Analysis: The future workplace, across industries and countries, entails combinations of on-site presence and working-from-everywhere opportunities and to make the best decision, there are other hidden aspects that are worth considering.

By Dr. Tatiana Andreeva and Dr. Paola Zappa, Maynooth University

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to remote and hybrid work. From tech companies in Silicon Docks to your yoga studio around the corner, most companies seem now convinced that remote and hybrid work are not just work arrangements for global teams in high-tech.

Quite the contrary, the future workplace - across industries and countries - entails combinations of on-site presence and working-from-everywhere opportunities.

To confirm this tendency, a recent study from Ipsos for the World Economic Forum has revealed that 66% of the 12,500 employees surveyed across 29 countries want employers to offer flexible work arrangements post-pandemic. If you have not decided yet which arrangement suits you best, you will probably have to do it soon.

Making their choice, people typically consider potential benefits of the flexibility remote or hybrid work gives versus the stress and loneliness these work arrangements may bring. To make the best decision, we suggest that you consider other, hidden, aspects that are equally relevant. Here is a list of questions you need to ask yourself.

1) Do you work mostly on your own or need to constantly coordinate your work with colleagues and bosses? If you enjoy high levels of task autonomy, you can decide for yourself how much flexibility suits you best. Yet, the more you need to coordinate your tasks with others, the more your choice will depend on how well you can do this online. Virtual coordination can result in hours of back-and-forth emails and phone or video calls, even twice the hours than at the office.

Virtual coordination requires constant focus, and can cause online fatigue as well as crowd out other activities. To address these issues, you may want to plan some days a week at the office where you can arrange meetings with colleagues, and save autonomous tasks for when you work remotely.

On the other side, fully autonomous work risks making you less visible to your manager. According to our recent study, both hybrid and remote employees think their manager does not know well what they do and what they achieved at work. So if you want to go hybrid or remote, you need a strategy on how you can signal to your boss your engagement with work, and a conversation with them about it.

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From RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland Negotiations to begin on the future of work. The largest public service union here will begin negotiations with the government later this week on the future for working, post pandemic. Bernard Harbor is Head of Communications with Forsa

2) What is the work arrangement of your closest colleagues? Your colleagues are an invaluable source of information as they share their ideas with you and help you solve problems. Cultivating these beneficial relationships with colleagues can be challenging, especially if you don't see them regularly.

In a remote setting, people find it easier to turn to those with whom they have to work more frequently. Without the close proximity that sharing an office, open space or floor would offer, the relationships with other colleagues will probably suffer the most. Be mindful of planning extra-time to maintain these ties, set up virtual meetings and reach out to these colleagues.

If you work occasionally from the office, ensure you use this time also to revitalise loose - but meaningful - relationships. Furthermore, if you choose the work arrangement that is different from the majority of your team, be aware that you might struggle to coordinate your work with others and to feel part of the team.

3) Are you good at networking with your distant colleagues? New relationships with colleagues in other teams, departments or branches are even more crucial. It is these fresh relationships that boost your creativity and performance.

Unfortunately, building these relationships online is not easy for everyone. Extroverted, strategic-minded individuals are typically better than others. Analyse your networking behaviour, and ask yourself how good you are at it.

If the answer is 'not much', you need extra effort! Be proactive to create opportunities for serendipitous online encounters with colleagues or exploit well the ones provided by your company. Practice to be a good virtual networker and if you do not succeed, the once-popular water-cooler, the common room and the coffee machine can help, but they require you to be back in the office - at least occasionally.

4) What is the work arrangement of your boss? Do they plan to be back to the office, or work in a hybrid or remote way? Pre-pandemic research suggests that the work arrangement of your manager can influence both your experiences at work and your performance.

Choosing the same arrangement as your boss could be the safest option for you to ensure that your boss understands well how you work - unless they are well-experienced in managing hybrid teams, or your company supports them. Hence:

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From RTÉ Radio One's Drivetime Maureen Lynch, Director of Hays Ireland, on remote working

5) How experienced is your boss in managing a hybrid team? Managers find it difficult to manage remote employees. For example, many are puzzled about how to supervise from a distance, navigate conflicts in their virtual teams, and evaluate remote performance. Don’t delude yourself thinking that after many months of managing remotely, your manager is an expert at it.

Pandemic experience does not really count as that was more about fire-fighting than usual work, and everyone was on equal footing, that is, both managers and their team members had typically the same work arrangement.

Managing a hybrid team, where every member may have a different work arrangement, is a different type of challenge. Is your boss up to it?

6) Can your company help? Your company can help address some of the challenges you and your boss may face in going hybrid. So before you decide how to work, it’s worth checking: does your company provide training on hybrid working, both to you and to your boss?

Does your company have a clear policy on performance appraisal of remote or hybrid workers, or a process to ensure that hybrid workers have the same access to resources? Does it organise any virtual events or activities for networking so that employees who are not in the office could connect to others?

What if the answers to these questions are 'no'? You can fix your own skills: there is a range of readings and even courses on remote working. Educating your manager or changing your company’s policies is more difficult. If the relationships allow, you may start from an honest conversation with your boss around the challenges you both may face if you go hybrid, and brainstorm how you could address them.

Check some ideas and tips that may serve as a useful conversation starter. If such a conversation is not possible, you may want to reconsider either whether you want to go hybrid, or which company to work for.

7) What is your gender? One may think that women are more likely to choose hybrid or remote work formats, to balance their work with family or childcare commitments. But beware as this opportunity comes with a darker lining.

Emerging evidence suggests that the challenges that women typically face at work such as being excluded from important networks and having less access to resources, less visibility and credit for their ideas, or opportunities for promotion, become even stronger when women work remotely. Women are more often interrupted or silenced in virtual meetings and experience more zoom fatigue.

If you are a woman, consider whether your boss and your company are ready to counteract these potentially discriminating effects of hybrid work, and whether you personally have the skills and energy to do so. If you are a man, consider how you personally can help your female colleagues in this regard.

Dr. Tatiana Andreeva is the Associate Professor in Management and Organisational Behaviour at Maynooth University School of Business. Dr. Paola Zappa earned a PhD in Management from the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy and is a lecturer and Assistant Professor at Maynooth University School of Business.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ