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hybrid office

Why Hybrid Is Not Working For You

Many of us are twelve to eighteen months into Hybrid work

We have seen many thought leaders and business leaders have their say, whether it is good or bad for their business. 

For the most part, we have been working on a variety of “hybrid” since March 2020. It is not new and despite being frustrating at times, businesses just haven’t reshaped their own business to make this workplace environment work correctly. 

Some industries have fully embraced hybrid, invested in the right infostructure, the right tools, the right ‘in office’ cadence and been flexible to accommodate the new requirements during the pandemic. 

Others have defaulted back to full-time in the office, often stating culture and then performance as the main drivers for returning fully to the office. 

When questioned the move back to the office full time is about a control culture.

The hardest decision many leaders have had to make is what is right for this business and how can we shape the business to be performance first and many landing on pre-March 2020 setups. 

Why is hybrid not working? 

Software 

  • Many have forced fit the wrong software to attempt hybrid work 
  • Many companies are relying on software to make the hard decisions for them – software will never make the right decision for your specific business it builds for mass problems, not your business problems 
  • Businesses have replaced whiteboard sessions and idea sessions with Mural or Miro and the ideas still are not revisited and creating a worse experience
  • Poor software choice makes ‘time’ a more important factor and highlights when you feel like you are wasting time 
  • Businesses have moved to default chat rather than default work, a lot of chat happens and is signalling in chat apps (like slack and teams) but this often means context is lost, a lot of conversation requires translation and delivery slows 

Meetings 

  • We have relied too much on meetings and working in meetings in real-time, meaning there is no time for deep thought or intentional thought and analysis 
  • Meetings are often taking 60% or more of people’s work time, this is not allowing time for deep work or true collaboration 
  • Almost every business fails their teams by not allowing their teams to succeed with the right agenda templates, with the most efficient ways of communicating post meeting  
  • Many have not discussed or worked with those companies who made the decision to go hybrid or fully remote. Learning from others and hiring these as consultants will help to reshape your business 
  • The common complaint is decisions are only made in meetings and follow-up actions get lost 

Culture 

  • We have allowed managers to have their own rules and many middle management are used to policing in person and trust is secondary 
  • Lack of training for hybrid work and training managers who are used to in line of sight management 
  • There were limited workstreams to build intentional hybrid culture – more than just a few quizzes and getting everyone in the office on a specific date, culture requires dedicated workstreams, workshops, departmental principles created, what is good and bad hybrid behaviours. 
  • There has been a lack of reshaping of the HR team to accommodate hybrid, many not having the training or trust to help support and train managers in hybrid environments, all combining in culture taking a hit
  • The leadership team have struggled to designate one culture community manager to build a hybrid culture and reward away from department leads and traditional HR methodologies 

Workplaces / Environment 

  • The office was not reshaped and is not an environment helping to make work fair 
  • Home is still not considered by most as a workplace despite having worked from home for many years, often to get their head down. The definition of home should be replaced with workplace home and considered a place for deep work 
  • Many businesses have not enabled their workforce to understand if it is private, semi-private, semi-public or public work, meaning many are in the wrong locations for important fully private work. Private is financial work, important one to ones, layoffs, reshaping your department, and pitching to management. Many one-to-one’s took place in coffee shops were semi-public, and team meetings are often semi private as the content of the discussion or working session and should not be held in an open space or in open coworking spaces

Ways to address hybrid issues 

  • Have the courage to make important decisions in improving the core areas, software, meeting, culture and workplace. If it means running tests or trialling these, it important to build these muscles  
  • Build out the right hybrid software stack, create a list of requirements and why current tools do not work and what you require from specialist tools. Many tools will be low cost and reduce friction versus being seen as an additional cost 
  • Create pods to tackle these core issues, no leaders usually mean no action  
  • Use statuses to reduce interruptions, green, amber, red lights to encourage fewer interruptions and allow more focus 
  • Make the intentional shift to async work, embrace more thought-written debates – remove the need to quickly ping someone a brain dump of thoughts in mass groups 
  • Leverage new tech, offer the ability to use audio notes, to record a “Story” based on the spreadsheet to explain why it is formatted this way, embrace wiki’s and formats that encourage thoughtful comms 
  • Remove the real-time decision-making by creating one and two pagers to really inform and keep colleagues abreast of the most important information. The best companies have created templates and frameworks for their teams to use. Very often the best Product Teams have this already and could be tweaked for the other departments to adopt 
  • Always justify why this meeting wasn’t an email in the meeting request 
  • Build out the right frameworks and templates to improve meetings and making the decision does this need to be a meeting or a working group. Internal costs of meetings and meeting recovery syndrome are core problems within a business that many are overlooking or misunderstanding the knock-on effects of 
  • Remove proximity bias, in sight management is hard, hybrid is harder, bring in coaches and training companies to help retrain managers and improve the quality of management within your business  
  • Build out EQ frameworks, remove IQ and PQ as the main incentivise drivers within your business  
  • Make the office a workspace more equal (be inspired by LinkedIn hybrid approach to the office)
  • Ask for feedback from the team on how to improve core sticking points 
  • Rephrase working from home or working from anywhere to workplace home/workplace coworking / workplace satellite office.

Good luck creating the right environments for hybrid to succeed. Hybrid is more a choice, it is a working style that requires iteration and intentional leadership.

Resources To Support Your Move To Hybrid 

The free hybrid work guide

Designing the hybrid office guide  

Simple ways to improve company culture 

Ten misunderstandings of good company culture

How to connect with company leadership team

What makes great hybrid leaders and hybrid managers