Building Effective Hybrid Models

There is much discussion about the future of work as companies begin to re-open their offices after more than a year of remote work. While most organizations recognize that the workforce model can be adapted to address peoples’ current needs, there is much ambiguity about how a hybrid model will be executed. According to McKinsey, “although nine out of ten executives envision a hybrid model going forward, most have at best a high-level plan for how to carry it out— and nearly a third of them say that their organizations lack alignment on a high-level vision among the top team.”

The hybrid model might be one way for companies to establish greater retention, especially as a number of people seek to switch jobs or look for more flexibility at work. However, it is probably the most challenging to execute.

Here are some questions organizations should address to better understand how they might meet their peoples’ needs post-pandemic and build an effective hybrid model:

What is the incentive to return?
Many people are desperate to return to the workplace for a host of reasons, particularly the ability to socialize with their colleagues. Other people, however, have become very comfortable working from home because it affords much needed “heads down time” allowing them to feel incredibly productive.

Establishing a clear incentive that addresses multiple employee needs is recommended to gather diverse people together and rebuild community.

However, rebuilding community raises another question since many people today often execute various responsibilities across multiple teams…

Which team takes priority?
A single person in many organizations often participates in and therefore identifies with multiple teams. Which team takes precedence then? Is it the largest team? Is it the team where one has the greatest influence? Or is it the team that one is most inspired by?

Before people begin to gather in the same workspace, there will need to be candid conversations about the teams and responsibilities an employee is most connected to, so that organizations can better understand what are the greatest engagement levers for their people.

In addition, building alignment on when and why teams will meet in person will be required to foster a shared commitment among teams. Otherwise if people come together for work that can be executed remotely it will most likely cause tension across the team and consequently the model.

Creating a shared understanding on why people are meeting in person will then help teams answer another critical question…

How will time be spent in the office?
As mentioned, employees have a range of needs that are addressed through work, such as identity, personal fulfillment, emotional well being, and socialization, to name a few. Therefore, it is essential that when employees do meet in person, teams and organizations do their best to maximize that time by addressing employees’ multiple needs. For example, creating time for teams to both feel productive and socialize with their colleagues is one way to ensure that employees are benefiting in multiple ways from being in person. On the contrary, if employees only come together in person to work, then the validity of the hybrid model will be challenged, and people will seek new opportunities to connect with their teammates, possibly by returning to their pre-pandemic rituals.

Finally, while home workspaces have evolved in the past year and a half, it’s important to consider…

How will the office environment evolve?
In the past year and a half, many people have adapted their workspaces at home by purchasing additional monitors, whiteboards or other tools to mimic their office environment. It is most likely that employees are not going to revert their home workspaces, especially if they are only visiting their offices a few times per week. Therefore, it’s important that office environments evolve as well, so that people again appreciate the benefits of a shared workspace. Creating different “spaces” within the office to balance the needs of multiple teams utilizing the shared environment is critical. For instance, some of these spaces might involve not only improved environments but policies as well that encourage employees to be quiet in certain areas for deep thinking and loud in other areas for team collaboration. Once again signifying the benefits of using a shared space and providing new ways of working that cannot easily be achieved in isolation will help attract employees to the office.

In closing, although there is much excitement about the hybrid model because it provides an opportunity to reinvent the relationship people have with their work, creating an effective hybrid model will require much deliberation, experimentation and adaptation. Being intentional about where people are in their desire to return to the office, and repeatedly incorporating employee feedback will help not only build a sustainable hybrid model, but also deliver meaningful relationships between people and the work they do.

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