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What will be the biggest challenges when it comes to hybrid work, and what should companies prioritize to overcome them?

What will be the biggest challenges when it comes to hybrid work, and what should companies prioritize to overcome them?


Larry Gadea

CEO and co-founder, Envoy

When it comes to hybrid work, let's be honest: People don't know what to think. Are two or three days a week in the office the sweet spot? Are five days a dealbreaker? We repeat what we hear others say or go with our gut, but how do any of us really know?

This is the first real national conversation we're having about work flexibility after one of the most catastrophic world events. Now companies are dealing with the pressure to come up with long-term plans and answers before they've had a chance to try things out and see what works. Leaders should be confessing, "We're not sure what the plan is yet," but no one wants to hear this. We need to be OK with some uncertainty and, at the same time, stay flexible for everyone.

As people return, each company should look at its data to see what's needed and what the people prefer. What I'm currently seeing based on Envoy customer usage data of around several hundred Desks-using companies is that companies are adapting their spaces, opting for open over permanent desks. They're giving folks options to book desks or meeting space when needed, and based on data of who's coming in, they're adjusting their policies.

Right now, work is getting done remotely and people are allegedly more productive than ever. But many aren't enjoying their jobs as much because they're missing a sense of community and inherent culture that'd have otherwise been automatic in an office. Proximity matters. It's important for teams to be together physically, and making that actually happen now takes intention. You need to organize people coming back into the office, in specific places and on one schedule. You need the right tools that simplify the mundane office tasks of hot desking, finding meeting rooms, managing office capacity and syncing schedules so teams can sit together, connect, get creative and, you know, bring some humanity to an otherwise day-to-day job.

Hybrid work has its logistical challenges and will look different for each company, but it keeps the culture alive and the community strong for people to do their best work.

Erin Figueroa

VP, Operations, Slack

During the pandemic, the way we work fundamentally changed — and there's no going back. Employees don't want to return to pre-pandemic office-based work culture, but they also don't want to remain fully remote. Instead, they want an entirely new working model that combines the best of both worlds. Research from Slack's Future Forum shows that 93% of knowledge workers want flexibility in when they work, while 76% want flexibility in where they work. But employees don't want flexibility at all costs. Instead, they want flexibility within a predictable framework. Two-thirds (65.6%) want a balance between full flexibility and a predictable framework.

Successfully making this transition depends on moving from office-centric infrastructure to digital-first infrastructure. Being digital-first is about meeting your employees' needs and helping them do their best work. It means empowering people to work when and where is best for them, with physical offices serving as just one of the tools available to support collaboration. For example, while Slack will always support the needs of those who require individual space, we'll be focusing the use of our physical offices on work that is team- and customer-centric.

Having employees working outside of central offices for extended periods or on hybrid schedules may be difficult because we can lose those organic, spontaneous connections that occur in passing and help foster a sense of community. But by prioritizing digital infrastructure as much as physical — leaning into digital tools like Slack and asynchronous communication to ensure workers have flexibility they need to do their best work — we can create meaningful connections and foster community for employees regardless of how or when they work.

Nellie Hayat

Head of Workplace Transformation, VergeSense

The abrupt shift to work-from-home globally in early 2020 has forced most organizations to adopt remote work. It meant providing laptops, offering allowances to set up a home office and allowing people to self-manage their schedule (to accommodate caregiving obligations and other COVID-related challenges). But what companies did not anticipate is that employees would not want to revert back to the pre-pandemic model.

Indeed, after more than 18 months, employees have adapted to the change, they have adopted new habits and they have developed a greater liking for flexibility. They've also started to voice their dissatisfaction with the rigid 9-to-5, five days a week work mode as lacking inclusion, diversity and trust.

In April 2021 alone, more than 4 million Americans quit their job. So what can companies do to retain their top performers and attract the best talent?

  1. Adopt distributed work, offer greater flexibility to teams and provide trust to individuals. According to a recent survey of 10,000 knowledge workers, Future Forum reports that flexibility is now a core benefit and it ranks second to compensation among the factors that employees value most about their jobs.
  2. Build a framework to identify signs of disengagement, burnout, health-related issues, turnover and dissatisfaction. It will allow you to make changes internally to keep employees motivated, happy and healthy.
  3. Invest in renovating existing offices to allocate more space for team work, social gatherings, company celebrations and innovation hubs. Pre-pandemic workplaces were overly designed for individualized work according to VergeSense's report on workplace usage.

Sal Mani

Global Director of Technical Security, Ripple

Remote work has increased swiftly and brought about new ways to structure organizations and workplaces. We see that people want to work from varying working environments and prefer a hybrid approach.

That said, when some people are remote and some are on-site, it becomes harder for hybrid teams to collaborate. Knowing this, companies need to prioritize changing their physical environment and defining remote work guidelines to provide the best team experience.

Now that there are fewer "water cooler" talks and informal walkovers to desks, employees need the ability to create virtual team environments easily. Companies will need to create spaces that allow for quick collaboration and decision-making. We can foster casual conversation by having more video conferencing pop-in rooms or areas that are non-bookable and first come, first served.

Companies may also need to reconfigure existing spaces based on how often they're used and changing foot traffic. Understanding space utilization and taking a data-driven approach will be essential. There may be a shift to desk hoteling or having open collaboration spaces for team gatherings. Regardless, companies will need to focus on making it easy for employees to say that they're coming into the office versus working remotely so workplace teams can plan ahead. Various tools have come to market that can help companies understand who's coming in and space usage while providing a great experience for employees.

We also need to provide learning and training on remote-friendly best practices. Companies should create a playbook and provide training to ensure successful collaboration between remote and in-office employees.