There are big opportunities in this new future, and there are greater complexities than ever. After all, “hybrid” can mean many different things. In fact, we categorize at least six options for what hybrid could look like in a given organization. While we’ll leave the types of hybrid workplaces for another day, let’s look at five practical and specific ways hybrid work will be different than either of our past realities, the traditional “everyone in the office” or “everyone is remote.”
New Expectations (again)
Remember the frustrations and lack of clarity about how work would and should be done when we all went to work at home? A hybrid workplace changes all of that again. Some are expecting/hopeful that hybrid won’t be a problem. The thinking is that we have learned to work remotely, and we used to work face to face, so now we have all the needed experience. Except that hybrid work isn’t “some of each” but a brand-new third way of working. Expectations about how work is done, communicated, and much more will need to be determined or negotiated.
I don’t need to tell you that your personal routines are different now than when you went to the office every day. Now you may be alternating between home and office every day or week. Work routines will change again, too. When do we have meetings? Who needs to be here for this discussion? Those are just two examples, and I’m not even talking about distancing or other protocols that may remain in place.
Who Knows What?
Have you ever been in a conversation where you thought everyone was on the same page, but they weren’t? Imagine how frequently that is going to occur in a hybrid working situation. Jane and Emily talked about something in the hallway but unintentionally never looped Ed into the discussion (or worse yet, the decision). What are the odds Ed might be confused, hurt, frustrated, or not be doing the needed next steps? Communication, coordination, and collaboration will require more care and feeding than ever before.
If your hybrid model has the same people in the office on the same days, relationships will grow or change in uneven ways. Cliques, side groups, and inside jokes will naturally occur due to interaction and familiarity. Recognizing and combating this across the entire team will cause challenges for some and almost certainly impact team effectiveness and cohesiveness if not addressed.
Changes in Team Dynamics
Several of the points above point to an overall challenge. If you thought team dynamics were hard while everyone was working from home, they will get even more complex in a world of hybrid work, especially if your model has some people in the office regularly and some rarely or ever there. That care and feeding of the team will become more important than ever.
These are just a few of the changes that are in your future. They can be overcome, and a hybrid workplace can provide great value to the organization and the individual team members. Recognizing and addressing these challenges will be a good start for you as you move into an even more complex future of work. The future of your work likely includes being part of a hybrid team. Now is the time to embrace that fact and prepare to thrive in that working environment.