The hybrid dilemma

Cartoon of four businesspeople with one tossing aside their briefcase and walking outIs the sky falling?

Will all your employees quit if you don’t offer a hybrid work solution?

Do you absolutely need your people in the office?

Are you concerned about productivity if people work from home?

What about if they work in the office?

Can you trust your employees to do what’s right?


That last question.

That’s the real question.

Obviously some work roles require physical presence. It’s hard to ring up a customer’s purchases if you’re not there to do it. It’s not possible to serve a restaurant patron from your home office. And so on; there are plenty of jobs that require someone to be in the building.

And there are some personal situations that make people prefer to commute to the company office rather than down their own hall.

And, and, and … yes, there are questions of collaboration and the informal inspiration that happens when you bump into someone at the coffeepot.

But there’s a significant and damaging fallacy at play here: the age-old mistake of trying to solve the problem before you’ve thoroughly defined it. Seeking the how before you’ve truly identified the what.

What is it that you’re actually aiming for?

Employee retention is a factor. You don’t want your best people heading for the door because they feel unheard and unappreciated…or, worse, untrusted.

Effective, productive work aligned with your company goals and objectives? Absolutely.

A robust, humane corporate culture? Of course.

But don’t make assumptions

Don’t assume that there’s One And Only One Way.

Don’t assume that the way you’ve always done it is the Right Way.

Don’t assume you know what your people want, why they want it – or what they will or won’t do.

Instead, ask yourself:

If you set aside your historical way of working (how you’ve Always Done It), what might be possible?

If the corporate world hadn’t grown up out of the industrial era, what might be possible?

If you could trust your employees to do the right thing, what might be possible?

What options are there that would align with your vision and goals, including your desire to create a more humane workplace? (Remember: work”place” just might be anywhere – at least, until you have a good reason why it isn’t.)

And ask your people:

What do they actually want?

And why? No, really why? (There are always reasons under the first reason.)

And in what ways are they willing to participate in creating what they want?

Yes, the hybrid approach creates new challenges

But I’d say it creates new opportunities as well.

Opportunities for a more humane working environment. Opportunities for greater productivity. Opportunities for more diverse hiring. Opportunities for increased profitability and success.

Opportunities for good leadership on a significant scale.

Assumptions about hybrid work are - as Grace points out here - not helpful. Considering the questions she asks and wondering what's actually possible!Click To Tweet

Maintaining a strong corporate culture is a primary reason I hear for wanting the in-person office. BUT is in person really a prerequisite for a great culture? There are plenty of examples out there of companies who have always been entirely remote and who have a very strong, positive, humane culture.

If you’d like to explore how to maintain your culture as a remote or hybrid workforce, check out the Virtual Culture Challenge. It’s a series of prompts over three days to help you understand and nurture your company’s culture no matter where your people work.

Want to go one step further? Let’s talk. Drop me a note here and we’ll set up a brief call to see how I might be able to help.