How To Successfully Navigate A Hybrid Work Model
WFH has become the new norm for most of us and a hybrid work arrangement is likely to outlast the pandemic now.
But whether you’re working onsite or remotely on particular days, there are a few curveballs for employees to manage. can be a few curveballs to manage. Depending on where you’re working from, hybridity means that employees have different access to resources and different levels of visibility, both of which affect your reputation. For instance, how do you stay visible to your manager(s) and teammates? How do you strike the right balance between being accountable and visible without spamming inboxes or group chats? And how do you manage team dynamics and establish a good working relationship with your teammates when they see each other in the office more than they see you virtually?
Ironically, the ability to effectively navigate in a hybrid environment is a skill in itself, and thus a source of power. Hybridity requires employees to be able to successfully balance between and navigate across both worlds in a professional manner.
Here are 4 key things to take note of:
Office-based employees will have better resources
Resource access differs depending on whether you’re working from the office or working from home. Office-based employees are likely to have quicker (and better) access to technology and infrastructure to support their work than WFH personnel, along with better emotional and task-based social support. The former also tend to have faster and easier access to more current information, giving them an edge over you on WFH. In contrast, employees who work remotely are often riddled with a weaker technological setup and infrastructure (slow connections, inability to access certain resources from home, a less sophisticated home office setup), all of which makes it more challenging to demonstrate competence. For instance, if you’re responsible for setting up meetings, considering if it is possible for everyone to join in using the same medium (ie. everyone on Zoom) is a tough question, given that your internet speed might not match that for your colleagues working onsite. Always be persistent about asking for resources you don’t have access to and highlighting where you’re falling short in terms of tech support.
Hybrid environments are perfect for employees who think and act adaptably and flexibly; who can organise and coordinate across a complex and dynamic environment; and who can establish and provide evidence of their own trustworthiness despite low visibility. How do you stay connected to your boss and strategically manage office relationships if you’re out of office most days a week? Or if you’re leading a team, how do you ensure that those who are working more remote hours don’t feel like they’re at a disadvantage when it comes to opportunities for growth, new projects, and so forth?
Not being physically present for critical meetings and informal interactions can leave WFH employees feeling left out and constantly on catch-up mode. Being in the office and sharing physical space with the boss means that the likelihood of their actions seen by others and reported to the boss becomes more frequent. Unfortunately, while you might be burning the midnight oil with your deliverables, no one actually sees the late nights or early mornings you put in when working remotely. Hence the only way to stay visible on WFH days is to make sure you’ve met your targets and all work due is accounted for by your boss.
Ask for clear accountability
WFH has its advantages when it comes to saving commute time but research shows that employees work up to three hours extra on average without a clear division between work and home. Setting expectations, communicating workflows and tracking progress are just some of the things necessary to make sure everyone is on the same page and on a level playing field. Create and share a regular schedule to keep you productive, with clear boundaries for colleagues and the boss so that you don’t work with unrealistic expectations and timings. Likewise, if you know you are most productive in the morning, create a schedule such that you attack the most challenging tasks in the morning, leaving the easier / not so important things for later in the afternoon.
Maintain good professional relations
Employees who are strong at relationship building, both face-to-face and virtually, have an advantage in hybrid environments, as those with a good network can still play office politics remotely, taking advantage of upcoming positions and situations. Having strong interpersonal relationships with the boss and the right colleagues can help bridge the gap in hybrid work situations, as you can rely on your informal connections to help provide missing information and reduce your blindspots. Unfortunately, those who are not able to build good working working relationships may find themselves struggling with the hybrid set up, being constantly out of sync with colleagues and management.