The Cringe List: 5 Awkward Hybrid Work Scenes (and Savvy Solutions)

April 23, 2024
Hybrid Work
Space Design
The Cringe List: 5 Awkward Hybrid Work Scenes (and Savvy Solutions)

TL;DR Article Summary

There are numerous reasons why employees prefer to work from home some days of the week. From saving on long and costly commutes to enabling caretaker responsibilities, hybrid work has proven to be a winner for many who benefit from flexibility and better work-life balance

What isn’t always mentioned in these debates are the smaller day-to-day inconveniences that interrupt productivity and lead to built-up frustrations and disengagement. Cue example A:

Seating an employee whose work entails more quiet, heads down time with another employee who is on the phone all day is a situation ripe for disaster. Some workers distracted by office chit-chat have taken unconventional measures to help themselves focus, e.g., pretending to be in Zoom meetings to signal to coworkers that they want to be left alone.

See if you can relate to this cringe list in the office and—more importantly—to the savvy solutions.

Cringe #1: The Meeting Room Squatter

“I love walking into other people’s meetings,” said no one ever. It can be a little awkward waiting outside a conference room for it to empty, either from a previous meeting run long or from “squatters” in the conference room that you’ve reserved. 

Part of the problem may be that most offices just don't have enough workspaces for group work. Even though most employees and employers want the office to be a place for collaboration, 85% of employers say that most of their office space is still allocated to personal working spaces (Cisco). Your organization may need a new office design to ensure enough collaboration spaces.

How to work it out: Remind employees to be mindful of these shared spaces and to stick with assigned times so no one is left waiting. Leverage a workplace management platform to make reserving rooms easier, which helps minimize disputes over who can use the desks or rooms. Conference room booking solutions with a robust rules engine allow you to create time gaps between consecutive bookings, which can be helpful if appointments run longer than expected or if employees need clean-up time. A centralized platform allows all employees to see the available spaces and who has booked specific ones.

Watch: Redefining Workspaces with Gensler’s Director of Global Workplace Research 

Cringe #2: The Hot Desk Mess

There are some who keep their desktops minimal and clean, and there are some who need a little nudge in the right direction. This may be an employee who sets up their workspace in a disruptive or unprofessional way, such as playing loud music, having personal items scattered throughout the office, or creating a messy or cluttered work area.

How to work it out: Approach the employee privately and explain the importance of maintaining a professional and organized work environment. Organizations can provide guidance on appropriate workspace setup and etiquette and suggest ways they can improve their work area. Hot desking policies with guidelines on how to maintain an organized and clean workspace is a good place to start. In addition to policies, use desk booking software so that the expectation is employees can only use the desk they booked for a specific timeframe.

Cringe #3: The Chitchat

Who loves company gossip? (Raises hand and looks around.) It can be awkward when you hear an employee having a confidential or sensitive conversation, such as a performance review or a personal matter, in an open or shared workspace where others can overhear. Excessive noise from nearby conversations, phones ringing, or other disruptive activities can also make it difficult for employees to focus on their work.

Organizations should consider redesigning office spaces to accommodate new ways of working. While 72% of employees are positive about returning to the office, only 47% believe their work environments are equipped for this new era of hybrid work (Cisco). Most employees come into the office to socialize and collaborate in person, meaning more workspaces and fewer individual workstations.

How to work it out: Evaluate the office layout and design to identify and address potential sources of noise and distraction. You may need to cut down on open spaces and add in more enclosed hubs for 1:1s and small group discussions. Consider implementing soundproofing measures, designated quiet zones, or policies around noise and phone usage. Encourage employees to be mindful of their surroundings and the need for discretion when holding sensitive conversations. Space management software makes it easier for employees to book an appropriate space for these specific needs.

Read our 2024 hybrid work report for smart, actionable steps about hybrid office design.

Cringe #4: Contamination Station

Employees may use common areas, like the kitchen or break room, in a way that is disruptive or inconsiderate of others, such as leaving a mess, using shared appliances excessively, or monopolizing the space. This can make using the same shared spaces uncomfortable for other employees. For example, no one likes a sink filled with dirty dishes or heating their food in a microwave splattered with food from other people’s lunches.

How to work it out: Establish and communicate clear guidelines for the use of shared spaces, and encourage employees to be respectful of their coworkers. Consider implementing a workspace management scheduler or system for equitable access to shared resources. A scheduler with robust booking automations enables you to establish specific restrictions and limits based on who can book, the booking time frame, and any additional requirements or limitations. For example, you may set a two-hour time limit on booking lab equipment to ensure that people who need it have a chance to use it as well.

See how this robotics center uses Skedda to reserve in-demand resources.

Cringe #5: All Thumbs

We’ve all been there: watching a coworker struggle with sharing their computer screen on a call or being the one doing the struggling. Employees may not know how to use the tech tools in the office. Outdated or insufficient technology, such as slow computers, unreliable internet, or a lack of necessary software or hardware, can also hinder effective collaboration or work completion in a hybrid environment.

As technology bridges the physical gap in a hybrid environment, organizations need to update their tech stack and train employees on how to use it. According to Unisys, 49% of employees spend one to five hours a week resolving IT issues, with about 23% spending more than six hours a week dealing with technology failures. And employees do not want the tech struggle to continue. About 92% of employees say they’re “very willing” or “somewhat willing” to share data if it will fix their technology issue more quickly.

How to work it out: Assess the company's technology needs and allocate resources to ensure employees can access the tools and equipment required to work efficiently and effectively. That might mean setting up your conference rooms with tech tools for efficient hybrid meetings. Provide training for employees on how to use common tech tools in the organization. If there are issues, make it accessible for employees to send a help ticket so that your organization can continually improve your tech infrastructure.

Read More: When to Zoom, Loom, or Get a Room - Tech for a Great Hybrid Experience

Create a More Professional and Productive Workspace for All

This cringe list can greatly impact employees’ workplace experiences. Organizations can make the office a more attractive destination by redesigning spaces that are conducive for collaboration, incorporating clear and fair policies that ensure shared resources are used equitably, and leveraging easy-to-use tech tools that streamline desk and meeting room reservations. By addressing these issues that negatively impact the hybrid workplace experience, organizations can help create a more professional, productive, and comfortable workspace for all employees.

If you’re ready to start scheduling and booking desks and rooms, create your free Skedda account today.

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