The hybrid work paradox

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2 min read

May 23, 2023

The article was originally published in MindGym on September 9, 2021:

The hybrid work paradox will enable you to successfully balance office and remote working needs.

Tense, fearful and sensitive. That’s how some employees feel about a return to the office.

Some people are fed up with the mind-numbing Zoom fatigue, and others dread to endure another painstaking rush-hour commute.

“Our culture and productivity will crumble without the office,” say some leaders, while their top talents would rather quit than return.

Employers believe the answer is hybrid working – for now.

Supported by scientific research, this blog post reveals the managerial approach needed to ensure hybrid working is a sustainable success.

Why many employees want to work from home

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the widespread adoption of remote working for white-collar professionals – and many people loved it.

Nearly 90% of employees said their productivity had either stayed the same or improved while working from home.¹

Consequently, 75.3% of working parents in the UK say they want to continue working flexibly in the future, while 49% of American workers point to the increased flexibility as a key benefit of remote working.²

Reduced commuting time, a better work-life balance and the breathing space to focus on their work were other positives highlighted by remote workers.

The workforce is not monolithic, however, with demographics clearly influencing people’s perspectives on remote working. For example, younger employees working from home are less likely to feel motivated at work since the pandemic, compared to their older colleagues.³

Many professionals still yearn for face-to-face daily interaction with teammates. In fact, 67% of employees want more in-person work and collaboration after the pandemic.

Why employers want a return to the office Despite several pre-COVID studies suggesting that remote working can boost productivity,4 leaders have been traditionally skeptical about implementing it within their companies at scale.

The productivity gains, alongside the environmental impact of reduced office use, achieved by companies during the pandemic are gradually eroding the ‘remote working stigma.’

However, leaders are still concerned.

Onboarding new joiners, managing change throughout an organisation and ensuring all individuals are learning effectively are all significantly harder to achieve outside of the office.

Then there’s the relaxed brainstorming sessions scribbling on a whiteboard, or the informal watercooler chitter chatter. These are the intangible casual collisions and intimate collaborations, laden with subtle social cues, that spark innovation and creativity.

Remote working has seen brainstorming at work fall by an average of 11%, while the ability to maintain social relationships has declined by 17% on average, according to professional office employees in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the UK.

Consequentially, the shared attitudes, motivations, behaviours and relationships that define your company’s culture are also likely to suffer.

How to get hybrid working right

Hybrid working isn’t a new model, but at a company-wide scale, leaders are under pressure to get the execution correct, or risk sinking employee morale, retention and productivity.

According to behavioural science research, the success of hybrid working at your company is dependent on two vital components – trust and accountability.

By building trust with employees, managers provide the psychological safety they need to feel confident and motivated at work. Trust without accountability, however, won’t work.

Leaders should ensure each team member understands their responsibilities and the quality of performance expected from them. Furthermore, individuals should receive regular opportunities to share their progress on assigned tasks and their feedback.

Employers that master the harmony of trust and accountability within their companies benefit substantially from more engaged employees, better team performance and less time wasted dealing with poor performance.

Watch our free webinar Happy with Hybrid where we reveal, for the first time, the practical leadership steps required to ensure your hybrid team is a success.