Challenges faced during Hybrid Collaboration#

Collaborating in a hybrid setting presents a key challenge of establishing a consistent experience and equal level of inclusion for both online and in-person participants. This means overcoming the hurdle of bridging the gap between in-person and virtual interactions. Achieving this balance between online and in-person participants is crucial for fostering effective teamwork and maximizing productivity in a hybrid environment. Some of the challenges faced in hybrid settings are highlighted in this chapter.

Social networking in hybrid settings#

Building and maintaining a local network becomes more challenging in a hybrid work setting due to limited natural social interactions and a systematic imbalance between in-person and online groups. It can also be a challenge for the in-person participants to simultaneously manage interactions with people online and people in the same in-person setting.

Communication tools used for hybrid environments#

A mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication tools are used for hybrid environments. Synchronous communication tools enable real-time interactions where participants communicate simultaneously via video and voice calls or live messaging and are helpful for immediate feedback and dynamic discussions. Asynchronous communication tools enable interactions where responses do not occur in real time, allowing participants to engage at their convenience. Tools for asynchronous communication include traditional methods like emails and collaborative software platforms like forums other other messaging platforms where updates and messages can be posted and responded to over time.

The variety of communication tools used in hybrid work presents challenges for inclusiveness, especially when using asynchronous communication tools. Poorly organised hybrid events can isolate online participants, and incorporating communication tools into hybrid collaboration can be complex. Hybrid meetings require different etiquette, and unequal access to communication tools may exclude some individuals, especially those at early career stages who might still be exploring navigating such spaces.

Lack of space to focus and be attentive#

There are disparities in facilities and services between in-person and online settings. Distraction comes easily with an online setup. When online, individuals may encounter higher levels of noise and distractions due to personal responsibilities that are not immediately apparent, such as caring for children or elderly family members. In addition to the communication challenges discussed earlier, individuals may not be aware of the support resources available and may struggle to ask questions or access the necessary assistance. This is particularly problematic for individuals with caregiving responsibilities who may need a quieter space to participate in remote conferences, workshops, trainings, and events. In essence, the lack of essential facilities and support needed to participate attentively can discourage online participants from attending the event remotely.

Coordination and scheduling#

There are also challenges in coordination and scheduling, especially across timezones. An important concern is finding common times for synchronous hybrid meetings among participants in different timezones. Personal schedules and commitments further complicate this coordination. While asynchronous communication helps manage these differences by allowing participants to contribute at their convenience, it requires careful planning to ensure that all team members can participate effectively without feeling overwhelmed or excluded. Additionally, relying on asynchronous communication can impact the immediacy of real-time collaboration, slowing down engagement levels, decision-making processes, and resolving issues, as participants needed for feedback or support are not always immediately available.

Accessibility in hybrid collaboration#

Hybrid meetings introduce additional complexity in ensuring that audio, video, and meeting materials are accessible to all participants, whether physically present or attending remotely. Audio issues can arise from poor microphone quality, background noise, or inadequate internet bandwidth, while video issues might stem from poor camera placement or low resolution, affecting the accessibility of audio and video for both remote and in-person participants. Ensuring that meeting materials are accessible to in-person and remote participants can also be challenging, as physical attendees may not have easy access to digital resources, and online participants may miss out on physical demonstrations. Additionally, there is an added responsibility for accessibility for the organisers, who must select communication tools that provide accessibility features and enable these features.