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7 Signs Your Hybrid Workplace Could be Toxic

Kathryn Tuggle  |  July 12, 2021

Hope to keep humming along on a hybrid work schedule indefinitely? Beware of these red flags that could derail your pursuit of a harmonious hybrid work culture

Where and when we do our jobs has become a serious hot button topic this summer. As the world opens back up following pandemic-related shutdowns, millions of workers and businesses are now navigating a sometimes bumpy path back to in-office, hybrid, and remote work models after so many people adapted to performing their jobs from the comfort of their sofas.  

Many have been re-evaluating whether they ever want to commute for a job again. A recent survey from the Harvard Business School Online of nearly 1,500 professionals who worked remotely during the pandemic found that 81% either don’t want to go back to the office or would prefer a hybrid schedule.

While it’s still unclear how companies will ultimately embrace hybrid and remote work strategies in the future, there are signs to look out for if you want to maintain a remote only or hybrid work schedule and still move up at your current job.

“At the very core of all successful remote and hybrid workplaces are leaders that are taking very conscientious efforts to intentionally consider and then thoughtfully build their company’s work environments,” says Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of FlexJobs. “Job seekers and workers should be aware that hybrid workplaces can be toxic on a number of levels if they’re not being carefully managed.”

To help people figure out if their current company (or potential new employer) will have a healthy hybrid work culture, FlexJobs – a company and website specializing in remote work opportunities – identified some signs of potentially toxic hybrid workplaces.

Employees took pay cuts to maintain hybrid and remote work 

After the pandemic sent millions of U.S. workers home in the first quarter of 2020, some businesses decided to cut the pay for staffers who chose hybrid work models as other employees opted to go back to the office in 2021. To maintain an equitable environment for all employees, companies should only cut pay for a legitimate reason such as a cost of living adjustment if workers move away from their headquarters, notes FlexJobs career coaches. Those changes should be fully explained and transparent for employees to understand.

Employees also shouldn’t be punished for choosing a remote schedule by being required to use vacation time or sick days when they are performing work duties outside the office. Working remotely should count as a regular workday. Period.

Senior executives work exclusively in the office

A business that genuinely embraces remote work should ideally have people at every level doing just that – working remotely – including those in the C-suite. Employees who want to move up are advised to proceed with caution if only lower or mid-level staff members are allowed to work from home and everyone in senior leadership reports to the office. It shouldn’t be a stretch to assume remote workers likely won’t thrive within the company while maintaining a hybrid or remote schedule.

No written action plan for developing a hybrid workforce

Winging it isn’t an option when it comes to creating a high-functioning and fair hybrid workforce, notes the career coaches with FlexJobs. If a company doesn’t seem committed to a clear set of actions to integrate remote and hybrid teams, build a hybrid work culture, or treat hybrid and in-office workers inclusively, it’s unlikely this will be a healthy, equitable place to work for remote workers.

Employee appreciation events happen in the office only

A big part of a positive culture at work is having celebrations to show appreciation for employees and to make them feel valued. A red flag for a hybrid work environment is if these things only take place in the office and there aren’t strategic efforts to make people working remotely feel included. With platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it’s now much easier to share praise and encouragement that’s more inclusive of the entire workforce. Companies that take the time to use technology to include remote workers are showing more commitment to those outside the office.

Crack of dawn alert: Meetings at odd hours

Companies that allow employees to work remotely need to consider the different time zones where everyone is located and try to schedule important meetings and events at times that are convenient for everyone. If managers are setting meetings at 5 a.m. or 8 p.m, they are not being considerate of their remote employees’ time or contributions.

Failure to make information easy to access

A lack of easily accessible information for remote employees can be a sign of a less-than-stellar hybrid work environment. If information isn’t shared on a digital platform for everyone to access, there’s a good chance you could be out of the loop on important projects. Sharing information can happen through internal email newsletters, a password-protected company intranet, a company shared drive, or other digital platforms that remote and in-office workers have access to such as Wrike, Monday.com or Zoho Projects.

If this is an issue with your company, consider sharing solutions with your manager, including suggesting some software programs you have experience with or have heard good things about. One reason a company might not be using certain strategies – especially if it’s a small business – could be because they didn’t know they could.

Remote workers aren’t given necessary equipment

To successfully manage and maintain a hybrid work model, employees need to consider staff who are working remotely and provide them with the same tools and resources they do for people in the office. This could be through a home office stipend or loaned equipment such as laptops that can be taken home. A successful hybrid organization will ensure employees everywhere have access to the technology tools and resources they need to do their jobs successfully.

It’s important to note that a toxic hybrid workplace may not have all of these warning signs, says FlexJobs. Some may only have a few. If a company has one of these red flags, that’s not necessarily proof of a toxic workplace, but an indication that the transition to a hybrid or remote work structure is still in progress.


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