Are hybrid businesses testing the psychology of work?

8 September 2021

The idea of hybrid working is nothing new. In fact, it’s all many of us have been talking about for the last year. Some workers thrive in the office, whereas some work better in their own space with a bit of flexibility. We’re all different and find ourselves in different life situations. Therefore, for many business owners, the idea of giving their workers the option of where and how to work, combining the best of office life and remote working, seems to be a sensible option. If employees have a choice and flexibility, they’ll likely be happier, right?

Remote and hybrid working has proven to be hugely successful so far. Employees have more control and flexibility over their working day but also opens up a vast talent pool and allows employers to cast a much wider (if not global) net in the search for employees. As a result, many employers are incorporating flexible or hybrid working models into their EVPs to help with talent attraction and retention in the new future of work.

However, when it comes to having some employees in the office and some working from home, there are bound to be some issues. Hiring individuals from across the country will naturally cause some cultural problems— one of the biggest being the impact on the psychology of work.

Workplace psychology is defined as understanding, explaining, and ultimately improving the attitudes and behaviours of individuals and groups in organisations and applying this knowledge to problems at work. Some issues that workplace psychology studies help to solve include psychological trauma in the workplace, worker productivity issues, and managing worker stress levels.

Why does hybrid work challenge this?

Well, splitting your workforce means losing those drive-by conversations for many. This means workers can miss out on socialising, collaborating and the more light-hearted side of the office. For example, it could cause a rift between employees, as those who spend time together become closer. However, the biggest test is for managers trying to understand if something is wrong or identify problems within their teams. If someone working remotely is struggling, whether personally, with their workload or if they’re unhappy with their role, it’s less easy for their managers to notice, never mind ask if they want to talk about it. Employee’s problems are quite literally out of sight, out of mind, and it’s harder to speak up if you have to organise a Zoom call to do so. Plus, without having these conversations to identify issues, managers may jump to conclusions when productivity slows down and cause tensions within the team.

Whether it’s managing a workload between a team in the office and working remotely, building relationships that will encourage employee engagement, or simply checking on your team’s mental and physical well-being, this is the start of a new beginning for many managers. The way we work is having to change, and more than ever, it’s vital that we adopt emotional intelligence and a proactive approach to the management of teams. Put simply, not waiting for them to come to you with a concern and to work to really unite your employees.

The relationship between line managers and employees is going to be difficult in a hybrid working environment. You’ll have to balance many aspects while ensuring you’re not accused of favouritism or leaving out individuals. From workloads (office workers can’t get all opportunities, but remote workers also can’t be overwhelmed) to mental health (no one wants burnout), it’s time for managers to step but to the plate if they’re going to improve retention in a hybrid environment.

So, what can you do about it?

Trust is critical

If you’re hiring remote employees or even just letting your team have the option to work from home a few days a week, your business won’t succeed without trust. Your managers do not have time to micromanage people working in various locations, and if they do try this approach, it’s bound to create frustrations. Managers must trust that their employees will get their tasks done, even if they’re not in the office. It may be that they choose to work slightly different hours to fit around commitments like childcare or medical appointments, but you should trust them to be able to do this. In the same way, you need to communicate clearly to team members that they can trust you with their issues and concerns. Whether they’re remote, in the office full time, or a combination of the two, employees need to see that these concerns are being dealt with. Otherwise, employees will feel ignored and neglected. Trust is a two-way street, and is critical that both managers and employees have faith in one another if hybrid working is to be a success.

Open door policy is a must

For hybrid working to work and to enhance employee engagement, an open-door policy must be implemented. Your managers and HR teams need to ensure that employees feel just as comfortable messaging or emailing to ask for a chat as they would coming over to their desk and pulling you into a meeting room. You need to reiterate that problems and concerns will be taken seriously, even if they live 100 miles away. A Microsoft Teams message, Slack message or even an email should hold just as much relevance as an in-person request for a chat. A hybrid working environment depends on employees feeling that they can speak up about concerns no matter where they choose to work. Otherwise, they’re likely to look for employment elsewhere in an environment where they feel supported.

Create opportunities to chat

Work isn’t the be-all and end-all, no matter how serious your business is. If you have hybrid teams, it makes sense to bring them together for fun activities just as you would in the office. Granted, it may be a bit more awkward and less natural as spontaneous after-work drinks, but it still strengthens those all-important working relationships. What’s most important is that employees in the office or working from home feel comfortable enough to discuss any issues or concerns. Part of this is feeling connected to their team. Plus, it’s essential for those who work far away to bond with the team if you wish to strengthen that loyalty and engagement.

Check-in regularly

Whether you’ve known the employee for a long time or they’re a new hire, working remotely can be alienating and lonely sometimes. They may not always feel that they can come to you, and so the best thing to do is to check-in yourself. This will prompt you to identify any issues. It can be a formal performance review to check on their workload or stress, or just a friendly chat and this will depend entirely on the nature and culture of your business. However, the idea is that you’re checking on individual team members regularly to monitor their stress levels, workload and productivity. This means that issues can be identified before it goes too far and your employees suffer from burnout. You need to create a balance so that employees who are present in the office don’t receive the bulk of the work and opportunities. As a result, remote employees aren’t drowning and working longer hours than they should just because you can’t see what’s going on.

At Talent Works, we help businesses attract top talent and create EVPs and employer brands that can truly encapsulate their company culture, helping talent attraction for years to come. A hybrid culture will bring challenges for employer brands and retention, which is where we come in. We can engage your teams in research to assess their true attitudes to work and areas for improvement, then we can help to tailor your messaging in a way that accurately reflects your workplace.

Contact us and start your conversation and find out how our recruitment specialists can help your business thrive in a hybrid working world – whether it’s attracting remote talent from further afield or refining your EVP to fit with the new normal.

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