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The demand for remote work continues at a feverish pitch as employers look for ways to master the new hybrid workplace. Those who stifle remote work lose employees and struggle to attract talent. Those who allow remote work to soar experience lost productivity and eroding cultures. Enough time has passed post-pandemic that the pros and cons of virtual work arrangements are becoming clear. Remote work helps employees feel more satisfied and productive but can be challenging for collaboration, training, mentoring, and corporate cohesion.

We’ve worked in the flexibility space for a decade and a half before “Zoom” and “hybrid” became part of our collective language. To capitalize on the advantages and minimize the drawbacks of remote work, here are some principles we have learned from our clients, as well as resources we share, for effectively implementing remote and hybrid work models.

Be intentional about fine-tuning remote practices

Hybrid models often evolve into sub-optimal box-checking. Employers issue mandates to “be in the office three days a week,” yet compliant employees arrive to find few team members there. Teams hold “all-hands Zoom meetings,” yet half show up with cameras off.  Companies invest in back-to-office enticements, yet their expensive buildings sit empty. Employers must monitor, assess, and reassess remote and hybrid work practices to combat dissonance that kills productivity and engagement. Questions to ask include:

  • Do our company’s hybrid work policies align with what employees are doing?
  • Are our hybrid work practices improving overall company performance?
  • Does following our hybrid work policy hinder or help employee development and advancement?

For a deeper dive into the health of your hybrid work environment, Bridging Distance, a consulting company specializing in optimizing hybrid workplaces, offers a rigorous hybrid workplace scorecard.

Empower managers and their teams to customize hybrid models

Tuning a hybrid model requires taking a hard look at each job… within each team… within the context of company goals to optimize the dynamics of remote and in-office work. Examination is best done at a team level versus individual or corporate levels, with managers and teams empowered to design schedules, collaboration mechanisms, and communication norms that not only maximize performance but ensure teammates are getting the training, mentoring, and development they need. In addition, design efforts should address the flexibility needs of individual team members to foster engagement and retention. Every hybrid model entails compromises, but tackling the give-and-take collectively as a team will likely yield a more sustainable, supported result. Mark Mortensen’s HBR article: “Figure Out the Right Hybrid Work Strategy” provides helpful frameworks, team conversation guides, and approaches to designing hybrid models.

Develop a business case for where work is done

We’ve spent years making the case to reluctant employers about why flexible work options are smart. Ironically, employers are now making the case back to employees about why in-office work is smart. And employees are listening! Instead of gimmicks like in-office breakfasts or events, a business case for being in the office is one of the most powerful techniques for changing employee behaviors. As an example, one of our mid-sized technology clients received pushback from one of their star employees about having to come to the office several days a week. Instead of mandating the policy, the employee’s manager met with her and shared that senior management wanted her in the office to collaborate, get to know her work style, see her in action, and mentor and groom her for advancement. They also wanted her, as a manager, to do the same thing in person with her team. The business case made sense and was all she needed to embrace the on-site requirements.

Make sure your technology and physical workplace support a productive hybrid model

Employees will quickly desert remote or in-office policies when meeting rooms, office configurations, or online technologies interfere with how teams and individuals do their best work. While online collaboration tools are becoming more sophisticated, researching, understanding, and deploying them takes time and attention. Our company recently upgraded our own remote set-up as we grappled with a complicated tangle of technology and unpredictable sound quality. Through investing in new equipment and having meeting leaders arrive early to ensure the technology supporting our hybrid meetings is seamless, our meeting productivity is vastly better. Here is an article on the top-rated tools to help you optimize your workplace for hybrid work.

Imbue trust with metrics

Much of the angst around remote work stems from feelings of distrust by both employers and employees who no longer walk the halls or interact daily in person. Managers wonder if employees working remotely are putting in their hours. Employees who work remotely wonder if they will be penalized for not showing up. The best way to instill trust is to align and track expectations about job performance through measures separate from visual or physical verification. The most powerful metrics focus on outcomes such as sales generated, employees hired, milestones met, and not process-oriented metrics such as the number of calls made or hours spent, which may be disconnected from results. This article from Gallup provides guidance on strategies for measuring performance in a remote and hybrid work environment.

The Covid pandemic created a remote work movement that has put employers on their heels. Most of us agree that remote and hybrid models are here to stay, and every day, through experimenting, listening, learning, and adjusting, we are getting better at orchestrating them. With the right attentiveness to design, integrated online and in-office support, and accountability systems, hybrid and remote models can bring significant value to both employers and employees. The work is not done, but through fine-tuning, we’re getting closer to bringing harmony to the hybrid workplace.


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