by Kevin Eikenberry
While some work must be done face-to-face – healthcare, manufacturing, warehousing, hospitality and more- every organization that was forced to send people to work from home have had to think about/decide where people will work in the future. Early in the discussions about the future of work, I stated that how the decision would be made about where people would work in the future would matter almost as much as the decision itself. In fact, that is a major point of my LinkedIn Learning course Planning for a Hybrid Organization, which was recorded and released in the last week of February. The ideas in this course are still timely for organizations who haven’t yet determined or completed the transition to the future of work.
How to make the transition is very important, but today I want to examine another question, that I think has gone unexamined:
Why are you moving to a hybrid workplace?
In 2018, when we used the phrases “hybrid team” or “hybrid work” in webinars and consultations, we had to explain ourselves. By last summer, generally people knew what we meant. Now, it is a commonplace idea (and Google search traffic on the phrase “hybrid work” has, depending on the day, doubled to tripled in the last year).
Now people know what “hybrid” is, and many organizations are moving towards hybrid work in some way. When any idea become popular and mainstream, people start to follow the trend and the social proof, and stop asking why they are doing it at all.
I believe understanding your why for hybrid work will have big implications on how well you implement it and how successfully it will become a positive part of your culture.
For all the dialogue and discussion about hybrid workplaces, I believe there are two underlying reasons organizations are making this choice. Simply stated they are:
- We have to
- We want to
Let’s examine each, and their implications.
“We Have to Go Hybrid”
Whenever we decide because we “have to,” while we may comply, we aren’t very excited about it. If your mom told you to clean your room, was it done as well, as joyfully or as productively as if you chose it yourself? Many organizations feel they must “do hybrid” to placate the employees. They feel like if they don’t do something more people will leave, and they will have even larger talent gaps. If the truth were known, too many leaders who believe they “have to” do hybrid are doing it half-heartedly or largely against their will. When that is the case, can you see that it won’t likely go very well?
“We’re Choosing to Go Hybrid”
But when we choose to do something, because we see it Is in our best interest, when we believe that the decision is a good one (and not just a needed one), our approach and attitude is different. You move from complying to being committed – which makes all the difference in the world! If you wanted to clean your room, you did it with more energy, pep, and success. You cleaned it more completely. You might have even swept under the bed. When we see that hybrid work can be a good thing for business results and team members, when we look for the synergies and opportunities, rather than simply implementing the policy, we will get far better results in the short and long term.
Ultimately, if leaders and organizations don’t see hybrid work as an opportunity rather than an obligation – and as a true choice – there will be negative side effects for the culture moving forward. If it is seen as a false choice of appeasing employees vs getting work done, the culture will be harmed, and even the advantage of keeping people happy, won’t likely work. That mindset pits employees against the organization, rather than seeing employees as an integral part of the organization itself.
The good news is that even if you felt forced to choose hybrid, somewhat against your will or wishes, you can still change your perspective. Think of the future of work as an opportunity, not a challenge. Think about this as a time to create a better future for work results and those who do the work. Engage people in creating new approaches and processes, rather than staying focused on a policy.
Those that balance the needs of the work and the workers, as they create their hybrid workplace futures will ultimately be most successful in the marketplace and the market for the best talent.
This piece was originally published in the Remarkable Resources newsletter. You can subscribe for free here and read it each week.