Top 5 challenges of a hybrid workforce and how to overcome them

June 27, 2022 BDO CANADA

If your organization is like most today, you know that to manage the realities of a post-pandemic world, you will need to pursue continuous innovation and modernization in the services, products, technologies, and practices relevant to your workplace.

With the increased use of hybrid and other remote work arrangements, the pressure is on for organizations, government, employers, and workspace-as-a-service providers to create flexible arrangements that meet health and wellness, and square footage needs.

Increased interdepartmental collaboration will need to come from HR, IT, facilities, and operations teams to keep employees safe, productive, and engaged. And creating a culture that gives your employees autonomy and control over how and when they work will become more important than ever.

To help business owners remain competitive and address the challenges that come with change, we explore five challenges we hear and see in creating a hybrid workplace for the future and how to overcome them.

1. Adapting to hybrid work-life

At the beginning of 2020, conventional offices were characterized mainly by 9-to-5 work and assigned seating. But by the start of the pandemic, we saw a once-in-a-generation shift to remote working.

While some companies embraced the benefits of a changing work world, such as cost savings, reduced real estate footprint, and unrestricted access to talent, others viewed it as a threat to their company's culture, productivity, and innovation. Today, the future of the work world is hybrid: a mix of office and home-based working.

According to a recent report by Microsoft, spanning 30,000 employees worldwide, 70% of workers want flexible working options to continue, and 66% of decision-makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to successfully accommodate hybrid work. However, shifting to a hybrid workforce introduces new challenges and complexities that many organizations have yet to reconcile.

Challenge:

  • Without the right policies or digital tools to gauge employee wellness, engagement, and work satisfaction, leaders will find it challenging to test the pulse of the workforce.

Opportunity:

  • Keep employees engaged and get the best out of them by using engagement software in conjunction with employee sentiment analysis tools to understand employees' stress levels and motivations.
  • This will help firms improve their retention strategies by identifying problem areas and providing data to make more strategic decisions and policies that offer greater flexibility.

2. Staying productive

With the pandemic blurring the lines of the start and end times of the workday, it can be difficult for employers to manage and judge the productivity of their remote employees. While some remote workers may work longer hours and less efficiently, others can get digitally distracted or experience burnout.

Conversely, the absence of typical office distractions, commuting and travelling, can also increase productivity, providing remote workers can access the right information in the flow of work.

Without a seamless connection to team members in the office, opportunities to share knowledge, collaborate, track performance, and make decisions can be easily lost, which is a significant challenge of the hybrid work world.

Challenge:

  • How can organizations replace the lost collaboration when there is a 60/40 or 70/30 split of workers at home or in-office?

Opportunity:

  • Keep employees connected with technology that brings them closer together to be more collaborative and stay productive.
  • Improve creativity in meetings by using tools such as virtual whiteboards and idea jams.
  • When in the office, prioritize relationships and collaborative work like brainstorming around a whiteboard.

3. Managing and securing company information

Security is just as important as productivity and collaboration when setting up a hybrid workspace. As the world becomes increasingly mobile, accessing corporate networks is not limited to being in the office.

With cyberattacks becoming more common and sophisticated, identifying suspicious emails, using secure passwords, and securing and managing information to remain compliant and meet regulatory requirements will be a giant step to shoring up company defenses against online threats.

Challenge:

  • As more people switch between onsite and remote working locations and use unmanaged personal devices to connect to corporate networks, the risk of cyberattacks, unauthorized access, malware infections, data leaks, and constraints on your IT infrastructure increases.

Opportunity:

  • Implement a Data Loss Prevention solution for risks originating within the organization to minimize the risk of data loss, leakage, and theft.
  • Adopt a principle of Zero Trust security, which means minimizing a user's access to corporate networks, systems, or data.
  • Secure your cloud base and regularly train your workforce to comply with legal, security, industry, and other regulatory requirements.

4. Digital exhaustion

In the hybrid work world, digital overload is a real and sustainable threat. As the availability of digital tools and platforms to work together continues to grow, those platforms now make up an increasingly large part of employees' working days.

As a result, employees struggle to balance work and home; they become overwhelmed with too many tools, apps, and virtual meetings or find it difficult to disconnect at the end of their workday.

Microsoft reports that 54% of its global survey respondents felt overworked, and one in five say their employer doesn't care about their work-life balance.

Challenge:

  • How can you offer opportunities for improved performance and employee well-being in a hybrid work environment?

Opportunity:

  • When working with people in other time zones, try to balance synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.
  • Create a culture where your employees are encouraged to take five-minute breaks between remote meetings to help people think more clearly and reduce stress.
  • Encourage employees working from home, to design their days to include other priorities such as family, fitness, or hobbies.
  • Regularly evaluate how to minimize exposure to digital distractions and mitigate the risk of virtual overload.

5. Digital adoption

Whether you're an established global enterprise or an emerging internet startup, driving digital adoption is a mammoth task.

However, you can achieve digital success by creating a long-term technology strategy which is flexible enough to allow you to exploit opportunities offered by unexpected technological developments. This will give you a distinct advantage over your competitors. Learn more about strategies for modernizing your workplace here.

Begin by conducting an application rationalization exercise to determine which tools and features should be kept, replaced, and retired or consolidated. Then standardize and optimize the use of tools and establish a consistent approach for collaboration, communication, and document storage across the organization.

Challenge:

  • How can you ensure users feel supported and understand the purpose of all the digital tools?

Opportunity:

  • Select digital-savvy leaders and champions to roll out digital training and change management for all employees at a measured pace.
  • Leverage a wide variety of tools and applications from employee experience platforms to information management to its fullest extent.

You need to attract and retain talent, we're here

We're here to help you rethink, reshape, and reevaluate your workplace by leveraging agile, innovative, technology-driven solutions that enable employees to be more productive, feel secure, and prepare you for the unexpected.

For more information, contact:

Jason Cigan, Digital and Modern Workplace Leader, jcigan@bdo.ca

Sam Abdulrrazek, Partner, Digital & Production Advisory Services, sabdulrrazek@bdo.ca

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