Hybrid work, the ability to work remotely or in-person on a flexible basis, was not born from the current pandemic. Many people have been managing this balancing act for years. However, it is new to many organizations, and many were ill-equipped to make the change.  

According to a recent survey, major cities like Boston, San Francisco and Chicago believe hybrid work is here to stay. Otherwise known as “the future of work,” 83% of workers want to remain hybrid even after the pandemic is over. However, this may not be the case for those required to do their jobs in person with colleagues or equipment.  

How do organizations today solve for retaining employees who wish to remain hybrid, attract new candidates who see this “benefit” as table stakes, and set each of them up to succeed? 

Prepare for Bias 

Gartner states that by “2022, 25% of the global knowledge workforce will choose their home as the primary workplace and 45% of the workforce will be working from home two to three days per week.” However, the flip side to the coin is those who choose to remain in the office. 

 This decision is influenced by a variety of factors, including:  

  • Feeling it is easier to collaborate in person 
  • Missing human connection 
  • More opportunity for happenstance 
  • Finding ad hoc interactions bring new diverse perspectives 
  • Unable to engage with people outside of their project team 
  • The strain of virtual work  
  • Zoom exhaustion 

In-person work undoubtedly has its advantages, but it also presents barriers for those who prefer to remain at home. During the pandemic, staying remote created an equitable playing field for all, but what will happen when that shared constraint changes?  

  • Fear that in-person contact will be rewarded or more visible 
  • Missing out on things that happen outside of meetings 
  • Poor A/V experiences when most people are in person 
  • Worry that old problems will return  

Illustration of woman wearing a red shirt and blue plants sitting at a table working

Choice Matters 

Many who choose to work from home relish avoiding their daytime commute. They may start their day early to accommodate family schedules or gain a few more hours of heads down time to balance their workloads. However, they sometimes encounter challenges and experience issues with connectivity, lack of office space, and feelings of isolation. It’s important to ensure employees’ environments are equitably maintained. That’s when the actual value of hybrid work is realized. 

"Their environment and their teams, in general, are just really diverse and inclusive from a number of different perspectives. We appreciate that in terms of bringing new thoughts to the table."  Adam Wilhelm, VP, Campbell and Company 

Importance of Rituals 

Creating an equitable hybrid work environment can be achieved by setting up a few company rituals or norms to follow. This helps to define expectations for the team to follow regardless of their location. Some examples are: 

  • Encouraging a healthy work/life balance; shut down at the end of the day 
  • Creating Team agreements to align expectations
  • Developing a baseline for “acceptable” AV 

Create Equity with Communication 

Communication is vital, but maintaining healthy levels in a hybrid work environment is not always easy. Some organizations gravitate to adopting the latest and most robust tools to enable communication without considering the end-user. Different working styles may clash with new tools, as some may find them disruptive.  

"It has as close to the culture of a family as any technology company could be in Chicago. They’re down-to-earth, they’re friendly, they’re really hardworking, they’ll bend over backward to make sure you get what you’ve hired them to do."  Paul Gee, VP of Digital Product Management, American Medical Association

Universal adoption of shared tools will level the playing field. Let interaction type drive tool selection like using Slack for an asynchronous status update or an ad hoc zoom meeting to solve an urgent matter. Explicitly share these guidelines when onboarding employees. It is essential that people feel in control of their environment and have the tools to be successful. 

Illustration of three teammates in their various bubbles communicating with one another.

Ability to Self-Serve is Key to Hybrid 

Normalizing the hybrid work environment is a team effort. Encouraging teams to create and maintain asynchronous work options helps them remain in control of their situation. 

Most organizations are just at the start of this journey and will experience many starts and stops. Keeping in mind that individual choice matters and flexibility is critical, the hybrid work balance will pave the way for the future of work. 

 


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