If you’ve read any of our articles on the future of work, you know we’re bullish on hybrid work.

It offers flexibility for employers and employees, promotes more efficient space usage, and can combine the best of both remote and office work.

However, that doesn’t mean going hybrid is easy. We’re not oblivious to the hybrid work challenges and potential disadvantages, and if you’re thinking about transitioning to a hybrid workplace, you shouldn’t be either.

The bad news is that there are quite a few hybrid work challenges. The good news is that they’re far from insurmountable and overcoming them comes with massive benefits.


Quick Summary

In this article, we reveal the 9 biggest challenges of hybrid work and some potential ways to overcome them. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Challenge #1: Starting the transition from remote or office work to hybrid
  • Challenge #2: Rethinking your (remote) onboarding processes
  • Challenge #3: Hybrid meetings require a different approach
  • Challenge #4: Getting people back in the office (this one’s widely misunderstood)
  • Challenge #5: Reshaping the office to increase productivity and collaboration
  • Challenge #6: The danger of using too many workplace apps
  • Challenge #7: Ensuring equal opportunities for remote, hybrid, and office employees
  • Challenge #8: Maintaining Company Culture in a Hybrid Environment
  • Challenge #9: Addressing Overlooked Security Risks

Let’s get started!

The 9 Most Common Hybrid Work Challenges (And How To Tackle Them)

#1 Starting the Transition from Remote or Office Work to Hybrid

Transitioning to a hybrid model isn’t just a logistical change; it’s a cultural shift.

employee in the office

Changing the way we work and still being productive is difficult. There’s no way around that, especially at the start.

When going hybrid, work will feel weird for a bit, until all the parts fall in place and everyone gets used to it.

Some of the issues during this initial stage can’t be avoided, as most of us suffer from at least a bit of status quo bias, even if the status quo can be improved. So, expect some pushback and productivity fluctuations for the first few weeks of your hybrid experiment.

Strategy for Success – Communication and Technology

To make this smoother, consider a phased approach. Start with voluntary return-to-office days and gradually increase as comfort grows.

Again, there’s no way to avoid all potential problems here, but you can make the transition smoother by talking to your employees and using technology.

On the one hand, you need to know what everyone thinks about different flexible work options and how they envision their future workplace. This lets you create a workplace strategy that’s optimal for everyone’s productivity and well-being.

On the other hand, technology can make the practical aspects of the hybrid transition much easier. For example, a good hybrid workplace solution can encourage flexibility and collaboration by:

  • Helping you create a virtual floorplan of your office.
  • Letting employees book a desk before coming to the office. In addition, here’s a list of the best desk booking software right now.
  • Showing them who’s on-site so they can decide if they want to collaborate in person.

These aren’t monumental tasks, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to kick off a hybrid work experiment without them. Technology can massively reduce the friction of switching to a new work model, so use its power to the fullest.

#2 Rethinking your (Remote) onboarding Process

If you’ve hired remote workers in the past, you likely won’t have a lot of issues, but if not — prepare to make some changes to your onboarding process. The fact that we often don’t realize the perks of in-person onboarding exacerbates this challenge.

hiring process

For example, you can’t ask a quick question without scheduling a meeting or quickly follow up with someone at their desk when working remotely. You can do that during an asynchronous meeting.

Remote employees also can’t randomly bump into people from other departments, who can give them a different perspective on the company and its processes.

In short, you’ll need to plan and structure your onboarding process carefully in advance. Onboarding remotely requires more than just a welcome email. It’s about integrating new hires into the company culture.

Create a comprehensive guide that includes virtual meet-and-greets, mentorship programs, and interactive training sessions. Remember, the goal is to make remote employees feel as welcomed and connected as their in-office counterparts.

Strategy for Success – Follow-up and Create a Checklist

The problems with remote onboarding stem from its self-guided nature and the inability to ask spontaneous questions during the process. If you’re a manager, you can start by following these 3 best practices when onboarding remote employees:

  1. Check-in often. Doing a short sync once a day can help people get answers to their questions quickly. Plus, you get instant feedback on where they’re struggling, which helps you improve the onboarding process for future hires.
  2. Create an onboarding checklist. This can be as simple as jotting down 5-10 items that everyone must go through during the onboarding phase. You can check out Miro’s ultimate guide to remote work for examples and tips of what to include in an onboarding plan of remote teammates.
  3. Introduce new hires to other teams and experts. For example, a new marketing team member should be introduced to the people in sales, product, and dev, who often collaborate with the marketing team. Knowing who to ask and how to navigate cross-department projects makes things much easier down the line.

This is a complex topic, so if you want to go more in-depth, I suggest checking out GitLab’s guide to remote onboarding.

Do you utilize the right hybrod work model for your organization? Find out by taking this short hybrid work quiz.

#3 Hybrid Meetings Require a Different Approach

Similar to onboarding, having a meeting with a hybrid team is tricky.

two people talking in the office

Hybrid meetings are a balancing act. Invest in technology that ensures seamless communication, like high-quality video conferencing tools and digital whiteboards.

Encourage meeting leaders to actively involve remote participants, perhaps by starting with their inputs. This ensures everyone has a voice, regardless of their physical location.

When a meeting feels like it’s going well, it’s easy to forget about the remote participants. And from their perspective, it’s really tough to speak up, especially when the in-person conversation is flowing.

This can lead to people feeling left out, which can be really demoralizing. Plus, the whole team might miss out on some great ideas.

Strategy for Success — Acknowledge Online Participants

This one’s really simple. Just make sure that the person running a meeting always takes the time to ask online participants for their take. You can include this as part of your onboarding or culture documents so everyone in the company knows it’s the right thing to do. In addition, use the right equipment for hybrid meetings.

#4 Getting People Back in the Office (RTO)

In 2020, the pandemic forced us to undergo a violent change in our work environment.

coworkers

Today, companies are asking their employees to experience this change again, which obviously doesn’t sit well with many.

People don’t want to go back to the same office full-time. As a result, some companies try to lure them back with free snacks, ping-pong tables, or similar benefits (which is usually a horrible idea).

Others force people back through top-down decision-making via mandatory policies. There’s even been a push towards not allowing employees to pick their own WFH days.

In short, getting people back in the office is hard. However, we shouldn’t look at that as a problem, but as an opportunity.

Strategy for Success – Focus on Community

Asking yourself “How can I get people back in the office?” may be the wrong question to start with.

Here’s a better alternative:

What’s the biggest benefit of being in the office and how can we make it easier for everyone to experience that?

At OfficeRnD we believe that community is the biggest benefit of being in the office. On that note, encouraging collaboration and in-person learning (and the occasional office chit-chat) should be a part of any hybrid work environment. As a manager, your job should be to nurture that sense of community and highlight it as the primary reason for coming to the office.

Of course, you could also create a mandatory policy or work schedule of the type “Everyone must come to the office X days per week”, but that’s a very limited way of looking at the problem. Many companies resort to this method since it’s easy and familiar (displaying a type of “Man with hammer” syndrome) while neglecting how risky it is.

A better way to approach this challenge is to let everyone see who else will be in the office when and help them decide if they want to collaborate in person. You can do that in a spreadsheet, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or with a hybrid work solution like OfficeRnD Hybrid.

Regardless of how you do it, the idea remains the same: put the tech in the hands of employees, make it easy to book a desk and see who else will be in the office, and trust them.

#5 Reshaping the Office to Increase Productivity and Collaboration

We already said that most people don’t want to go back to the office full-time.

cool office setting

However, they also don’t want to come back to the same office at all. And there’s a good reason for that — if the office is just a cubicle with a laptop and a few meeting rooms, there’s truly no point in going back.

That’s why many companies are transforming their offices to better accommodate employees’ needs and prevent the collaboration issues that stem from remote work. For example, Snowflake redesigned their headquarters to be safer, as well as encourage collaboration and productivity.

Strategy for Success – Office Neighborhoods

Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all here, so start by talking to your team members.

They might need more quiet spaces, collaboration areas, or meeting rooms, so just ask them before making big changes.

One idea you might consider is setting up office neighborhoods, i.e., organizing your workplace so that people who need to collaborate or who have similar workspace needs, sit together in one area.

For example, you can set up neighborhoods based on projects, where team members from different departments get together when working on a joint task. Another option is to create activity neighborhoods, based on the demand for certain working conditions like seclusion or collaboration.

When done correctly, office neighborhoods make it easy to come and be productive at the office, since the space is built out for your work needs.

The office in a hybrid world is more than a place to work; it’s a space for collaboration and innovation. Consider redesigning your office layout to include more communal areas for team brainstorming and quiet zones for focused work.

Here’s a good guide on using feng shui for a modernistic office design.

#6 The Danger of Using Too Many Workplace Apps

Today, many of us use 2-3 video conferencing apps (Slack, Teams, Zoom, etc.) to talk to colleagues and clients.

office computer

We also use some type of planning/project management tool (like Jira or Basecamp), an email client, and an app to store and share files (like Google Drive or Dropbox). And that doesn’t include the specialized tooling that each profession requires.

In short, we’re overloaded with apps. App overload is detrimental to both mental health and productivity, as it contributes to burnout and wastes time. As one study of UK and US professionals noted, most people spend an hour every day just looking for information trapped within tools.

If you’re trying out hybrid work, you’ll probably need another app for reserving desks and meeting rooms. However, due to our current overload, you might see pushback and poor adoption.

Strategy for Success — Integrations

As a company building a hybrid workspace solution, we know most people don’t want another app just to go to work.

That’s why integrations are key.

For example, OfficeRnD Hybrid integrates with Office 365, Slack, and Google Calendar, so you can manage your entire hybrid workplace inside these apps. This makes the employee experience much smoother since we already use these apps daily.

Again, it’s about harnessing the power of technology to remove friction and make everyone’s life easier.

#7 Ensuring Equal Opportunities for Remote, Hybrid, and Office Employees

An unfortunate side effect of the hybrid workforce is that employees who come to the office get more opportunities than those who don’t.

old man working

In fact, MIT’s recent research found that:

“Employees who work remotely may end up getting lower performance evaluations, smaller raises and fewer promotions than their colleagues in the office — even if they work just as hard and just as long.”

Or in other words — out of sight, out of mind.

This imbalance must be addressed early, as it can have devastating effects on company culture and work relationships. Fortunately, this challenge is also an opportunity to rethink how you’re evaluating performance.

Strategy for Success— Evaluate Results, not Familiarity

A huge part of the challenge here is that we’re often not consciously aware of our bias towards people we face time with daily.

What we see becomes familiar, and what’s familiar becomes reliable and trustworthy, at least in our heads.

We likely can’t avoid this bias entirely, but we can mitigate it by setting clear individual goals and evaluating everyone’s results based on them. That way, we can let data, rather than our subjective perceptions, guide us. Beware that this is much easier said than done.

This is a massive topic that deserves an article (or book) of its own, so I’d recommend checking out this HBR article on making sure employees succeed for more details.

#8 Maintaining Company Culture in a Hybrid Environment

Maintaining a cohesive and vibrant company culture becomes increasingly challenging in a hybrid work environment.

several coworkers in an office

Here are the key factors:

  1. Physical Separation: The lack of regular, face-to-face interactions can lead to a sense of disconnection among team members. In a traditional office setting, casual conversations, impromptu meetings, and social interactions naturally foster a sense of community and shared culture. In a hybrid setup, with some employees working remotely and others in the office, replicating this spontaneous interaction is difficult.
  2. Inclusivity Concerns: There’s a risk of creating a divide between in-office and remote employees. Those working remotely may feel left out of the loop or less valued compared to their in-office counterparts. This can lead to a two-tier system within the same organization, eroding the sense of unity and shared purpose.
  3. Communication Challenges: Effective communication is the backbone of a strong company culture. In a hybrid environment, ensuring consistent and clear communication across different mediums and locations is a complex task. There’s a higher risk of miscommunication or information silos forming, which can hinder the development of a cohesive culture.
  4. Engagement and Participation: Engaging employees in company-wide initiatives and maintaining their participation in cultural activities is more challenging when not all employees are physically present. Remote employees might miss out on impromptu cultural events or feel less inclined to participate in virtual versions of these events.
  5. Alignment of Values and Goals: Ensuring that all employees, regardless of their location, understand and align with the company’s core values and goals is crucial. In a hybrid setting, reinforcing these values consistently and effectively requires deliberate effort and innovative approaches.

Strategy for Success – Create Shared Experiences

Here’s how you can tackle this challenge by bringing people together:

  • Regular Virtual Events: Host monthly virtual events like team-building games, coffee breaks, or happy hours. These events should be light-hearted and non-work related to encourage bonding.
  • Culture Ambassadors: Appoint culture ambassadors from different departments who can brainstorm and organize activities that reinforce company values and culture.
  • Open Forums: Create open forums where employees can share ideas, concerns, and feedback. This could be a monthly virtual town hall or a dedicated channel on your communication platform.
  • Recognition Programs: Implement a recognition program where employees can nominate their peers for awards based on company values. This can be done during virtual meetings, enhancing a sense of appreciation and belonging.
  • Hybrid-friendly Policies: Develop policies that reflect the needs of both remote and in-office employees, ensuring fairness and inclusivity.

#9 Addressing Overlooked Security Risks

In a hybrid work environment, addressing security risks becomes increasingly complex.

cyber security

Here are five reasons why:

  1. Diverse Work Locations: Employees working from various locations, including public spaces or home networks, can inadvertently expose the company to security vulnerabilities. Unlike controlled office environments, home networks often lack robust security measures, making them susceptible to attacks.
  2. Use of Personal Devices: The blending of personal and professional device usage can lead to security breaches. Employees might access sensitive company data on personal laptops or smartphones that do not have the same level of security as office equipment.
  3. Inconsistent Security Practices: Remote workers might not adhere to the same security protocols as in-office staff, either due to lack of awareness or the absence of enforced policies. This inconsistency can create gaps in the organization’s security posture.
  4. Increased Phishing and Cyber Attacks: With employees scattered across different locations, there’s a heightened risk of phishing attacks. Remote workers, isolated from their colleagues, might be more susceptible to these attacks due to less immediate access to IT support or peer verification.
  5. Data Management Challenges: Ensuring secure access and data transfer between remote and in-office employees is a significant challenge. Without proper controls, sensitive information can be easily compromised during transmission or storage.

Strategy for Success: Implement Strong Security Protocols

To mitigate these risks, invest time and effort into implementing comprehensive security measures:

  • Regular Cybersecurity Training: Educate employees about the importance of cybersecurity, including how to recognize and respond to threats like phishing.
  • Secure Tools and Protocols: Equip remote workers with secure tools, such as VPNs, and enforce strict protocols for accessing and handling company data.
  • Robust Access Controls: Implement role-based access controls to sensitive data, ensuring that employees only have access to the information necessary for their roles.
  • Frequent Security Audits: Conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities and ensure compliance with data protection regulations.
  • Emergency Response Plan: Develop a clear plan for responding to security breaches, including steps for employees to follow and a rapid response team to mitigate damage.

Win at Hybrid Work With the Right Tools

So, as you can see switching to hybrid isn’t easy. As with any other mode of working, there are challenges and potential disadvantages, which everyone should be aware of.

That’s why we created OfficeRnD Hybrid – an easy-to-use, yet powerful hybrid work management solution that helps you create a thriving workplace. With it, you can:

  • Book desks and meeting rooms on an interactive floorplan
  • Have an app-less experience through powerful integrations with the most commonly used work tools such as Microsoft tech stack, Google Workspace, and Slack
  • Obtain valuable reports and data analytics so you can make more informed business decisions and save money
  • Entice employees to come to the office for the moments that matter with a set of rich collaborative features.
  • …and more

The best part?

You can start for free with OfficeRnD Hybrid and use it for up to 20 users and 20 resources with no time limits.

FAQ

What is the Biggest Challenge in Hybrid Work?

The biggest challenge in hybrid work is maintaining effective communication and collaboration across remote and in-office teams. Ensuring consistent engagement and productivity levels, while also managing different time zones and work environments, can be complex.

What are the Negatives of Hybrid Working?

Hybrid working can lead to disparities in team cohesion and communication, as remote workers might feel isolated or less engaged compared to in-office colleagues. Another drawback is that managing a balanced and fair workload across different environments can be challenging, potentially impacting productivity and employee satisfaction.

What are the Biggest Challenges Experienced in Hybrid Meetings?

In hybrid meetings, the main challenges include ensuring equitable participation between remote and in-office attendees, managing technical issues like connectivity and audio-visual quality, and maintaining engagement across different locations. These factors can hinder effective communication and collaboration.

How do you Overcome Hybrid Work Challenges?

To overcome hybrid work challenges, it’s essential to invest in robust communication and hybrid workplace management tools, establish clear policies for remote and in-office work, and foster an inclusive culture that values input from all team members, regardless of their location. Regular check-ins and feedback loops can also help in addressing issues promptly and maintaining team cohesion.

Is hybrid work stressful?

Hybrid work can be stressful due to the need to constantly adapt between different working environments, manage varying communication channels, and balance the demands of both remote and in-office expectations. This can lead to challenges in maintaining work-life balance and managing time effectively.

Miro Miroslavov
CEO and Co-founder of OfficeRnD
Miro Miroslavov is a software engineer turned into a tech entrepreneur. In 2015 he co-founded OfficeRnD - a leading flex space and hybrid work management platform. As a CEO at OfficeRnD, he grew the company from inception to a leading software vendor that serves thousands of customers worldwide. He is a big fan of flexible working and is on a mission to "Making Flexible Working the Way of Working".