Addressing HR Challenges in a Hybrid/Remote Workplace

To mark the two-year anniversary of The HR Uprising Podcast, host Lucinda Carney invited a guest panel to join her in a Q&A discussion on ‘Addressing HR Challenges in a Hybrid Workplace’. Morna Bunce (Chief People Officer, Stowe Family Law), Umar Zamman (Director of HR & O.D., Sheffield Hallam University) and Janet Reilly, (Director of Business and Finance, Development Initiatives) shared their insights on remote working and answered questions on the future of work in a new Hybrid setting.

There is no denying that we have all faced a complex sphere of challenges over the past 12 months. Our panel likened this to having progressed through different ‘stages’ of the pandemic. From a crises mode where people were going through the motions together, to settling into remote working, and now finding people physically and mentally exhausted by the constant changes. This is backed by our poll that found 87% of attendees to be seeing an increase in wellbeing issues.

How should we respond to the challenges?

Organisations need to re-think how they look after their people in this new environment. Especially as the blurring of boundaries from home and working life continue. During the session, 80% of attendees highlighted that their organisation were planning to offer blended working. Clearly this is an important consideration, as a mixture of home and office working may cause further challenges, such as proximity bias.

During the discussion, the panel raised the importance of focusing on the individual and for HR and managers a-like to be less transactional. Morna spoke of using ‘Guiding Principles’ to understand different working styles. By using this, we can focus on finding the right approach in terms of flexibility for both managers and teams. She also spoke of the need to treat individuals as adults and understand that people are different, so an approach that works for one person might not work for another.

Successful Hybrid Working

Mental health considerations

During the panel discussion, there were several attendees that shared ways their organisations were supporting with mental health issues. For example, one attendee spoke of the success of using structured workshops on bereavement, whilst another mentioned how mental health support programmes can help to allow people a place to reach out to. Attendees also shared the importance of recognising that mental health concerns is not only down to remote working issues but also the massive impact that external factors such as grief can have.

Furthermore, Umar believes that these mental wellbeing challenges will continue for the long-term and it will be for organisations to find new approaches to managing this. He argued that HR need to ‘put the human back into Human Resources and stop focusing on just the policies’.

The Right Homeworking set up

Janet highlighted a critical point about people’s individual home set ups.  Although most of us have had to work remotely, that does not mean everyone will want to work a blend of home and office when restrictions are relaxed. Some individuals may live in a small flat and not have an appropriate set up for long-term homeworking. So it is important for HR and Managers to recognise and account for these differences.

The importance of role models

Morna also reflected on the importance of Managers role modelling. For example, if a Manager is routinely sending emails in the evening, their team might feel as though they need to do the same. She argued that Managers should instead be looking after themselves and sharing this with others. If they are going for a lunchtime yoga class or spending time in the garden, they should shout about this. This is not about slacking, but about allowing others permission to do the same, to encourage a good work-life balance. This approach works in just the same way where teams are combining a home and office-based setting.

Important not to overthink

As part of the discussion, Janet further pointed out that it is important for HR not to overthink things but to experiment with any new ways of working. They may or may not get it right but its about trying things out. HR should send the message that although they don’t know what the future holds, its important to experiment together. Be bold! This approach is far more likely to build trust rather than just putting new policies and processes in place. If these then fail, the negative implications will be far greater as people were not involved.

Practical considerations for a Hybrid Workplace

People are creatures of habit and may expect their own desk and environment. As many organisations are likely to introduce hot desking as their office size shrinks or is re-organised to accommodate the changes this might require a cultural shift that HR and Managers should prepare for.

Janet further raises the concern of a ‘two tier system’ being established and warns that it is not where you work but what you do. We should not succumb to proximity bias where those in the office seem to be working harder than those that are absent.

Janet also argued that if organisations are moving towards hybrid/blended working, they need to recognise the massive investment in IT. If people are coming into the office to have meetings and creative discussions, then office preparations are necessary. If it remains to be rows of desks and a purely ‘office space’ then staff may find themselves working at their desks alone. Thereby, not benefiting from the collaborative aspect of the office environment. In such instances they may as well work from home!

Overall, there are many considerations when moving to a hybrid/blended working environment. The key is to prepare and communicate any changes. If you are interested in watching the recorded panel discussion, click here. For further support on how to manage and lead change, why not take a look at our e-learning platform, Actus Academy below.

Actus Academy

Performance Management Resources

Part of our ethos is to help build a better workplace for people, whatever their location. We achieve this through great performance management software, the HR Uprising Podcast, and free thought leadership resources.  Therefore, if you would like to learn more about this topic, you can find some additional resources below.

Infographic: 10 Steps to Creating a Successful Hybrid Workplace

White Paper: How to deliver Organisational Change