Remote Work and Hybrid Work Models : Challenges and Solutions for HR

Rolling Plans Pvt. Ltd. Nov 2, 2023 1017 0

9-5 Job at the workspace with the physical presence at the workstation! This schedule was the common norm for every jobholder whether it be in the corporate world or academic field and suddenly with the outburst of a global pandemic, COVID-19, this norm has turned outdated and the companies started experimenting with various work arrangements. The working model of coming to the office, being at one’s workstation, and staying busy all the time at office time has alchemized into remote working with the sudden convulsion of the Coronavirus outbreak that took many lives and frazzled the global economy.

With the offices closed and businesses being shut down due to the prohibition of meetings and strict bylaws of staying at home, there had to emerge a specific solution to run the organizations and that’s how the existing concept of remote work was followed by most of the organizations. Online meetings, online work, and everything was done online. During this period, the usage of digital payment gateways escalated rapidly in Nepal. Now what’s the conclusion after COVID-19 is gone? With the transition from the traditional work model to the remote model, people have been introduced to the advantages of the remote model. Even though the organizations have returned to their previous model, hybrid and remote working arrangements are to be the new norm for organizations ranging from tech to academia and pharmaceuticals too.

The giant tech companies allow the employees to adopt remote working models and as these work models are to be accepted and allowed, many companies and employees are frenzied to welcome these remote and hybrid work models whereas some are feeling trepidation about the sudden transition too. With the many advantages of these models, the shift equally brings many challenges to HR too, one of the foundations of the organization. 

Before shifting towards the challenges of remote work and hybrid work models, let’s get introduced to the types of work models.

i) Traditional work model: 9-5 duty at workstations, heavily office-focussed with no flexibilityx`

ii) Remote work model: Working remotely from home or any other premises with flexibility coign of vantage

iii) Hybrid work model: Combo of on-premises and remote work

Everyone can daresay that remote work has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic and companies experimenting with both on-office and remote work can’t be neglected. On the one hand, remote work contributes to the abatement of office expenses and workstations. There are various types of hybrid and remote work models such as:

  • Office-first remote-friendly model: Employees are required to come to the office and be allowed to “Work from Home” for one or two days a week.

  • Partially remote hybrid model: Some teams are allowed to work remotely such as the Content team and some teams must arrive at the office such as the HR department, front-line CSD

  • Flexible hybrid model: Employers provide autonomy to the employees whether to choose to come to the office or work from elsewhere

  • Multiple options hybrid model: With the resolution of better logistics, employees can prefer the various work arrangement alternatives made accessible by the office

  • Fully remote model: Employees adopting the fully remote model don’t need to attend any office stations or headquarters

In a nutshell, there is no one-size-fits-all work model. The organization can adopt various customized work models per their needs are requirements. As the work models portray the standards for the daily functioning and operations of any organization, organizations can embrace the work models suitable for the organization and employees.

Remote and Hybrid Work Models: Challenges and Solutions for HR

Let’s look into what challenges these new remote and hybrid work models bring upon HR and what solutions can be embraced to cope with such challenges.

Challenge no. 1 - Communication and Coordination

Many people have used Teams, Zoom, and Meet during online meetings and conferencing but these systems weren’t easily accessible to the staff. Technical difficulties may appear which have to be sorted out by the tech team and the solving of such issues is not possible. Hence, glitches can appear during online conversations which may create barriers in communication and HR needs to address this issue by coordinating with the IT team. There is a risk between the staff who work at office stations and those who work remotely. HR needs to put some extra effort into the employees who work remotely in order to remove the communication and coordination barriers between employees of the organization. Those staff who prefer remote working can be out of the circle of important conversations and decisions too. 


Challenge no. 2 - Maintaining personal and professional Connections


Professional networks are most important for every employee to advance their professional skill set. The bonding between the employees of the organization is fostered when they meet up, gather, and share ideas together and remote work somehow hinders this bonding. Without a strong connection, the employees may feel detached and even the committed employees may search for other organizations and HR must play a significant role in retaining such employees. Employee turnover must be addressed regarding this remote and hybrid work model.


Challenge no. 3 - Collective creativity and Corporate Culture

Ideas may emerge in peaceful loneliness but the collective creativity may kick off while solving a problem together. Social interactions may be fruitful while discussing in each other’s cubicles and the remote and hybrid work models may bring challenges upon HR for conducting such interactions and spontaneous conversations together. Also, before the pandemic introduced the remote working system, the in-office working model existed and people wanted to swap to this culture. And when new recruits join the office, making them socialize with other staff may be quite challenging for HR. Making the newcomers understand the organizational distinctiveness and working methodologies may be quite challenging for HR.


Challenge no. 4 - Availability of enough resources and tools

As mentioned before, when there are technical glitches or tech-related problems while staying in online meetings, the employees may not understand the remedy and IT team availability may also not solve this issue due to remote working. Hence, the organization should be well-prepared for all the resources and tools that the employees may require before going hybrid or remote. It’s true the new working models invite higher productivity, flexibility, and burnout mitigation but the time and cost before going remote should be addressed by the management and HR.


Challenge no. 5 - Disputed Work Processes

While adapting to certain changes, there may be arousal of disputes in the workflow or work processes in the organization. Creating an effective hybrid strategy and work culture begins with the analysis of what’s working, what needs to be changed, and the lessons learned from the deviation between the designated plan and actual implementation. And such changes may somehow disturb the work processes which HR needs to analyze very carefully.

Many people have observed and analyzed the pros of remote working and the desire for remote work flexibility has grown extensively among the employees. Such working models require better coordination of resources both on-site and at home that have to be work functional. Such workstations need to be more collaborative and operational. The challenges are real for HR and many organizations have to rethink, reinvent, and reanalyze the organizational function due to the shift to remote or hybrid working models. 

Along with the challenges, there exist solutions too. The probable solutions/dynamics for HR to cope with the challenges of implementing remote and hybrid work models can be enumerated below:

Dynamic no. 1 : Research + Allocation of resources

No one can go remote easily without the distinguished research and the probable upcoming challenges due to going remote. Hence, proper research should be conducted for shifting to hybrid or remote work models and there should be an allotment of resources to the employees too. For example, examining if the remote workstations of the employees have access to online conferencing websites or applications and if the employees have established tools to conduct the work from home or any other premises. Going remote without proper investigation may bring further problems rather than challenges. Hence, along with HR, everyone should be vocal about the resources, ideas, and solutions before going remote.


Dynamic no.2: Connection + Engagement

As there may exist communication and communication gap between the remote workers, they will be communicating for their work but as mentioned before, there may exist hindrances in connections and bondings, HR must initiate engagement and well-being in a single frame. Engagement is mostly rare in the situation for remote workers and it may be languishing as well. Hence, the HR department must consider engaging in activities that are both intriguing and responsible for the well-being of all the employees. 


Dynamic no.3: Productivity + Inclusion

In the hybrid working model, there are on-site employees and others are those who work at the office station with their physical presence. Before the introduction of these working models, if the employees looked busy at their workstations, they were thought to be busy and more productive but it was not a true measure to examine their productivity. Also, while setting up these models, the HR department and front-line workers need to attend office stations whereas other content, tech teams’; can work from home. And here's the question of inclusive productivity. Performance excellence can be measured through trust and established professional relationships and the outcomes of the work but not the arbitrary tool of staying busy all the time. How can the trust be more secured along with productive measures? These questions need to be addressed by HR.


Dynamic no. 4: Others including Cost factors and culture

There are many hidden costs associated with remote flexibility. And the corporate culture must be understandable by all the employees. With the previous culture of coming to the office station, they may understand the organizational objectives properly but the newcomers are yet to analyze, hence the HR department should consider the costs and mitigating measures to make the recruits and committed employees understand the organizational goals for both employees and organizational productivity.

The four steps that the HR department can follow to tackle the challenges of remote working models are as:

1. Evaluation: Summarizing if the model is going on the right track and if there is any room for improvement

2. Analysis: Analyzing the underlying issues and problems

3. Planning: Creating a framework to cope with the problems and find the deviation

4. Implementation: Making the plan work into action and finding out the differences between planned strategy and actual implementation

Remote and hybrid working models have been set as the new norm and will be accepted worldwide by all organizations in no time. And the major responsibilities fall upon the HR so HR in this topic must be quite alert and responsive. 


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