The Office is the New Offsite: Strategies for Building the Hybrid Workforce
Michael DeVenney
March 21, 2022

Top companies are leading by creating new ways of working. The pandemic has given people the independence to work more flexibly, in terms of where they work, when they work, and how they work, and most plan on continuing the choice of options as restrictions lift and we can be in one place together again. But what is the best route forward for your business.  

Rather than a challenge, leaders of organizations that outperform see the opportunity for innovation through hybrid working arrangements in creating new value while strengthening the health of the culture.

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One certainty in our ambiguous world is that the role of the office has changed. We need shared space although we will be using that place very differently. A form of hybrid work, combining remote and onsite, will become the prevalent shape of the workplace. The question becomes why you will be in the office.

With only one in 12 organizations outperforming, the answer rests with how value is created by the organization, what interactions between people contribute the greatest benefit, and how best to design those interactions. It is not just about productivity. Where efficiency and effectiveness once ruled, collaboration, entrepreneurship, and creativity are now essential ingredients to cultural positioning for success.

Leaders of healthy companies, in both competitiveness and working environment, focus on openness and the free flow of information, encouraging employee creativity and knowledge sharing, provide decision transparency in return for operational discipline. Such a workplace model builds trust, and a culture where people contribute their best.

And this form of culture needs to be shaped to fit the hybrid workplace.

A key area affecting the decision as to what work will be done where rests with interactions – meetings and conversations. The seismic shift to working remotely democratized meetings and talking together – we saw each other in our homes – although mixing meetings with onsite and virtual participation can undermine that empowerment.

How we meet and interact in person, or remotely, to innovate, strategize, decide, share information, and learn depends on the outcome we are seeking.

What works best for your organization? Ask. The number one challenge to planning a winning workplace is inclusion of all people. Making decisions in the boardroom for people does not encourage commitment. We have moved beyond compliance with rules and look for contribution. And asking to include all perspectives is so easy, just do it.

The three steps to shaping a strategy for your organization’s hybrid workplace starts with the most critical – including people in the decision-making. Surveying people to understand and appreciate how they want to work informs direction and engages them in the outcome. The second step is to reassess the role of the manager. Middle management is far from obsolete. In fact, managers are now more vital to the culture of the organization. Their role changes from assessing performance and expediting the tactics resulting from decisions made, to connecting and coaching people to belong and contribute to the company, to see how their work links to the purpose and the customer. The manager role is being overlooked and needs to have full attention. Great value for the organization can be created here, and should be, although it is also the step forecast to have the most negative outcomes due to inattention. Lastly, how people work should be directly related to how value is created in their role. There needs to be a matching of talent to value. Mapping the value of roles with the value created for the customer and other stakeholders with the work people do informs the structure of how the work can be done.

Working through the three steps is complex, yet not complicated, and needs to be completed in a manner that aligns everyone. The future of the business depends on it.

Leaders have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine how work is done, the box is opened to think outside of, and it is critical to think boldly. Surveys show that more than 50% of employee want some form of hybrid work, and 30% say they will leave for another job if they are not offered a form of virtual work option. This is a strategic decision of far-reaching impact with many moving parts. Leaders need follow a process to make quality decisions.

The office will become a place for collaboration and sense-making, more of an event as it matters why you are in the space.

What may seem an obstacle to the utilization of real estate is an opportunity to shape a high performing and healthy culture, connected, collaborative, and creative, only if leaders can do so first.

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