The One Thing That Will Make or Break Your Hybrid Workplace

Early in the pandemic, organisations with office workers scrambled to allow those employees to work from home. Many leaders saw it only as a short-term crisis response. But to their surprise, they found productivity increased and many people enjoyed working from home.

All the research shows many employees want this flexible work arrangement to continue, even after the crisis ends. They like the dynamic of the office, but want the flexibility to work at least one day a week from home.

This is a hybrid workplace, which – broadly speaking – employees love and managers hate. For those managers, it’s the next necessary evil, and they will do everything they can to bring everybody back into the office as soon as possible.

But for more open-minded leaders, the hybrid workplace offers new opportunities for the future of work – not only in the workplace itself, but in the way work gets done.

You’re Working In Two Places

Last year, when the strictest restrictions of the pandemic eased, organisations with employees working from home started moving them back to the office. At the time, I read a spate of articles, blog posts, and reports talking about ‘a safe return to the workplace’.

Obviously, their intent was to help leaders and organisations plan a safe and responsible transition – which is good. But they also used the phrase ‘the workplace’ to refer to the office – not so good!

The office just happens to be one workplace for your team. At any time, some people work in the office, others work from home, and others work from co-working spaces or other locations.

Long before the pandemic forced people to work from home, many teams were already working in multiple workplaces – sometimes without any offices at all. It’s not just a temporary measure and it doesn’t make them second-class citizens.

For years, Microsoft has encouraged their employees to work from co-working spaces so they engage and interact with non-Microsoft people (including customers). As Matt Donovan, general manager of Microsoft Office marketing, said:

“Keeping our teams fresh and connected where great ideas happen in the marketplace can only make them better.”

More recently, in July 2020, global industrial giant Siemens announced it will allow all employees to work from wherever they want away from the office for two to three days a week. Initially, ‘wherever you want’ means home, but it extends to co-working spaces and other places in the future. As CEO Roland Busch said at the time:

“We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results.”

This is the secret to making a hybrid workplace work.

Make no mistake; we all face big adjustments to adapt to this new style of work. But the first change happens in your mind and your language.

Don’t call the office ‘the workplace’ and don’t refer to your out-of-office team members as ‘remote workers’. You’re diminishing their value and limiting the opportunity to build an effective hybrid team.

Adopt the attitude, ‘Out of sight, top of mind’, and always consider the effect of every decision on your ‘out of office’ team members.

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