8 Ways to Prevent Workplace Conflict in Remote and Hybrid Environments

by James McDonough

HR Expertise and Support,  Leadership,  Workplace Conflict

Conflict is inevitable in human interactions of any type, in-person or virtual, and in any environment (home, work, etc.). When ignored or not managed effectively, conflict produces negative impacts. In the workplace, resolving conflict is an important management task to avoid an array of problems such as low morale, organizational dysfunction, and even legal problems. 

Managing a workforce with remote and hybrid employees brings new complexities to workplace conflict resolution; conflict presents differently in remote workplaces than in-person workplaces. (One recent study found “lack of teamwork” and “stress about work” were the top sources of conflict for work-from-wherever employees.1)Trusted practices and reliable processes for managing in-person employees are often inadequate and  leave many employers frustrated and confused. 

Developing a deeper understanding of what is unique about work-from-home employees and their experiences can help employers build new strategies to resolve workplace conflict in hybrid and remote work environments. Here are three factors that can lead to conflicts in those workplaces: 

Unique sources of remote-work stress

Remote and hybrid workers may experience certain types of stress more than in-person workers due to their physical isolation from co-workers and supervisors: One study showed that stress levels decreased overall for remote workers, but stress around “presenteeism”—technically present but not productive—increased.2 Surveys indicate remote workers feel disconnected, unsupported and alone. Distractions at home blur the line between work and home responsibilities, adding stress. People under stress are prone to emotions that lead to negative conflict. 

Digital messaging misunderstandings

The reliance upon digital messaging (texts, chat, email, etc.) often results in perceived slights and assumptions about the intent of others. Without organic, in-person workplace interactions and the ability to observe the body language cues of others, misunderstandings may fester and negatively impact morale and job performance.

Lack of workplace visibility

The lack of physical presence renders remote and hybrid workers invisible to their in-person colleagues. Supervisors may value in-person workers more and consider them as more committed, hard-working, and prepared to be promoted. In-person workers may resent remote and hybrid workers for various assumptions about the perks of not reporting to work in-person. These attitudes can make remote workers feel overlooked and undervalued.

Tips for resolving remote workplace conflicts

To enhance organizational effectiveness, these tips offer new approaches for successfully resolving workplace conflicts in a work environment with remote and hybrid employees.

1. Nurture a positive workplace culture

The easiest conflict to resolve is the one that never begins. Take action to prevent conditions that encourage unproductive conflict in the workplace between all employees, regardless of where they are physically located. Building a workplace culture of civility and psychological safety is an essential preventive measure.

2. Communicate clearly

In-person workplaces are full of non-verbal communication cues that suggest employees are welcome and doing a good job. Eye contact and a smile with a wave of the hand are powerful ways of communicating connection and support. Working remotely does not provide these informal, in-person interactions. Effective communication with hybrid and remote workers requires more effort and intentionality, especially from supervisors tasked with conflict resolution. To discuss a conflict, avoid using digital messaging. Instead, call remote and hybrid employees to have an organic conversation where tone of voice communicates intent. Virtual meetings with cameras on can also enhance body language communication that signals goodwill and the intent to support remote and hybrid employees.

To resolve conflicts over work outputs that result from unclear communications, create a common communication template that prompts the supervisor to consistently provide the information and their expectations. Clear communication sets the remote worker up for success. 

3. Provide tech support for remote employees

Functioning technology is crucial for remote and hybrid workers. Without it, they are unable to function, and this can foment conflict. Provide rigorous technology support for remote and hybrid workers. Assign Tech Buddies and quick-response teams for new hires. Upskill supervisors to support their ability to effectively manage remote and hybrid workers.

4. Be transparent about scheduling expectations

Employers must clearly outline their scheduling expectations with remote and hybrid staff. Bottom line: Their availability must meet business needs. Approving work schedule flexibility may challenge the status quo with in-person employees. Pro-actively address those concerns with transparency; invite discussion about scheduling decisions and business results. Resolve conflict that arises by listening and seeking compromises as appropriate.

5. Build trust

Remote and hybrid employees are out of sight and many supervisors lack trust that they are getting their work done. In one study, 38 percent of managers agreed that “remote workers usually perform worse than those who work in an office.”3 Supervisors who mistrust and treat everyone as a scofflaw will damage morale, demotivate the highest performing employees, and encourage conflict. Build trust by consistently setting teams up for success to support a virtuous cycle of trust-building between team members that reduces conditions that create conflict.

6. Coach remote workers 

Coach remote employees on how to make themselves and their efforts more visible to their colleagues. Advise their supervisors to provide opportunities for remote workers to connect, build relationships with team members, and to highlight their contributions. When every team member’s efforts are made visible and acknowledged, it creates goodwill. That goodwill reduces mistrust, assumptions and bad feelings that can generate conflict.    

7. Pause conflict for guided reflection

It is best to immediately address workplace conflict; however, when emotions are superheated, provide a period of cooling off and reflection to the employees involved. During this time, provide specific guidance in the form of written questions that define steps to self-reflect and move toward resolution. Advise them to prepare for a scheduled follow-up meeting and invite them to ask questions during their cooling-off reflection time.

8. Connect workplace conflicts to mission, values, and culture

In all efforts to resolve workplace conflicts, connect the ultimate objective as one framed by the organization’s mission, values, and culture. These are the unifying forces in a workplace that should guide all interactions between employees. Counterproductive conflict is a barrier to achieving the employer’s objectives, and that is unacceptable.


To learn more about successfully managing hybrid and remote workers, download our free Employers Guide

Need help managing a workplace conflict? Employers Council offers group level assessments, mediation, coaching, team/group facilitation, and more.  Contact us to talk about your conflict resolution needs. 


  1. Pieniazek, Jennifer. “The Blow-by-Blow on Remote Work Conflict [2021 Study].” MyPerfectResume.com. 12 February 2021. Accessed 26 May 2022. 
  2. Shimura, Akiyoshi et al. “Remote Work Decreases Psychological and Physical Stress Responses, but Full-Remote Work Increases Presenteeism.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 12 730969. 30 Sep. 2021, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.730969. Accessed 24 May 2022. 
  3. Parker, Sharon; Knight, Caroline; Keller, Anita. “Remote Managers are Having Trust Issues.” Harvard Business Review. 30 July 2020. Accessed 24 May 2022. 
About the author
James McDonough

James McDonough, HR Research Consultant, consults with Employers Council members to provide guidance and support on their organizational practices. He writes articles, conducts presentations and trainings on HR compliance, organizational effectiveness and business management topics. A graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, James has worked in the public and private sectors in HR and business management.