The Hybrid Work Paradox

What exactly is the hybrid work paradox? As defined by Microsoft Chairman & CEO, Satya Nadella, it’s this: people want the flexibility of remote work but – at the same time – they also want to be able to meet and collaborate in person.

For businesses that, for decades, never had to consider these two concepts separately – where we met was also where we worked – it’s presenting some unique challenges that are redefining the terms “space” and “place”.

Can workers have it both ways? The answer is yes, but it will require an open-mindedness from companies that, understandably, wasn’t there before. It will mean letting go of outdated beliefs and long-held assumptions. It will mean being open to change and a willingness to invest time, energy, and resources. Budgets will need to be revisited and funding reallocated.

Solving the hybrid work paradox will require a level of commitment that will, to varying degrees, challenge individuals, teams, departments, managers, and leaders. On top of all this, and to add to the complexity, every business will have to forge its own path. There is no manual or blueprint for this. Not only because the concept is so new but also because each business is unique. Every team and organization has its own culture, structures, and operating methods. But here are some key ideas and findings to take note of when trying to solve the hybrid work paradox:

It’s Not What You Do, But How You Do It — Tools & Processes

Agility, flexibility, and adaptability are the new buzzwords as companies rethink not just what they do but how and where they do it. People’s roles, workplaces, and the processes followed will require evaluation, monitoring, and adjustment. Business models and internal structures will need some assessment and subsequently, leaders will redefine these as necessary. They will also need to be open to ongoing development and evolution. For example, what is working for a certain department this year may not work for the same department next year.

If there was ever a time to fully embrace tools and technology, it’s now. Whatever apps and platforms teams are using, make sure they’re what they need to stay connected, creative, and productive. Encourage cross-functional team interaction to avoid work silos and loss of organizational culture. Look at purpose-built programs that facilitate chat, communication, and collaboration. (Remember to keep it balanced: higher productivity often comes at the price of reduced creativity.)

Always On and Always Available — Information Accessibility.

Ensure a smooth, reliable flow of information by investing in technologies that support all this. Cloud-based operations let people work from anywhere, any time. Invest in networks that can commit to the bandwidth required for continuous multi-channel delivery. Build and strengthen those connections between departments by keeping the lines of communication open.

Replicating or replacing in-person meetings has become a challenge but companies are finding ways around this by ensuring that meeting information is always available on demand. Having access to recorded meetings means employees can catch up anytime they want. Offering continuous learning opportunities through webinars, virtual events and third-party providers continues to build an engaged, educated workforce – no matter where they may be located.

Inclusivity In and Out of the Office — Company Culture

Building a truly open, inclusive culture and embracing values in a digital realm has been tough but not impossible. When you think about it, what draws people to work for a company often isn’t about the physical location but more about that company’s vision, purpose, and values – factors that don’t have a physical presence. They’re felt and shared rather than seen or heard. Core in solving the hybrid work paradox will be in cultivating a company culture that focuses on inclusivity both in and out of the office.

Solving the Hybrid Work Paradox

What does this mean for businesses moving forward? Companies that can continuously tackle the hybrid work paradox will understand the concept of consistency. It will impact areas across the board: from messaging and meetings to platforms and technology. When everything is consistent, when everyone’s experiences and purpose are delivered the same way, it puts everyone in the company on equal ground. No one is left out.

It’s time to stop thinking in terms of someone being “in the office” or “working remotely”. As mentioned above, it’s less about “place” and more about “space”. Where people are is not as important as what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Give them the right tools, invest in the right technology and build the right culture. When people feel connected and included, they will continue to feel like they’re part of the team, will be more engaged and will continue to contribute to ongoing innovation and productivity.