With hybrid work now the norm, its impacts on the workforce are beginning to surface. According to research by Gartner, employees spend 65% less time in offices than before the pandemic. The consequences of this shift are far-reaching, and organisations must deal proactively with them if they are to retain engaged and productive workforces. After examining the chief impacts of hybrid work revealed by the data, this article will present new research by Thomas, which reveals the predictors of hybrid working success.
Hybrid working hurdles
During the downturn, productivity will be central for hybrid workforces. Although employees are working longer hours than they were before the pandemic (an average of 45 hours per week compared with the current average of 55 hours a week), hybrid work can impede productivity. Connectivity and collaboration hurdles are an important factor in the disconnects within organisations. Now far more reliant on digital technologies, workforces find themselves divided by different software and levels of fluency with them. Despite being famously tech-savvy, studies show that Generation Z employees are having the greatest difficulties locating the digital documents and information whilst working remotely – a huge 88%, compared with 66% of Generation X, 51% of Millennials and 49% of Baby Boomers.
This points to a major problem with hybrid working. Those with more established careers seem less impacted by the disruption to business as usual, but those newer to the workplace are struggling. The difficulties of remote recruitment and onboarding in a hybrid setting are obvious. Research by Cezanne HR found that a fifth of employees felt misled by the job listing, and just half of new hires felt productive and capable of delivering in their new role following onboarding. A fifth of new recruits pointed to feelings of isolation during their onboarding, and a quarter even questioned their choice of job following their experience of hybrid onboarding.
The impact of hybrid working on social bonds is also apparent in the greater prevalence of challenges around company culture. Thanks to the ‘great resignation’, most teams are experiencing above average employee turnover, further diminishing the social connection felt by employees in the workplace. Prior to the pandemic, work friendships were an important driver of retention, significantly outweighing pay rises. Socialising has now slipped down priority lists, especially as the cost of living continues to climb, and high-profile redundancies reverse the resignation trend. This has led to short termism and further exacerbated the disconnect with company culture that remote and hybrid working can produce.
The downturn has also caused companies to tighten development budgets, restricting the upward mobility of younger workers, who are already confused by communication breakdowns and more isolated than they were prior to the pandemic. Freezing employee development initiatives is not only short sighted but commercially disadvantageous, since hiring contractors to fill skill gaps is more costly than upskilling talent internally. Rather than relying on freelancers, companies should be looking to invest in their existing talent, build succession pipelines and address skill gaps.
The financial pressure on organisations has already resulted in redundancies – with Netflix making 300 people redundant in June and Tesla cutting its workforce by 10% in the recent months. This will not only cause disruption, but increase the workload for existing staff, many of whom are already working up to 60-65 hours a week and fighting stress and burnout. Employment Hero’s 2022 Wellness Report revealed that over half of UK workers already report feeling burnt out, and 44% felt stressed in the previous 24-hour period. This vicious cycle is only likely to gain momentum during the recession, impeding productivity until it is (typically) broken by employees leaving their jobs.
New research shows personality predicts hybrid work success
Clearly, hybrid work comes with many challenges. So Thomas ran a study investigating the factors affecting successful hybrid work. The study asked whether hybrid work had impeded companies from fulfilling their employees’ three basic needs at work. This provided us with greater insight into the issues with burnout, engagement and motivation that have plagued workforces since the outbreak of the pandemic, and which the economic downturn is only likely to magnify.
We found that personality is an important predictor of hybrid working success and can be used to understand the risk factors for different employees. Specifically, the results showed that adjustment, or a high tolerance for stress, is a key requirement for successful remote work. The study also linked stress tolerance with autonomy, indicating that those who were better able to manage stress and pressure whilst hybrid working, were more likely to feel in control of their work and the decisions relevant to their work.
The study also identified that conscientiousness is an important success factor for hybrid working. This suggests that people who are highly motivated by their work and dedicated to seeing tasks through to completion are likely to be more effective when working unsupervised. Although conscientiousness is an important determinant of job success in general, the rise of hybrid working has made diligence even more essential by blurring the boundary between work and home life.
Finally, we found that dominance, or the drive to achieve results, also predisposes an individual toward success in a hybrid environment. Deriving satisfaction from delivering results, rather than other sources like interaction with or recognition by colleagues for example, makes these individuals especially well-suited to hybrid working. So what can organisations take away from these findings?
How can employers better support their employees, irrespective of where they work?
Firstly, if they are truly looking to embed successful hybrid working, organisations need to hire for the traits that predict hybrid working success where a role involves significant remote working. Alignment between an organisation’s values and candidates’ behavioural and personality profiles will determine the extent to which a work environment can provide satisfaction for an employee.
Organisations must also look to address the risk factors for other kinds of employee profile. For example, companies can support employees who are less goal oriented but make a valuable contribution by ensuring that other sources of motivation are made available in a hybrid setting, such as social connection and public approbation. Employees’ unique motivators should be built into project planning. Proactive measures such as these will help to maintain employee engagement.
To ensure that your hybrid workplace fulfils your team’s psychological needs, it can be helpful to use psychometric assessments to understand what exactly your team needs. This will enable you to address the challenges of hybrid working before problems develop, and support your hybrid teams to fulfil their potential. For more information on the Thomas Personality assessment, click here.