. The best managers will encourage it. Creating a team status report is also invaluable, enabling everyone to see what tasks each team member is working on each week, and helping to spread the load evenly. This will help you feel more comfortable when you block out focussed time for yourself, safe in the knowledge that everyone knows you’re busy and hard at work. Workflow platforms such as AirTable are another great way to keep an eye on the progress of everyone’s tasks and help team members pass the baton more effectively.
7. Staying focused and productive
The challenge: When you’re WFH, every day can feel the same, a bit like groundhog day! Working remotely lacks the spontaneity that office life boasts, taking place all in the same physical space and removing in-person encounters that inject variety into our day.
The solution: Plan variety into your week. This includes planning different kinds of tasks each day: clearing the inbox, planning and strategizing, organizing and admin, catching up with teammates and making video calls, focussed work time etc. You can even change up where you’re working by trying out a local cafe, library or co-work space. Also consider some productivity hacks to switch up the energy and feel more dynamic, like pomodoros, which involve you working for a set 25 min period, then taking a 5 min break. Every 4 pomodoros take a longer 15 – 30 min break. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done and how refreshed you feel.
8. Preventing stress and burnout
The challenge: Ever found yourself turning off your computer at the end of the working day, only to keep thinking about work all through the evening? When you WFH, the temptation is to quickly jump back on your computer, breaking the boundaries between work and personal time. Whilst this strategy gives you some immediate relief from mental activity, it can quickly lead to stress when it becomes habitual – a feeling that you can never get away from work.
The solution: Set clear start and end times for your working day when you WFH and stick to them! If you need to schedule a reminder in your calendar to help you, do it! It’s also a good idea to set and schedule lunch breaks and any other breaks you take throughout your day, like movement breaks where you get out of your desk chair, stretch and move your body.
If your company offers any wellness initiatives then be sure to make the most of them. Plenty of companies today run online yoga, stretch and relax, or calming breathing classes. If your company doesn’t have a wellness programme, create bitesize relaxing rituals of your own. There are so many great resources out there, such as ‘4 powerful relaxation exercises for remote workers’, so do your research and choose your favorite.
9. Establishing a positive company culture
The challenge: Remote working can lead to a feeling that you’re losing out on workplace culture. It can be harder to get a sense of a company’s values, brand and personality when you have less frequent in-person contact with the leaders of an organization and your peers. This is especially true for new starters, who may not experience any in-person contact for weeks or even months if they primarily WFH.
The solution: A strong sense of culture is important for employee retention, so make an effort to transmit elements of your company’s values and vibe through a combination of content and virtual meetings – as well as in-person events. Newsletters and virtual town halls are an easy win, providing an opportunity to cover big ideas, concepts, thought leadership and other ‘softer’ aspects of work life beyond the day-to-day projects. To onboard new remote starters more effectively, include information on your cultural values in introductory presentations, and try to bring it to life with examples and invites to future events and happenings.
Have you read? ‘How to create a remote work culture that works’
10. Instilling a sense of community
A 2018 survey raised the alarm on social isolation, revealing that nearly half of Americans were considered lonely. The dangers of loneliness are innumerable — social isolation is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, and anxiety.How much social interaction do you actually need? by Allie Volpe, Vox.
The challenge: WFH can result in losing out on social connection, which negatively impacts our mental and physical health. And it’s not just connectedness with teammates that we miss out on, it’s access to valuable mentors too. Also, ‘people like me’ relationships, such as women in leadership or people from minority backgrounds e.g. LGBTQ+, minority ethnic.
The solution: As much as possible, offer opportunities to connect virtually where they used to exist in person. In addition to the ‘just for fun’, water cooler style online meetings, set up mentoring moments, women’s groups, cultural and hobby-oriented groups, and more. Take your cue from your workforce, to tailor your offering to their specific needs. Ask them in a survey or open forum what kinds of virtual groups and events they would like, and ask if anyone feels passionate about leading those groups. You’ll be surprised who steps forward to lend a hand.
Have you read? ‘How to create a virtual break room your employees will use’
Creating Effective Hybrid Work Environments
To create a great environment for hybrid working you’ll need to consider the following things.
Providing access to hybrid meeting spaces
For hybrid working to work, it must be easy for people to schedule hybrid meetings. That means having easy access to hybrid meeting rooms when they’re working from the office. A hybrid meeting room needs to be properly equipped for video conferencing, ideally with technology that levels the playing field between in-office and remote teammates – for instance displaying everyone equally on-screen. Neat devices come with patented Neat Symmetry technology, which delivers meeting equity by presenting all attendees individually on-screen, equally close up. Even if they’re sitting at the back of a meeting room!
Providing flexibility in workspace arrangements
A clear workspace trend is that fixed, individual deskspace is giving way to flexible workspace such as hotdesks and small huddle rooms. It no longer makes sense to use valuable office space for individual, personal desks when so many of us aren’t in the office full-time. It renders the space redundant, which is a waste of precious office real estate and money. Hotdesks and huddle rooms on the other hand can be used by anyone, simply by booking them in advance or walking up to them if they’re currently vacant. Video collaboration devices likeNeat Frameare ideal in these kinds of spaces, enhancing the quality of video meetings with high-performance audio and visual technology. Paired with Zoom Workspace Reservation or Microsoft hot desking, you also enjoy a seamless transition from home to office, for instance, access to your personal calendar so you never miss a meeting.
Establishing clear communication guidelines
It’s vital that you get clear on how employees are expected to communicate when WFH, with written guidelines shared company-wide – especially at onboarding. Outline the channels that should be used, for instance, email and Slack, and be sure to advise what kinds of communication are correct for each channel. Emails tend to be better for more formal communication (messages to clients, important contractual information etc), while collaboration platforms like Slack are perfect for quick, informal interaction (questions, updates etc)
It’s also a good idea to clarify what your policy is for communication in and outside of working hours. If your team is distributed across different time zones, it makes sense to allow messaging at all hours – with no obligation to reply of course until your individual working hours come back around again. If your team is all in one timezone then you might like to implement a rule that respects peoples’ personal boundaries, for example, no work messages after 7pm. Or messages may be sent out of hours, but there is no obligation for the recipient to reply out of hours.
Investing in proper technology and equipment
A hybrid workforce is only as good as its technology. Old-fashioned and overly complex setups cause delays to video meetings and create unnecessary stress. In addition to using high-quality collaboration platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, invest in up-to-date video collaboration hardware that has been purpose-built for hybrid working, with specialist video conferencing features. Neat’s video devices come with a range of hybrid working features including high-performance audio that reduces background noise, without compromising on crystal-clear dialogue. And Neat Boundary, which allows you to set the visual parameters of your meeting space, to reduce distractions and protect your privacy – and that of others.
Neat Solutions for Hybrid Workspaces
Neat’s commitment to supporting hybrid work environments
Did you know that Neat was founded with the sole purpose of making hybrid working better, that is to say, we make video collaboration devices that unlock the true potential of hybrid working. We work in lockstep with our partners Zoom and Microsoft to ensure our devices deliver an optimal experience of both Zoom and Microsoft Teams, always keeping up-to-date with new features made available by these video meeting giants. Our devices also solve common hybrid working problems such as ‘double speak’ and ‘meeting equity’. Our high-performance audio not only reduces pesky background noise, it allows two speakers to speak at once – just like in a real-life meeting – which prevents any one speaker’s contribution from becoming clipped or muted. Meanwhile, Neat Symmetry delivers a video meeting experience with more equity between remote and in-office participants, displaying everyone individually on-screen and with equal prominence.
Find out more about Neat’s truly hybrid experiences here.
Neat Bar and Neat Board 50 for enhanced virtual meetings
Neat Bar is a simple and elegant, compactly designed yet highly capable meeting room device for Zoom or Microsoft Teams. It’s perfect for bringing superior-quality audio and video to your meeting, huddle or focus rooms for up to ten people. You can mount Neat Bar above or below one or two monitors, and it comes with Neat Pad, our dynamic touch screen, which you can use to control your meetings or display room availability outside the room.
Go up a notch with Neat Bar Pro. Neat Bar Pro packs a stack of tech into a simple and elegant slimline device. Capable of driving three large screens, it enables you to see people and content together more clearly. Simultaneously, its uncompromising audio and video quality give you an incredibly immersive, natural meeting experience throughout any space.
Designed for the flexible future of work, our multi-touch screen Neat Board 50 swiftly adapts to you whenever, wherever and in whatever way you need to meet or express your ideas. Wheel it from space to space. Draw it towards you. Move its inviting 50-inch touchscreen up or down. Neat Board 50 allows you to interact and collaborate smoothly and efficiently – perfect for creative brainstorming and whiteboarding.
What are the most common challenges of remote work in hybrid offices?
The most common challenges include remote workers being left out of in-office conversations, a lack of meeting equity during video calls between in-office and remote teammates, stress and burnout related to video fatigue, and compromised company culture. With mindful consideration, all of these challenges can be prevented. Adopting a ‘hybrid mindset’ is key, being careful to involve all team members in conversation regardless of their location, and investing in video technology that promotes meeting equity – for example, Neat devices. Giving employees the autonomy and encouragement to manage their own time in a way that supports their well-being is also key, as well as organizing regular social and cultural virtual events.
Read the section ‘10 Challenges in Hybrid Work Environments (and how to overcome them)’ above for a deeper understanding of this topic.
How can Neat solutions help support remote workers in hybrid offices?
Unlike other video device manufacturers, Neat was created to support – not just video meetings – but hybrid working. We have innovated to address the specific challenges that come with hybrid working. For example, we designed our patented Neat Symmetry technology to solve issues around ‘meeting equity’ that can arise on video calls. With Symmetry, everyone is presented with equal prominence on-screen whether they are in the office, at home – even moving around! We also created Neat Frame, a portrait-oriented device that enhances WFH and hotdesking by bringing more focus, visual and audio clarity to video meetings. We also make next-generation videobars and multi-touch screens for hybrid meeting rooms: Neat Board 50, Neat Bar, and Neat Bar Pro.