The Joys of Hybrid Work. Ten Things We Have Learned.

joshbersin .com, May 24, 2021, By

As I’m sure you’ve read, Remote Work is here to stay. Not only did we thrive during the Pandemic, but two-thirds of employees prefer it. Remote work saves time on commute, saves money on dressing up, and helps people deal with family issues at home.

Yes, there are issues: we have to avoid video fatigue, learn to pace ourselves, and of course find a comfortable place at home. But even with these issues, it’s a very good thing.

Now that we’ve broken the stigma of remote work (it used to be frowned upon), companies are building Hybrid Work models. And I’m all for it. We’ve spent a decade studying employee engagement, employee experience (EX), and “the overwhelmed employee.” And in every study, we found that flexible, empathetic, well-designed workplaces are great.

Let me share what we’ve learned, and there’s a lot more to come when we launch our EX “Bible” later this summer. (And visit The Remote Work Bootcamp.)

  1. Hybrid Work Is Good For Business.
    The first thing I want to reinforce is that hybrid work is good for business. Even if the CEO demands people to come to the office, employees love flexibility and agency to work the way they want. Yes, we sometimes have to meet face to face for design meetings, sales calls, and other important activities. But many of us need time for research, writing, design, and creative work – so giving people a “place to go” makes sense. Why else do we see so many people working in coffee shops?
  2. Consider All Dimensions of Hybrid.
    Hybrid work means more than working at home. It means considering location, time, business model, and more. Here are some dimensions to consider.
  3. Focus On Culture
    Hybrid work forces you to talk about culture. Why? Because there is no “management by walking around” anymore. Culture is created through work practices, management behaviors, reward systems, and how much flexibility you provide. It’s important to discuss these things, so people know what’s expected of them and what’s not allowed.
  4. Build A Collaborative Technology Platform.
    The technology industry is very focused on this market. Vendors like Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco, Salesforce, Google, Facebook, and almost all others are pouring billions of dollars into tools for virtual meetings, collaboration, knowledge management, safe workplace, wellbeing, and video sharing. You and your IT department should look at these platforms and put together a set of standard tools that work together.  I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Teams and Viva (we use it here), but you can build on Google Workplace, Slack, or others. But pick one core platform.The innovations are astounding. Platforms like Microsoft Teams and Stream can video capture every conversation, transcribe meetings, and instantly help people catch up on what they missed. Tools like Loom and Guru can store video and documents and make knowledge management real. We love Otter.ai to transcribe voice from calls; platforms like EdCast, Degreed, Fuse, and Wisetail can quickly create a learning portal; tools like WalkMe, Pendo and Spekit can instantly make apps easier to use;  tools like Cultivate, Glint, CultureAmp, Peakon, and Viva Insights can capture mood, help people save time, and provide online coaching.
  5. Establish A Listening Platform and Culture
    As I talked about in Employee Listening is the most important practice in business, hybrid work is a rapidly changing situation. People will constantly bring up new ideas, issues, and suggestions. You need to survey people regularly, create open channels for conversation, and hold lots of open town-hall meetings.
  6. Integrate Hybrid Work with the Wellbeing Program
    Hybrid work can be great for many people, but it also introduces new pressures on employees. Some people work too many hours; others may be drinking or abusing drugs at home; some may be interrupted or harassed by family members; and others may just have trouble with travel, internet, or setting up a safe work location.
  7. Bring Leadership Into The Conversation
    Many of you remember the famous Yahoo fiasco where the CEO peered into everyone’s VPN log history and came down hard on people who were home but not working full time. If leaders don’t trust or believe in your hybrid work program, it won’t work at all. And many leaders, to be honest, are still not sure how to feel.
  8. Double down on IT security.
    I spent more than 25 years working remotely, managing remote employees, and working as a partner in a remote-first consulting firm. If there’s one thing to note: sometimes weird things happen. Problems like theft, embezzlement, data loss, and bad behavior continue to happen. And I’ve seen it all.
  9. Experiment With New Ideas
    As I mentioned above, Remote Work is not “going back” its an opportunity to “go forward.” We no longer “go to work” or “come in to work” – we essentially “do work” wherever we are. This means there will be a lot of new ideas yet to come, so keep your mind open.
  10. Trust
    Let me leave you with one more point. Work is not a “place” – it’s “what people do.” You and your leadership have to trust people. Give them clarity, mission, skills, and growth – they will figure out how to get work done. Trust remains one of the most important tools you have.

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