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Article | Managing Risk

How to make hybrid work for everyone

October 6, 2022

Hybrid working has offered workers flexibility, but there are potential negative impacts on employees that employers need to manage.
Risk & Analytics|Risk Management Consulting
ESG In Sight

How is hybrid working playing out in your organisation? A resounding success or throwing up a few challenges?

While many employees seem to report appreciating the flexibility of hybrid working, that’s not the case for everyone. Some employees are experiencing increased social isolation, greater technological demands and overworking. As for the employer, we are seeing the emergence of different managerial challenges with a hybrid workforce for organisations to navigate, with common concerns around challenges to collaboration and social connection.

WTW research shows that stress, burnout and mental health issues is the top concern for 81% of employers closely followed by lack of social interaction at 53%.1 If hybrid working is to be a success and good for mental health and productivity then organisations will need to maintain the increasing focus on health and wellbeing we have seen over recent years and ensure that this is embedded at strategic level, with emphasis on creating a healthy working environment which works for all. The question then becomes how that is done?

How to manage hybrid working effectively

A good place to start is with the framework for hybrid working at your organisation. Hybrid working is “a form of flexible working where workers spend some of their time working remotely…and some in the employer’s workspace.”2 Whilst hybrid is flexible, there needs to be some structure to it, setting out expectations and responsibilities at team level. If challenges are arising, ask yourself whether the organisational framework is clear, whether expectations have been communicated at local level and whether there was sufficient consultation with the workforce on the hybrid model prior to implementation.

Upskilling managers is key to successful hybrid working

The hybrid working environment places increasing demands on line managers whose jobs have become more complex due to managing delivery requirements of the job alongside employees now having increased flexibility. Managing successfully in a hybrid world requires enhanced skills which include:

  1. A greater emphasis on relationship building, facilitating human connections, inclusivity and a culture of psychological safety, where team members feel safe to come forward with their ideas, concerns and mistakes.
  2. Cultivating empathy and compassion as a leadership skill. This can foster stronger bonds between employees and help employees feel more committed to talking about their organisation positively. The shift to hybrid has been a huge change for many and those who lead with empathy are more likely to successfully manage the change process and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of their teams.
  3. An understanding of how to implement hybrid working having regard to inclusion, equality and fairness. Care is required not to fall into the trap of proximity bias – favouring those who have a physical presence in the office when promotion opportunities come about, which can introduce the risk of more employee relations issues.
  4. Establishing communication norms with job demands in mind and doing so collectively at team level so everyone is on board with what does and does not need real time interaction. This can minimise frustrations of not being able to get hold of colleagues and increased demands caused by delays in communication.
  5. Knowing how to support wellbeing. This is not just about having conscious conversations with individuals on their wellbeing, but about understanding psychosocial risks which might arise in a hybrid working environment and managing those risks to ensure a safe and healthy working environment, both physically and psychologically.

Hybrid working aside, one of the main causes of workplace stress is frequently cited as lack of management support3, yet many managers and leaders fall into position with very little in the way of leadership training. Managing in a hybrid world adds another dimension to leadership, and therefore training and supporting people managers to develop their leadership skills to build trusted hybrid teams where employees can flourish and stay mentally well can only be in the interests of all to achieve success.

How can WTW help?

WTW supports organisations in creating psychologically healthy and safe workplaces via a range of consultancy and training solutions. For further information please get in touch.





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