Best practices for hybrid work

Jun 08, 2021 by Nomadic Team

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Leaders in diverse industries are thinking deeply about the future of collaboration both in-office and virtually as many companies transition away from the fully remote work models they used during the pandemic. The process can be bumpy, however, especially if it’s not informed by a solid understanding of employee and organizational needs.

To showcase some of the best thinking on this topic to date, Nomadic and Reset Work hosted a virtual discussion where experts in this field shared their best practices for doing hybrid work right––Navigating Return to the Workplace: Answering the Top Five Questions We Face Now.

We loved hearing from HubSpot’s chief people officer, Katie Burke; Harvard Business School professor and author of Remote Work Revolution, Tsedal Neeley; and co-founder of Reset Work, Kevin Delaney as they explored the big questions facing leaders now about how (and from where) their employees should work.

Interested in diving deeper? We’re hosting another event on hybrid work, “Rethinking place, time, and ritual: how to design new norms for a hybrid future.” Sign up to discover real examples for re-imagining how your employees strategically use time, place, and rituals to create purposeful and productive workplaces.

One key takeaway from our first event was that when developing our models for hybrid work, we shouldn’t only focus on the metrics that can be counted and tracked. Though numbers are important, Burke explained, it’s also key to consider how we’re treating our employees at a human level, especially as we come out of a very difficult time.

HubSpot was previously “remote-ish,” Burke said, but has now fully switched to a hybrid work model. The company achieved this transition through lots of listening: to current employees' needs, recent college graduates’ expectations about work, and more. Burke believes that employees’ expectations about hybrid work are based in their deep-seated views about work generally. This means that better understanding those views makes it possible to implement a hybrid work model that meets those expectations, both keeping employees happy and productive and serving the organization at large.

One of the main ways hybrid work can help a company achieve this balance, Neeley noted, is by honoring people’s desire for autonomy.

People “appreciate the ability to self-direct,” Neeley said. But she also noted they like the social aspect that accompanies in-office work. Neeley has observed that across data sources, the overwhelming majority of workers are seeking to retain some level of flexibility and some elements of remote work as, in many locations, the pandemic ebbs.

Ultimately, Neeley said, “they want choice.” And a well-executed hybrid model can afford this.

Remote and hybrid work: from necessity to transformational idea

Though remote and hybrid work models emerged out of necessity during the pandemic, Neeley explained that this rapid transition has also been an opportunity to be more creative about how and where we work.

“The big idea is that individuals have transformed in the last thirteen, fourteen months,” Neeley said. “Organizations have also transformed. How is it that we can now leverage the best parts of that?”

Both Neeley and Burke underscored that much of this comes from trust. This includes trusting your employees to work even if you aren’t overseeing that work on-site in the office. It also means trusting that people know what’s best for themselves when it comes to scheduling for optimal productivity.

Burke pointed out that managers need to be cognizant of how their own biases may cloud their feelings around their employees’ decisions about how and when to work. For example, a manager might experience dissatisfaction with a team member’s performance if they’re in the office less than their colleagues, even when metrics are looking great.

After a year when many women dropped out of the workforce––and Black and Latinx women in particular––Burke believes that the managers who can trust their team to make the call on which days they come into the office and can offer more flexibility around issues like childcare and daily schedules will ultimately be better positioned to leverage hybrid work to foster a truly diverse team.

Burke said that when managers aren’t able to cultivate this trust and flexibility among their reports, it often comes down to “a failure of imagination.”

“I agree that managers need a toolkit for engaging with people and getting to know them on a personal level,” she noted. “I just don’t think you have to be in the office to do that.”

Hybrid work and beyond

Neeley agreed that imagination is a fundamental part of crafting an effective, equitable, and forward-looking model for hybrid work, both for the transition out of the pandemic and in near-future transitions in how we work, too.

“As we think about the return to work, we have an opportunity to imagine a different future,” Neeley said. And with human/AI collaborations and other big technological and cultural shifts coming to workplaces in the next few years, she believes that people who get this transformation right will be ready for the next one, too.

For more insights about hybrid work, check out Nomadic’s new Program, Hybrid Working. This Program explores current best practices for the hybrid office, including creating community on a hybrid team, reimagining how we use time, coaching and retraining staff in a hybrid environment, and more.

Enroll in the Hybrid Working Program now.

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