Our hybrid work toolkit

Jun 25, 2021

The massive shift toward hybrid work might be the biggest workplace transition we’ve seen in our lifetimes. While the rapid switch to remote work came out of health concerns during the pandemic, this subsequent move toward hybrid is a little different. And potentially a lot more lasting.

More than a series of reactive measures, the hybrid model is a new way of approaching our work emerging after a year that encouraged us to rethink everything.

According to Lynda Gratton of London Business School, rethinking everything is exactly what we should be doing right now. Gratton said that, during this fundamental shift in how we work, one of the riskiest things a company can do is not be imaginative enough about making meaningful changes in their employee policies, their use of physical office space, the way they approach management and collaboration, and more.

Done right, this forward-thinking exploration of where, when, and how work happens amongst your company’s teams will translate into measurable outcomes like productivity, employee engagement, innovation, and more.

Today’s top hybrid work questions, answered

This toolkit featuring today’s top hybrid work questions and answers will help you get started. Over the past month, we’ve had the opportunity to bring together the best minds in the world of hybrid work for virtual events, interviews that we’ve transformed into Nomadic Resources, and the creation of our Hybrid Working Program. We’ve compiled some of these experts’ thoughts here to answer your key questions about hybrid work.

Informed with the best practices and latest thinking and research from hybrid work experts, you’ll ensure your company doesn’t just weather this transition to hybrid––but instead, uses it strategically to help your organization and your people thrive.

Read on for top questions and insights to foster a smooth transition to hybrid work at your organization.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hybrid Work

What are the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid work? Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford, told Kevin Delaney, cofounder of Charter, that he sees hybrid work as “the best of both worlds”: you get both the creative collaboration that can happen in the office and the focused work many find easier at home. In addition to this advantage, you also offer your people a lot of sought-after autonomy over their workdays. Meanwhile, Bloom believes hybrid work’s main disadvantages are the clunkiness of mixed-mode meetings––for example, meetings where some people are in the office and some people are on Zoom––as well as potential inequities in advancement under a hybrid model, with studies showing that workers who spend more time in the office are more likely to be promoted than their colleagues who spend more time remote. This is especially concerning given that certain groups of workers, such as women with young children, are statistically more likely to choose to work from home more often.

How should we foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in a hybrid model? The answer to this one is: it’s complicated. Given potential inequities in promotion for staff who spend more time working remotely, Bloom suggests that one option is to remove some degree of choice. For example, a leader might set a number of days staff must spend in the office, to ensure no individual or team benefits from having more access to “facetime.” Others have similar concerns, and are taking a similar approach to setting stricter policies around hybrid implementation at their organizations. But a few of the leaders in hybrid work who spoke at our virtual panels suggested the opposite approach. They believe that the more flexible and adaptable a company’s hybrid model can be, the more it will ultimately foster inclusion. HubSpot’s chief people officer Katie Burke, for example, says that teams will become more diverse as employees are trusted to choose which days to come into the office. She encourages employers to allow for meaningful flexibility on issues like scheduling and childcare––especially after a year when many women dropped out of the workforce, and many Black and Latinx women in particular.

How should companies approach performance management under a hybrid model? Robert C. Pozen, co-author of Remote, Inc. and professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, believes that as managers shift their mindset to a hybrid model, adapting success metrics to this new reality will be key. This is about outputs rather than inputs, though––so micromanaging with software that tracks the hours employees are working, for example, isn’t the right approach. For managing knowledge workers, it’s more important than ever to prioritize results over hours at the desk when it’s time to evaluate performance. Formerly implicit expectations and working norms must now become explicit to ensure that everyone understands how they’re being evaluated. In this vein, Pozen also suggests giving more frequent and informal performance reviews––at least once a quarter––to offer feedback on these success metrics. Employees can use this feedback to make timely adjustments on things that aren’t working quite as well. And to keep doing the things that are.

What does collaboration look like in hybrid work? Pozen says that first, leaders and managers should keep in mind that some collaboration is productive, while other collaboration less so. It’s crucial to identify collaboration that provides challenging alternate viewpoints and thus has a better chance of ultimately improving the final product––and then prioritize that style of collaboration when scheduling in-person work. Lynda Gratton suggests breaking work up into tasks and being very intentional about which tasks call for this deeper sort of collaboration, then using this task-level analysis to help teams and project managers plan for when and where they need to meet. This ensures that the office, and employees’ in-office time, is used to its best advantage. That being said, other experts have highlighted how the remote side of hybrid work can also provide fertile ground for both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, as well as an opportunity for quieter or more introverted staff to share their ideas in new ways.

What are the biggest mistakes companies make in hybrid work? Pozen believes one of the biggest hybrid work mistakes companies can make is to replicate the now-obsolete hours tracking approach with surveillance software they think will keep employees productive. Another big mistake in some hybrid experts’ minds is coming up with a one-size-fits-all solution, like saying all employees must be in the office three days a week, or that no one can take off Fridays. According to Tsedal Neeley of Harvard Business School, companies miss an opportunity when they’re not willing to be as flexible as possible, given that employees so deeply value choice and autonomy. That being said, companies can also make the mistake of forgetting that they need to prioritize the team over the individual when managing in a hybrid model. So finding a balance is key. And finally, on a very practical note, Pozen has seen that failing to provide dedicated desk space is usually a misstep. People like having their own desks, and staff can find the lack of dedicated space unnerving.

How will hybrid work affect recruitment and retention? Bloom anticipates hybrid work becoming a perk that companies use to attract new talent. Yet the ideal hybrid work model won’t be the same for every business, or in every industry. That’s why Pozen thinks it’s also important for HR to build consensus around a hybrid model that makes sense for their organizational realities, and articulate this vision in a way that will bring their managers and teams on board. Ashok Krish of Tata Consultancy services believes that the companies who do this well will have a huge advantage in recruitment and retention moving forward. “We will start to see a breed of company that’s getting this right,” he said. And those companies will be rewarded with a productive, diverse, and engaged workforce.

What is the future of hybrid work? Pozen has observed that people get better at remote work once they’ve been doing it for a while, particularly as they hone the skill of structuring their own time. It’s likely that hybrid work will follow a similar trend, with organizations seeing an uptick in productivity as workers find their hybrid rhythm. In addition to this, Bloom anticipates adoption of new technologies such as virtual reality and avatar-based virtual workspaces to enhance remote collaboration. Finally, as more and more organizations adopt a hybrid model, Gratton is looking forward to organizations and researchers collecting data sets and people analytics that will allow for developing even better models in the future. There’s still a dearth of hard data on how hybrid work really affects productivity, employee engagement, and other key indicators of organizational health, she said. But fortunately, that’s about to change.

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Make sure your managers are ready for this massive transition in when, where, and how we work. Sign them up for Nomadic’s new Program, Hybrid Working. This first-of-its-kind 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.

Learn more about the Hybrid Working Program––or talk to us about getting Hybrid Working for your whole organization.

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