Why a hybrid work model policy might not work for your team
Engagement 4 minute read

Why a hybrid work model policy might not work for your team

Megan Orr | June 7, 2022

As most workplaces have chosen to adopt a hybrid work model policy, there’s a new question on everyone’s mind: Is hybrid work really the best of both worlds… or is it the worst?

Forbes recently posted an article claiming that “hybrid work is a ‘recipe for disaster’”. The article notes that hybrid work leads to inequality issues, where the office becomes the epicenter of power because “not everyone will have equitable face time with leadership”. 

A hybrid work model policy certainly can have its hitches and glitches. It’s a good compromise, allowing people to work from home part of the time while also allowing for collaboration on specific “anchor” days in the office. 

However, while a good majority of employees have thrived working from home,  others have struggled and continue to struggle. Additionally, within a single organization some departments and roles will require more in-person collaboration than other departments—which may not require any office facetime at all. 

In these scenarios, is it really the best practice to have a single hybrid work model policy for all employees, regardless of their departmental or individual needs? It doesn’t necessarily make the most sense, but neither does having people on different schedules, hence the ‘recipe for disaster’ label. 

In many instances, hybrid employees may be dealing with the downsides of both in-office and remote work. 

Ask a Manager’s Alison Green writes in Slate that employees working from the office are “spending time commuting to and from the office and dealing with all the hassles of in-person work but without any of the promised payoff”. On top of that, many people aren’t working on the same schedules, so are still dealing with Zoom calls and Slack chats with coworkers. If collaboration is the major draw of the office, then it doesn’t seem logical that so much of work is still happening virtually. 

The problem, at least in part, could be due to the premature nature of returning to the office. Although there’s certainly been a sense of a return to normal over the recent months, many employees are likely still experiencing some anxiety around COVID and being in shared workspaces again. 

Opponents of a hybrid work model policy say that organizations should either be completely remote or completely in-person if they want to be successful. Many organizations opt for hybrid work as a means to keep up with the employment market, where having remote work options is becoming increasingly expected. However, if the hybrid office doesn’t seem to work in practice, then it might not be  a great recruitment and retention tool long-term. 

Hybrid work means that all of your employees might be missing out in one way or another. 

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is a term that “refers to the feeling or perception that others are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you are” and was first coined in 1996 by marketing strategist Dr. Dan Herman. Since then, FOMO has evolved as social media has become increasingly involved in the way that we share and view each other’s lives. 

What does FOMO have to do with hybrid work? Everything. Employees working from home may be missing out on opportunities to get face time with their leaders and coworkers, build relationships, celebrate accomplishments, etc. while their counterparts in the office are missing out on productive work time while they commute, as well as potentially missing out on activities in their personal lives because they have to be in the office. 

So the question becomes: How do you actually facilitate collaboration rather than just citing collaboration as the reason why employees are expected to return to the office X number of days a week?

Alison Green writes that “a more thoughtful approach [to a hybrid work model policy] would be for teams to map out what they truly need to collaborate on, with whom, and when, and then plan schedules accordingly (and acknowledge that some weeks there may be no need to come in at all)”.

It can be tempting to be heavy-handed with your hybrid work model policy—and there are some employees/managers/teams that might even need that level of oversight. However, as a general rule, hybrid work models should emphasize both collaboration and flexibility if the policy is truly meant to capture the best of both worlds.

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