Many companies are embracing the hybrid workplace model with enthusiasm, seeing it as a way to bring together the best of both worlds. Working remotely has become increasingly popular in recent years and provides many perks, such as increased flexibility and a better work-life balance for employees. At the same time, there are some potential challenges that companies must be aware of if they want to make this new arrangement successful.

One major obstacle facing organizations is ensuring that everyone involved in the hybrid workplace feels connected, included, and appreciated – no matter where they may be located or how often they need to attend physical meetings. It’s important for all staff members to feel like their contributions are valued regardless of whether they work from home or come into the office. To make sure everyone feels included, companies should provide digital tools and collaboration spaces that enable easy communication between staff members who interact remotely as well as those in the same physical location.

In this article, we’ll look at the most common barriers to hybrid workforce success and how businesses can overcome them. 

Hybrid Workplace challenge #1: Physical Office Space

As organizations adapt to hybrid models of working, their physical office spaces must also be reconsidered. Companies such as Deloitte and BP in the UK are reducing their office space, indicating a shift away from traditional workplace layouts. This opens an opportunity for companies to place more emphasis on designing offices that optimize collaboration, productivity, and staff well-being.  

Organizations must think carefully about how they want to use their office space and design it accordingly. This could include work zones for more intensive tasks, project spaces for collaboration, social hubs for networking and creative brainstorming, or booths for focused individual work. Quiet zones can offer respite from the bustle of a busy. By understanding how staff will use their office space, organizations ensure that their employees get the most out of every visit.  

Failure to plan appropriate office risks limiting productivity as well as valuable resources; where staff minimal needs are met in an office environment there is little motivation to attend in person at all. Therefore, organizations must take time to analyze and understand desired ways of working and reconfigure their office accordingly. By doing so, organizations can maximize the return on investment in their office space, boosting morale and productivity as a result. 

Hybrid Workplace challenge #2: Communication 

Communication is essential in remote and hybrid working environments — but it brings some unique challenges. For one thing, many of us had to invest time and energy into learning how to use the right video conferencing systems when work shifted online back in March 2020. Even now, as more and more teams transition to a hybrid setup, there can be technical difficulties involved such as figuring out how best to set up multiple computers for those who are both remote and present in the office.  

Beyond this, there are also practical challenges posed by hybrid working — from making sure everyone is on an even playing field, to accommodating different communication styles among team members. This can be exacerbated by cultural differences or disparities in power dynamics which may lead some people to be less likely to communicate over video than others.  

It’s important that organizations make sure that the necessary technology and infrastructure is in place so as to make remote and hybrid working a reality, but it’s just as important that teams are aware of the communication challenges that come with such an arrangement — and take steps to ensure everyone feels empowered to speak up and be heard.   

Hybrid Workplace challenge #3: Unconscious Bias 

Unconscious bias — the tendency to make decisions based on our own assumptions and beliefs about race, gender, age, physical ability, and so forth — can limit diversity in hybrid teams. Most of us have been socialized to think that people who aren’t physically present don’t matter as much, and this has a direct effect on how we communicate with remote colleagues. We might not give them as much attention in meetings, consider their perspectives less seriously, or simply forget about them when doing assignments and assigning responsibilities. 

To address this issue, it’s important to make sure that everyone is included when decisions are being made, and that they feel comfortable speaking up — whether they’re in the office or working remotely. It’s also important to make sure that remote colleagues have access to the same resources, tools, and funding as those in the office — and that their contributions are recognized and rewarded equally.  

Hybrid Workplace challenge #4: Coordination  

The coordination challenges of a hybrid workforce largely come from the fact that some people are in the office and others are not. When everyone is remote, it’s fairly easy to coordinate activities because there isn’t much of a difference between one person’s work environment and another’s. But when some team members are across town or around the world, things become more complicated — especially if you don’t have someone dedicated to coordinating efforts among the various locations.

To help alleviate coordination issues, create processes and protocols for communication and decision-making so that everyone knows how decisions will be made and communicated across teams. Have regular check-ins with both onsite and remote colleagues, and make sure these meetings take place at times convenient for those who may be working in different time zones.  

Hybrid Workplace challenge #5: Connectivity & Connection 

To ensure a successful remote working environment, it is essential that there are strong lines of connectivity between those in the office and those working from home. It is important for organizations to minimize physical events so that both remote and office-based staff can participate equally. Companies should invest in technology that helps maintain productivity and facilitate seamless connections between employees who are working remotely and those in the office.  

Organizations can support this by linking all meeting rooms with their video conferencing software, meaning that everyone involved in the meeting can see each other, rather than just one person behind a laptop. Additionally, it is also useful to make sure that every meeting includes a link for videoconferencing; this allows remote attendees to join the meeting, creating a sense of inclusivity. 

To further improve connectivity and create an inclusive experience for everyone involved, it is important that organizations provide guidance on how to structure meetings and events with both remote and office-based staff in mind. This includes using digital tools which can aid communication between people who are not physically present. Investing resources into these initiatives will help ensure easy access for all employees and make sure that knowledge loss can be avoided.  

[Related: 10 Best Online Collaboration Tools of 2023] 

Connection at the social level 

Now besides the technical and logistical challenges associated with maintaining effective communication between colleagues working in different locations, there’s a much bigger problem: the social connections that can easily be weakened or even lost altogether due to remote working arrangements. 

We know that developing professional networks and mentoring relationships is necessary for a successful career, yet these connections can be particularly difficult for women and minorities in particular. Further, research indicates that interpersonal connections are integral for our psychological well-being which makes them even more important when it comes to hybrid working models where some team members are located offsite. If this kind of set up is not managed carefully, it can create a clear divide between those who feel closely connected to the organization and those who do not. This could lead to more unhappy and disengaged employees who are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. 

It is therefore essential that leaders pay attention to the need for strong social connections when overseeing remote work teams in order to ensure their success – both professionally and psychologically. Only then will colleagues truly be able to benefit from hybrid working. 

Hybrid Workplace challenge #6: Culture

Culture is an essential part of any organization, not just for sharing values and expectations with new recruits but also to foster loyalty among existing staff. The current pandemic has caused significant disruption to this process, as remote working can make it difficult to create the feeling of togetherness that is so important in shaping a company’s culture. 

Organizations need to find ways to overcome these obstacles if they are going to be able to attract and retain talent, particularly in competitive industries such as tech, finance, and consulting. Companies can differentiate themselves from each other by maintaining their distinctive ‘feel’ even when employees do not come into the office or spend time together.  

It is also necessary for organizations to appropriately recognize their employees’ struggles and needs if they are to maintain a positive culture and strong organizational commitment. If this does not happen, employees may begin to feel isolated or disconnected from their companies, leading to reduced motivation, lower job satisfaction, and higher turnover rates. 

[Related: 14 Effective ways to avoid work depression] 

Hybrid Workplace challenge #7: Transparency

Transparency is a key component of trust, and it is essential for organizations to keep their teams informed and in the loop. Hybrid working makes this more difficult, as team members are spread out in different locations which can make communication harder. To ensure that everyone is kept up to date with the latest information and decisions, leaders need to be open about what’s happening within the organization. They should also strive for clear roles and responsibilities so that everyone knows who they should go to if they have any questions or queries. This will help build trust between employees and create a sense of cohesion even when staff is located offsite.