5 HR Challenges to Expect When Moving Your Startup From Fully Remote to a Hybrid Workplace

Moving from a fully remote to a hybrid work model can be beneficial but also challenging. Here are 5 common HR issues to expect when making the transition.

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As a startup, the ability to work remotely can be incredibly beneficial, not only in terms of cost savings and convenience for employees but also regarding productivity. However, there may come a time when having a physical office is beneficial. In this case, adopting a hybrid work model can be an excellent strategy to get people back into the office without losing the benefits of remote work.

What are the 4 types of hybrid work models?

Hybrid work models can vary depending on your organization’s needs, the type of work teams do, and the workplace culture already in place. If you are considering a hybrid approach, you will be looking at 1 of the 4 options below.

  • Remote-first hybrid: In this model, employees can pick which days they want to work in the office. For the most part, team members occasionally come together for collaboration, training, and bonding in coworking spaces or the office.
  • Office-first hybrid: Employees come into the office more frequently under this model, with the understanding that some work will need to be done remotely. You can pick specific days when team members are free to work from home or adopt a project-driven model that allows staff to work remotely at specific project stages.
  • Hybrid-split week: This approach entails splitting your team into smaller groups, some based in the office full-time and others working remotely. As a result, you can continue having an online presence while providing flexibility for teams that are most productive working remotely.
  • Flexible hybrid: This model allows employees to pick their schedules without undermining the mandate of having an in-office presence. Team members can work from home when it suits them but must make their way to the office for meetings or when their presence is necessary.

Regardless of the model you choose, transitioning from a fully remote environment to a hybrid one comes with some unique HR challenges. As your employees adapt to the new system, communication, collaboration, and morale can all be affected.

5 HR issues when changing from a fully remote to a hybrid workplace

Read on for 5 HR issues to look out for as you transition and some practical tips for overcoming them.

1. Coordinating shared workspaces

When shifting to a hybrid model, you will need to find a physical shared space for your staff. Depending on the size of your team and how often they come into the office, it can be challenging to ensure everyone has access to the resources and support they need when required.

This problem can be even more pressing if you operate in multiple locations and need to figure out how to manage coworking spaces for remote and onsite staff.

The best way to tackle this issue is to create a comprehensive plan that outlines the rules and boundaries for how people are expected to use the shared workspaces. That way, you can eliminate confusion and enable your team to focus on meaningful work rather than finding a conducive workspace.

Your plan for managing shared workspaces must outline the following:

  • Clear policies on when employees must come into the office and on which days and times they can work from home.
  • Guidelines for utilizing shared spaces efficiently, such as how to reserve workspaces and meeting rooms in advance and the maximum duration any team member can occupy a shared space.
  • Rules for office conduct, such as the dress code, noise levels, and use of common areas.

Also, consider ways to make your office space more conducive for collaboration and productivity, such as investing in ergonomic furniture and providing access to amenities like break-out areas, coffee machines, and healthy snacks.

2. Aligning hybrid work with the existing company culture

Introducing a hybrid model can disrupt the culture you have established within your organization. If your team is used to a flexible, fully remote culture, they may struggle when expected to move back and forth between remote and onsite locations. These changes can adversely impact productivity and morale.

When instituting a hybrid model, it is critical to ensure everyone understands how the move fits into the existing culture and contributes to your company’s growth.

Your startup’s organizational culture is the backbone of successful working relationships. So, when instituting a hybrid model, it is critical to ensure everyone understands how the move fits into the existing culture and contributes to your company’s growth.

Consider the tips below to infuse hybrid work into your organization’s culture.

  • Encourage open communication: A smooth remote-to-hybrid transition hinges on everyone feeling comfortable giving feedback. Establish channels where team members can suggest ideas and provide constructive criticism without fear of reprimand.
  • Give employees ownership: Empower your people by allowing them to make decisions about how and when they work. Autonomy will build trust and encourage employees to take ownership of their projects.
  • Measure performance based on results: Evaluate people’s performance on the quality of work they produce, not the number of hours they put in or the days they come to the office. That way, employees can buy into the hybrid model without feeling forced.

3. Providing adequate learning and development opportunities

Remote workers transitioning to hybrid models may find their learning and development (L&D) schedules disrupted by the new arrangement.

For example, they may no longer have the flexibility to attend the conferences, workshops, and e-learning sessions they did while working from home and will need time to adjust to new ways of learning.

The development gap can be especially apparent with the hybrid-split model, where some team members are in the office, and some are fully remote.

Depending on your L&D approach, one group may have more access to development opportunities than the other, resulting in an unfair advantage.

Ensuring consistent access to L&D when transitioning to a hybrid setup requires careful planning and resource optimization.

Consider the following tips to give your staff adequate learning opportunities regardless of their working setup.

  • Encourage online learning: Having a physical office does not mean fully transitioning from online to physical learning. Keep face-to-face sessions for core team-building activities and opt for virtual events such as webinars or e-learning courses to deliver uniform learning for all staff.
  • Create customized learning plans: Everyone has different employee training and development needs and preferences. To ensure an equitable experience, design tailored plans for every team, accounting for their specific working arrangements and development goals.
  • Involve remote employees in team activities: Remote workers must not feel disconnected from the rest of the company. Consider providing remote employees with resources to attend virtual team-building or training sessions and give them a voice in decision-making processes.

4. Facilitating cross-functional collaboration

Creating a collaborative environment and stimulating cross-functional communication can be challenging when working models differ from 1 team to the next.

For instance, a department that primarily interacts face-to-face might find it difficult to collaborate effectively with a fully remote team that relies almost entirely on virtual communication tools.

Some teams may also be more comfortable working at home than others, resulting in an imbalance of engagement and communication.

The steps below can help you nurture effective communication among teams.

  • Audit your existing communication strategy: Before implementing any fresh approaches, evaluate present systems to identify their suitability for facilitating collaboration in a hybrid workspace. Assess the number of channels you have, the tools you use, the formats of communication, and any physical barriers, and make adjustments according to your findings.
  • Ask employees what they prefer: Teams often find collaboration challenging because they are stuck using a tool or medium that does not fit their dynamic. So, after your audit, collect feedback from staff to determine their communication preferences and use this information as a basis for your changes.
  • Provide easy access to resources: Give your staff seamless access to the resources they need to collaborate effectively, from suitable applications with integrated collaboration features to support teams for handling technical issues.
  • Encourage a culture of inclusion: A hybrid workspace presents opportunities for fostering an inclusive culture. Techniques like cross-functional team-building and inter-departmental talent exchanges can create an environment of openness, respect, and trust among teams with different working models.

5. Promoting employee well-being and engagement

The sudden transition from a remote to a hybrid setup can overwhelm some employees. For example, some people may have incorporated going to the gym or spending time with friends into their everyday routine, and the sudden switch to part-time office work can disrupt this balance.

According to a TINYpulse report, 80% of human resources executives observed a reduction in employee productivity and morale when their organizations moved from a remote to a hybrid workplace after the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Keeping your employees engaged and motivated as they start splitting their time between the office and their homes can be challenging, but it is a worthwhile investment. The tips below can help you provide the support they need to embrace the changes.

  • Focus on flexibility: Start by introducing policies that give employees more control over their work schedules. For example, you can allow them to choose when and how often to come into the office or arrange special days for remote workers.
  • Encourage active communication: Encourage your staff to communicate openly with each other about their concerns and preferences, so they feel comfortable raising any issues they might have. You can also set up regular virtual check-ins with your teams, focusing on building trust and strengthening relationships.
  • Provide access to well-being resources: Equip your staff with the resources they need to stay healthy and productive, from mental health awareness sessions to virtual yoga classes. That way, they can be better equipped to handle the added stress of transitioning to a hybrid workspace.

Responding well to HR challenges is key to a successful hybrid model

Replacing your fully remote work model with a hybrid approach can have significant merit. You can gain from the benefits of both remote and office work without compromising on either.

However, as we have shown, the transition will likely come with challenges you must address before you can realize the benefits of your new working model.

From coordinating shared spaces to promoting employee well-being, you have a lot to consider when making the shift. Nevertheless, by understanding the issues and developing a comprehensive strategy for dealing with them, you can ensure your hybrid workplace is fully optimized for success.

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