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InfoQ Homepage Articles Hybrid & Remote Work in 2022 and Beyond

Hybrid & Remote Work in 2022 and Beyond

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Key Takeaways

  • The past two years of COVID-19 have resulted in huge changes to the way people work and the way they want to engage in the workplace, and these changes are ongoing
  • Remote work was a trend before COVID-19 and is largely normal now
  • Employee engagement, deliberate design and flexible working are crucial to attracting and retaining the best people
  • Hybrid working is the current challenge for employers and employees – figuring out the right mix of in-person and remote work to meet the needs of a wide group of stakeholders
  • Flexible work is a key need for employees today, and just what that flexibility looks like is complex

Moving into 2022, ways of working and interacting are continuing to evolve as organisations adapt to the ongoing changes brought about by a wide range of factors influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The great resignation has seen employees demand more humanistic policies and practises and employers recognise that to retain their people they need to become truly people-centric – lip service and platitudes don’t cut it in 2022, employees want to see real changes around diversity and inclusion, flexible working, ethical behaviours, and sustainable workplaces.

In 2020 we published a guide with resources for effective remote working and in 2021 we revised that to include some additional content around hybrid working.

This article is a complement to that guide, providing links to content across a variety of topics to help you navigate the wide range of options that make up the complex working environment we now find ourselves in.

Remote Work is Here to Stay

Even before COVID-19 threw people out of their offices and into enforced work-from-home, the trend towards remote working was underway and accelerating. The initial response to the shift was chaotic, but over the last two years most organisations have now figured out how to enable effective remote working.

Sharing experiences and advice

 At QCon London 2020 Charles Humble gave a well-received talk sharing his experiences working remotely for InfoQ and elsewhere. Charles covered practical suggestions on how to make remote working effective, touching on issues such as deep work, mental health, and psychological safety.

Ranganathan Balashanmugam, CTO at EverestEngineering, explains how one distributed organization (with bases in two Indian cities, and in Australia) has applied distributed systems patterns to scaling distributed teams’ processes and further improved them. He shares examples of what went right, what went wrong, what they've learned as they've built a network of effective distributed teams across multiple countries, in multiple time zones

Setting people up to be successful 

Angela Yurchenko of MightyCall provides practical advice on what’s needed from a tools and technology perspective as well as the important cultural changes many managers need to enable in order to support effective remote working.  She explains how important it is to provide the same technology stack, project management tools, cybersecurity, and communication software for all employees regardless of working location

Employee experience matters greatly, and this requires careful focus and even dedicated roles such as the Developer Experience Engineer.

 Onboarding and letting go of people are both more challenging in remote environments and need to be addressed with care and deliberate design of the overall experience.

Surveys and reports 

GitLab releases its Remote Work Report every year.  InfoQ spoke to GitLab head of remote Darren Murph to learn more about their findings. Based on over 3,000 respondents across various industries and roles, the report gives a glimpse of what remote work might look like in the future.

The Buffer Remote Work Report is also an annual survey now.  The 2021 report shows that 97% of respondents want to work remotely for at least some of the time, and the same percentage recommend remote working as a preferred option.   

Benefits and challenges

The most significant benefit for employees is the ability to have a flexible schedule, the most common challenges are related to communication and psychological safety. Remote working provides challenges such as providing equitable access, ensuring adequate resources and tooling, addressing social isolation and issues of trust.

The folks at Ben have put together a guide on Making remote working actually work.

Remote work resources:

The Bleeding Edge of Remote Work is Fully Asynchronous

Some organisations have taken the ideas around remote work and extended them to fully asynchronous workplaces, partially as a result of Zoom Fatigue and also in recognition of the impact of synchronous communication requirements when timezones are far apart.

Consider carefully if the meeting you are about to schedule REALLY needs everyone to be present at the same time – some events definitely do, but most meetings can probably be replaced by an effectively designed asynchronous approach.   Relying on synchronous communication for every single important thing that you're doing in the business just means that you are slowing your business down.

Asynchronous work saves time, reduces burnout and enables true, flexible work. There's no reason that employees have to be on the same exact schedule as their team members.

An HBR article talks about why Remote Work Should Be (Mostly) Asynchronous to reduce stress and encourage productivity.

Asynchronous working resources

Maintaining Mental & Physical Health While Working Remotely

Mental health and wellbeing is in the spotlight - with hundreds of thousands of people shifting to a new working environment in the midst of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,  anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and frustration are normal reactions.   InfoQ reported on some resources and advice to help maintain mental health when under stress.  We need to be kind to ourselves, and accept that these emotions will happen, without minimising or denying them. There are things that you can do to help overcome the stress; empathic responding is one way to positively deal with the stresses we all find ourselves under.

Research shows that mental health is still not well addressed in most workplaces, mainly because it is still stigmatized in society despite impacting at least one in five people at any given time,  and the importance of training managers to support the mental health of their teams. The World Health Organisation has stated that maintaining physical and mental health are key to resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, and provides advice on how to look after yourself and support those around you. Time Magazine provides some straightforward tips on how to stay physically and mentally healthy while stuck at home.

When teams are co-located it’s easy to notice behavioural changes which may be an indicator of something going wrong for a colleague or a group.  When Working remotely this is not so clear.  Dr Michelle O’Sullivan, a clinical psychologist, wrote a series of three articles on "Tech-ing care" of yourself, your team and your community.

Being aware of types of anxiety disorders that we may be subject to is useful knowledge, The folks from AMFM - A Mission for Michael have shared a pretty comprehensive list that  and some useful advice on coping with anxiety.  

Be aware of the need for deliberate social interaction - loneliness appears to be on the increase in these times, and working remotely can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and related anxiety. The Fingerprint for Success blog has gathered some stats about what's happening and present some ideas on how to overcome loneliness even when working remotely.

The coaches from Ezra have published Remote Working & Mental Health: A Young Professional’s Guide, which explores the risks around physical and mental health for remote workers, provides advice on ways to alleviate stress when working from home and explains how employers can help make working from home healthier and less stressful.

The folks at insurancemarket.ae have put together a guide on Health & Wellness Post-Covid: Trends and statistics for 2022.  Some of the points they highlight include

  • Physical and mental health are interconnected. In fact, 37.6% of people with severe mental health problems will also have a long-term physical condition.
  • Health practitioners did well to reach people during the pandemic, with 73% of people taking phone consultations with a doctor or nurse.
  • Both activities for men and women decrease as wealth increases. 26% of men from high-income countries are insufficiently active, in comparison to 12% of men from low-income countries.

Physical & mental health resources

Hybrid Work is Becoming the New Normal

In 2022 the buzzword is “hybrid” – employers and employees are struggling to find the right balance of in-person and remote work and how to meet the needs of a wide group of stakeholders.   Hybrid working requires adaptation and flexibility from the organisation and employees

Studies from IBM, Microsoft and others have clearly shown that a majority of knowledge-worker employees want to retain the ability to work remotely (not just from home, but the flexibility to work from anywhere) after the pandemic-induced changes are no longer mandatory.

Hybrid work requires careful re-examination of what success looks like for different roles, with a focus on outcomes not output and building a high-trust environment

Defining what “hybrid” means and finding the appropriate mix of in-person and remote work is one of the biggest challenges facing organisations and there is clearly no one-size-fits-all solution.  Each employee, team and organisation is different and they need to find the model which works best for them.  Leadership needs to identify guidelines and boundaries and employees need to align on team agreements around how they will work collaboratively in the hybrid ecosystem.

Many types of hybrid working - no one-size-fits-many 

Making hybrid working work is an evolving challenge that needs to accommodate not just working from home but working from anywhere.  Office design needs to be updated to accommodate the new working styles – cubicle farms and open-plan spaces have never been effective for creative productivity and today we need to design spaces that fit for collaboration and productivity, both in-person and remotely. The Economist article on The office of the future talks about the importance of designing for collaboration spaces and the ability to engage with remote colleagues as well as the need for more effective ventilation and spaces designed to allow for social distancing.

Andrea Rajic of Gable wrote about 60+ Statistics your need to know about hybrid and remote working, summarising research from a variety of sources about what is working and what is not in hybrid work going into 2022.

Audrey Goodson Kingo wrote about Secrets of a Successful Hybrid Work Model for the Toptal blog in which se identifies some key trends, highlights some of the risks and challenges and opportunities.  She encourages readers:

While a hybrid model has the potential to give workers the flexibility they desire and maximize employee engagement and productivity, it’s crucial for companies to take an intentional approach.

In a counter view to most reporting, Camilla Cavendesh wrote in the Financial Times that It’s time to admit that hybrid is not working citing situations of reduced productivity, lost innovation and the lack of human interaction when people do not work together.  

QCon Plus speaker Kaleem Clarkson said in an interview:

In my opinion, hybrid-remote is just a bridge to something much bigger. The control of our time is something that we have lost for generations and now that people have regained control of their work-life integration, people are going to start making career choices around their ability to keep that control.

Hybrid work resources

Just how Flexible is Flexible Working?

Figuring out the rules and needs for flexible work is a complex problem, bringing with it many aspects which must be considered.  Areas such as employer liability for health and safety - does walking between your bedroom and your home office constitute commuting time?

Flexible work can be a burnout trap

Burnout is a risk – as the boundaries between work time and home time blur there is a tendency to work longer hours and not take enough breaks.  Helping employees pace themselves and take the down time needed becomes a leadership challenge.  

Sam Milbrath published an article on the Trello blog talks about 4 Ways To Manage Your Energy And Have A Balanced, Productive Workday.  She advises

  1. Get To Know How You Work
  2. Set Daily Minimums And Maximums For Yourself
  3. Take Breaks Based On Your Ultradian Rhythms
  4. Managing Your Energy Means Listening To Your Body

On a similar note, Justin Bariso published in Inc about the Rule of Clocking Out to help set priorities, avoid burnout and find more time in the day.

The Society for HR Management (SHRM) published a guide for managing flexible work arrangements which gives advice to employers and identifies opportunities and challenges of the shift. Kayur Patel of PWC New Zealand wrote an article about how PWC has adopted truly flexible working and how this plays out in their workplace. 

Experiments with four-day work weeks

Companies around the world are adopting the four-day workweek, and seeing higher employee engagement and productivity because of doing so.  4 Day Week Global is a not-for-profit company working to explore and encourage the shift.

New leadership models

Leadership needs to change to accommodate the different ways in which different individuals work – models such as Soul Based Leadership, measuring outcomes not outputmanaging scattered teams and deliberately building cultures based on trust and collaboration are keys to successfully engaging and retaining the best people 

Flexible working resources

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