According to recent surveys by McKinsey and Gallup, hybrid work is a preferred working model for American workers. Flexible schedules and work-from-anywhere-policies are at the forefront of the future of work and will most likely dominate the rest of the decade.
Hybrid work is the likeliest to become the number-one model because of its autonomy and flexibility. It meets the needs of teams stimulated by the office environment without leaving out teammates who are more productive working remotely.
At the same time, hybrid work is more complex than other arrangements – it comes with new power dynamics, workflows, and unprecedented challenges. Today, we are zooming in on one of the most pressing issues hybrid teams have to deal with: workplace visibility.
- The challenge of hybrid workplace visibility
- Ways to improve hybrid workplace visibility
- Bottom Line
The challenge of hybrid workplace visibility
In a hybrid work environment, connectivity is the first one to slip through the cracks. Statistically, only 22% of employees feel connected to the rest of the team.
For a large share of organizations, remote teammates struggle the most with getting enough credit for their work, having access to information and opportunities, and staying in the loop of the latest decisions.
“Proximity bias” is one among many possible explanations for why managers tend to pick favorites among office teammates. The tendency to feel more trust and connection with those closest to us is an evolutionary mechanism – that’s why it penetrates workplaces so easily.
A Harvard Business Review article determines two more factors hindering the visibility of remote workers compared to that of in-office employees. They call it “hybridity positioning” and “hybridity competence”.
Hybridity positioning stems from the proximity bias but goes even further than that. Other than directly being seen by bosses and getting recognition for their work, in-office managers often are more productive due to the following reasons:
- Better infrastructure. In most cases, office hardware is more powerful, the connection is faster, and setups are more comfortable than work-from-home arrangements. Thus, in-person teammates spend less time on routine tasks and have greater efficiency.
- More access to information and resources. In-office employees have to put in less effort to keep track of organizational changes. Where a remote employee has to deliberately ask questions or meticulously check Slack notifications, an in-person teammate is surrounded by work, fully immersed in it and situationally aware. As the result, in-office employees need less time to get decisions approved, questions answered, and projects – completed.
- Social support. The so-called “village effect” – support provided by face-to-face interactions and discussions, helps in-office teammates alleviate stress and have a stronger sense of accomplishment once a task is finished. Remote employees have fewer ways to feel supported by teammates and build long-lasting, productivity-inducing bonds.
Hybridity competence is another factor that gives some hybrid employees an edge over others. A hybrid environment requires a specific set of interpersonal skills – adaptability, ability to navigate both physical and virtual environments,
As such, hybrid work puts “ambidextrous” workers at an advantage while those unaccustomed to either of the two environments (in-office or remote) will be less productive and not as likely to succeed.
The challenge of hybrid workplace visibility stems from the lack of intentional hybrid work planning. For team leaders, the new working arrangement is often a concession to the job market – intrinsically, they see the office as a more productive work environment.
The first step to addressing the problem is to recognize the validity of remote work and not discriminate employees on the basis of their office attendance.
The next move is designing workflows with hybrid workplace visibility and mind and making organizational changes – exaggerated as they may seem – to shine the spotlight on those who can feel isolated in a hybrid environment.
Ways to improve hybrid workplace visibility
oVice is a hybrid workplace. Our physical office is based in Japan but the team spans across several continents. A lot of our employees work on their tasks from home – that’s why giving everyone the platform for sharing knowledge and voicing concerns is a priority at oVice.
Since our launch in 2020, we are figuring out a balanced approach to hybrid work and help teams across the world set one up as well. On our journey to a transparent workplace, we’ve discovered the following helpful tips.
#1. Create a common space for remote and in-office teams
As the name suggests, the key to visibility is being able to see the entire team. Most communication tools don’t focus on giving leaders a full view of the team – to reach out to someone, you have to send them a private message or tag them in chat.
In an office, visibility is more seamless and natural – you connect with employees due to proximity alone.
In our experience, technology can help bridge the distance between remote and in-person team. IoVice, our teammates work in the same virtual office, and reaching out to someone for a heads-up, advice, or confirmation is as easy as it would be in a physical building.
Using a virtual space together with or instead of a physical one offers cost-cutting benefits in rent, utilities, and other expenses.
#2. Understand what kind of view teammates of different seniority need
Interacting with other members of the organization is important for teammates of all levels and occupations. However, the nature of these relationships changes depending on job responsibilities and range of influence.
- Senior managers need to have a big picture view of the entire organization: data on department performance, associated expenses, employee fulfillment statistics, or burnout red flags. They wouldn’t benefit as much from regularly accessing task lists of individual employees as this level of zooming in is not part of their responsibilities.
- Middle team leaders need an in-depth understanding of the workflows, task loads, and progress of individual employees working under them. They need to have a clear view of bottlenecks, understand what leads a teammate to a standstill, and offer ways to push past roadblocks.
- Individual contributors need to understand how their work fits into the big picture of organizational goals but they might not be interested in tracking a complex web of cross-department relationships or monitoring budget costs – keeping up with these changes will likely hinder their productivity.
By understanding the level of detail and type of information each individual within the team needs to reach their peak performance, leaders avoid information overload in the team while making sure everyone has the resources they need to make informed decisions and stay engaged.
#3. Understand the geographical span of your organization
Understanding the locations across which the organization is distributed will help team leaders be more efficient in project staffing by grouping together teammates who share the same location and are comfortable talking to each other.
Additionally, managers should be aware of when teammates are coming to the office and working from home, to make sure they don’t miss a chance to connect in person or don’t expect employees to come to the office on their WFH days.
#4. Moving discussions and resources online
Ensuring resource accessibility is a way to eliminate the disproportionate advantage of the office team over their remote counterparts. Digitization is a tried and true way to make sure everyone can instantly reach the resources they need or connect with a teammate from a different department.
Here’s how we ensure resource accessibility in oVice:
- Move all discussions to the virtual office (including water cooler talk). Even the teammates who are in close proximity, use oVice to talk to each other so that remote teammates can join or listen to the discussion.
- Keep a documentation hub – we store all meeting logs and organizational documents on Notion.
- Share information publicly rather than in private – in our team, channel-based Slack communication prevails over direct messaging.
- Using data visualization to understand the structure of the team. In hybrid organizations (especially those with a global presence), tracking organizational relationships is daunting. To make sure new hires and people across different departments understand the structure of the company, we regularly update oVice’s organizational chart on Miro.
#5. Give everyone room to voice opinions or address concerns
In a hybrid workplace, connecting with managers for a performance review isn’t as spontaneous as is the case for office communication. That’s why team leaders should communicate their availability all the more clearly.
Here’s how we make sure employees (especially new hires) have a platform for sharing their ideas and processing concerns:
- Team leaders set up Calendly pages that make it easier for team members to book a quick one-on-one.
- New employees have weekly discussions with the leader of the HR department where they share feedback and ask questions.
- All teammates have a personal #times channel where they share updates, ideas, thoughts, and other content. The members of other teams follow each other’s personal channels to connect and build relationships.
On a larger scale, hybrid work is a fairly recent trend, making it harder to find companies that have fully adapted to the new models. From global corporations to smaller organizations, leaders are still figuring out the right approach to combine offline and online work.
In our opinion, technology is the starting point for aligning in-office and remote teams. In oVice, we have created virtual offices for over 2,200 remote and hybrid teams – these spaces improve visibility and accessibility in large-scale organizations. Team leaders use virtual offices for day-to-day work, corporate events, employee training, outside collaboration, and community management.
Discover how introducing your team to a virtual office helps boost productivity and improve workplace engagement. Explore our solutions by visiting the oVice tour space.