Remote, Hybrid or In Office? How to Travel the (Messy) Road to the Future of Work

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In the thick of the pandemic, where many countries went into wholesale lockdown mode, companies were mandated to work remotely. Under the principle of “you gotta do what you gotta do,” we all adapted as best we could, learning how to Zoom with or without a green screen, getting the equipment we could find or afford, and defining new work habits and etiquette. What previously was considered anathema — or impossible — to certain old-fashioned managers suddenly became a reality in spite of the challenges. The vaunted “transformation” has supposedly vaulted into place. As some have said, the future of work is now. But, as we move to a “new” normal where remote work is possible if not required, it’s important to recognize that the likely leaning toward hybrid work conditions will be a messy road to travel down. And just because we have learned to work remotely doesn’t mean we’ll know how to work in a hybrid manner.

A fork in the road ahead

As we move through toward a post-pandemic period (albeit with different schedules according to ongoing developments), companies are having to figure out what to do with the choice between staying remote, returning to the office or going hybrid (office & remote). The majority of companies seem to be pointing toward the hybrid idea, which on balance makes sense since opinions and desires vary considerably.

I can’t wait to return to the office to be with my colleagues
versus
I just love working in the comfort of my home and/or I hate the commute…

To return or not to the office?

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Whereas in the ‘old’ model working from home (WFH) was the exception while in the pandemic, remote work was the ‘norm’, hybrid is a wholly different beast. A neither-nor if you will. If moving to 100% remote is a deeply different mode to 100% in office, the challenge of adjusting to hybrid I argue will be distinctly harder, especially since it’s an option, not an obligation. Whereas companies used to be able to demand that employees showed up at the office and then, because of the lockdown, remote was mandated, we are now faced with choosing what to do. And it’s not going to be easy. Dictating one or the other will come with a price since a proportion of the workforce will inevitably be unhappy. Offering flexibility, meanwhile, will come with huge and ongoing headaches.

Remote, Hybrid or In Office? How to Travel the (Messy) Road to the Future of Work. The challenge of adjusting to #hybrid will be distinctly harder, especially since it's an option, not an obligation. #futureofwork Click To Tweet

Some leaders will bring the bean counters to the table with a focus on how to cut costs. Some will be most swayed by HR considerations proposing the most humane solutions and worried about mental health issues. Some will be focused on technological solutions while other managers still will make the fatal mistake of just imagining that everyone thinks as they do. Moving to a hybrid solution will take tremendous effort and there’s no cookie-cutter approach to adopt. Even “best practices” will need to be contextualized.

Considerations for hybrid work

Here are some of the complex issues that ought to be considered as leaders come to grips with the hybrid option:

  • who, how often and under what conditions will individuals come to the office?
  • how flexible are you willing to be?
  • how to ensure that company culture is cultivated and a sense of belonging is encouraged?
  • when will work in the office be mandated?
  • which work hours will everyone keep?
  • how much office space will be needed?
  • how to put in place, monitor and measure accountability and track project progress?
  • how will compensation and benefits need to change in light of everyone’s situation?
  • what changes need to be made in recruitment, including of people in diverse locations?
  • what is the right technology to support your culture and hybrid mode?

A focus on trust

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

Working in a hybrid mode is a perfectly normal option and, for many, will absolutely make sense. However, it’s best done with the employee experience (EX) in mind, articulated around a customer centric strategy. Importantly, leaders will want to assess their move to hybrid in function of the past experiences, existing culture, governance model and ambitions of the company. But underneath it all, leadership must take a good hard look at the mirror: how trusting and trustworthy are you as a leader? Trust is the glue that makes remote work work. With the messiness that is involved in hybrid, you will want to double down in how you cultivate trust throughout the organization.

How to Travel the (Messy) Road to the Future of Work #Trust is the glue that makes #remotework work. With the messiness that is involved in hybrid, you will want to double down in how you cultivate trust throughout the organization. Click To Tweet

What are you thinking of doing in the future? Have I missed any other major issues with the hybrid option?

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