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The Hybrid Workplace

The hybrid workplace is one that combines remote working with face to face work at physical offices.

Arrangements vary greatly but a typical model includes the onsite presence of a core group, with the rest of the workforce working remotely all or most of the time.

Many hybrid organizations organize occasional or regular onsite work days when employees get the opportunity to physically meet each other and fraternize. Also, companies which have adopted a hybrid model, come up with work routines that “stagger” individual schedules with different employees present on different days or times. Or, companies may adopt simpler models whereby they set specific days when employees are expected to work onsite and/or attend in-person meetings.

There are a number of advantages that come from remote or hybrid work.

The hybrid workplace generally allows employees flexibility and less commuting. It provides opportunities for more work-life balance, even though this depends on the specific circumstances of each employee.

For employers, it means lower overheads and the ability to recruit employees from a global or regional talent pool.

But there are disadvantages as well. These include, limited workspace and (office) resources such as broadband and possibly more family and other distractions. It can also mean fewer opportunities to form social bonds with co-workers.

For the employee “reduced visibility” may hamper progression, especially when managers put a premium (sometimes unconsciously) on face to face interaction and familiarity.

What we can say with certainty is that remote or hybrid work practices are here to stay. We need to get used to them and fit our work practices to the needs of the market as well as our key stakeholders (especially customers and employees). To do this right we need to consider several key factors.

In an HBR article titled "How To Do Hybrid Right" (May-June 2021) Professor Lynda Gratton of the London Business School urges us to think about work's two key axes: place and time. Place is the most obvious, as most of us shifted from working in the office (place-constrained) to working from home (place-unconstrained). But there was another less discussed shift - working at the same time, synchronously with others (time-constrained) versus working whenever we choose, a-synchronously (time-unconstrained). And, in addition to place and time, Dr Gratton lists several perspectives to consider before deciding on what may work optimally for each organization.:

(1) jobs and tasks;

(2) employee preferences;

(3) projects and workflows;

(4) inclusion and fairness.

What is your experience with remote or hybrid work? Do you agree with my observations on advantages and disadvantages? What do you think of Dr Gratton's proposed framework?


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