The Missing Part Of Hybrid Work

The Missing Part of Hybrid Work - Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

The biggest work related impacts of the pandemic are behind us but the topic of where employees should work is far from resolved. The hybrid work model is becoming very common and a recent article from Gallup suggests that all is not well. I observe most attention is focused on when and how often employees are required to work in the office. People are searching for the magic answer by comparing one situation with another. They are all missing the point.

The goal is providing an environment where employees can collectively do their best work. The collective aspect is important. If I worked exclusively on my own with minimal collaboration with others, the decision where I work is a personal one. It is completely down to me. I can’t imagine anyone working completely alone in an organization without a need to collaborate with the people around them.

Where we work is a collective decision

The decision of who works where needs to be a team based decision, facilitated by the manger or leader of the team. It requires ongoing meaningful conversations between employees and with their managers. The Gallup article found only 12% of employee decisions about where to work involved their team. They were either dictated by their manager or made by the employee in isolation.

The disconnected workforce

This lack of collective decision making is troubling. Working in organizations is a team sport. If each person in the team works in isolation of the others we are gradually undermining the fabric of the team. Teams become a collection of individuals. Collaboration drops and the output is at best the sum of parts, usually much less. The opportunity for the team to create something bigger than themselves is lost.

How to move forward?

I like the advice provided in the Gallup article albeit with a few adjustments.

  1. Commit to hybrid work for employees who are remote-ready. I would commit to a hybrid work model decided by the team. This is far from an easy task and is likely to be an arrangement that evolves over time as the situation dictates. In other words, this is an ongoing never-ending discussion about how the team does its work.
  2. Establish standard on-site days. Picking at least one day where everyone is present in the office is critical to encourage collaboration. If people cannot find the people they need to talk to in the office, they will stop coming in.
  3. Managers hold one meaningful conversation with each employee per week. This one is so important when people are spending considerable time working remotely. Meaningful conversations include results and recognition, vision and goals, well-being and employee engagement. These conversations are not optional. Everyone must feel that they care and the manager is the catalyst to make that happen.

What is your experience of working in a hybrid model?

Comments (2)

Thanks Andy, for such a cogent and succinct summary of a mission-critical area of leadership practice. From my own long experience working in and coaching, hybrid and remote teams, particularly in tech, financial services, higher ed, and engineering/aerospace, I would add a fourth recommendation:

Managers hold one meaningful conversation the whole team each week (or two at most).

I agree with you that conversation #3 is important, but by itself it can just reinforce the notion of a collection of individuals, unless the conversation with the team also takes place. And like the collective decision-making process in your first point, it’s a far from easy task to have a meaningful conversation that involves and engages the whole team, particularly when several times zones/geos are involved.

Teams I have coached have had the most successful outcomes when the leader establishes the practice by cultivating a mood of genuine curiosity in themselves and in the team. Meaningful conversations for the whole team are based around questions like these: How effectively is our team fulfilling its commitments? What support do we need/what can we offer to one another in order to do our best work? What problems and opportunities do we anticipate that will affect some or all of our work together? What are we learning from each other?

I trust you will find my comment is aligned with and supportive of what you have written already.

Thank you for another piece of advice that is spot on, as usual. Yes, the conversation with the team is a critical one and one I clearly take for granted, which I shouldn’t. 🙂

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