MU research finds staff training is key to effective hybrid work

Elsa Noblet on Unsplash
Monday, March 21, 2022 - 09:45

Dr Tatiana Andreeva and Dr Paola Zappa of the School of Business explored employees' work arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic

The research, conducted by Dr Tatiana Andreeva and Dr Paola Zappa of the School of Business, explored how employees’ work arrangements – fully remote, hybrid, or never remote – influenced their experiences and behaviours at work, such as perceived workload, visibility to their managers, creativity, collaboration with colleagues, and job performance.

Their findings showed that those in a hybrid work environment reported significantly higher knowledge sharing at work compared to those who have always worked remotely. However, those working within a hybrid model experienced greater expectations of the amount and quality of work they can do, conflicting job demands, and a perceived drop in the visibility to their manager. They also received lower performance evaluations. This can lead to increased pressure for employees.

Dr Paola Zappa said: “Taken together, our findings indicate that hybrid work arrangements can be beneficial for employees' performance and should be seriously taken into consideration going forward. However, hybrid work also puts pressure on employees if it is not managed well. Therefore, organisations need to plan their move to hybrid carefully and know its implications.”

Dr Tatiana Andreeva commented: “Our research highlights the importance of relevant training and thoughtful management of the process of hybrid working. We found out that those who had already worked in hybrid mode pre-Covid, had – in general - a better experience with remote and hybrid work arrangements during the pandemic. This suggests employees can learn to function in these work modes.” 

Commenting on the managerial implications of their findings, Dr Andreeva added: “Both line managers and employees require training on how to exploit the opportunities of remote and hybrid work and deal with the challenges. Line managers must be trained on supervising from a distance, and ensuring all their subordinates have fair, equal access to resources and opportunities irrespective of their work arrangement. Also, a discussion is very much needed on the best parameters for performance appraisal, when employees differ in their work arrangements.”

Learning Experience for Ireland’s workplaces
While international, the initial findings of a multi-part study have tangible learnings for businesses and employers in Ireland, including several steps which can be taken in order to ensure that remote and hybrid models are operating smoothly, such as:

  • Emphasizing the relevance of virtual networking, and supporting employees with training and opportunities for this.
  • Supporting line managers who are supervising from a distance with training on navigating conflicts and evaluating performances of remote/hybrid employees.
  • Aligning tasks with work arrangements, considering if a task requires a person to be in the office due to its collaborative nature, or if it can be done from home.
  • Aligning work arrangements within teams, and if possible adopting the same arrangements for team members and their manager.
  • Consistently revisiting and evaluating policies and processes to ensure there are no issues that may increase power imbalances in the workplace.

About the research
These findings are based on two longitudinal studies:

  • A three-wave online survey of full-time employees from different industries based in the UK was conducted by the School of Business at Maynooth University. 516 individuals completed the surveys in October 2020, February 2021, and June 2021.
  • A two-wave survey of all employees and managers of a software development company in Latin America, conducted in collaboration with Dr Guillermo Dávila, University of Lima, Peru, and run in July 2020 and February 2021. Focusing on a single firm enabled researchers to get in-depth insights into the relationships at work, and how different work arrangements influenced them.

Photo courtesy of Elsa Noblet on Unsplash