“Our goal is to provide organizations, leaders, and employees with guidance as to how to sort through what feels like a ping-pong argument about whether to embrace a hybrid workplace, explain the authors Felice B. Ekelman, JD and Jullie P. Kantor, PhD.
More specifically, the book will help you:
- Understand flexible work options, and how to assess which options are best for your organization.
- Develop a thoughtful approach to hybrid work that is consistent with your organization’s core values.
- Identify how to best lead in hybrid work environments with the tools and competence to succeed.
- Identify pitfalls that may hinder success in implementing hybrid work protocols from both an individual and an enterprise point of view.
Both Ekelman and Kantor urge leaders to embrace the hybrid workplace. “Organizations that aspire to be best-in-class employers need to intentionally develop strategies to make hybrid arrangements workable and meaningful.”
share the authors, “With hybrid work, leaders need to ensure that employees are
engaged, remote work is productive, and hybrid teams are collaborating, all
within legal guidelines.”
The book is divided into four sections:
- Section 1: Planning and Preparing a Hybrid Work Policy.
- Section 2: The 7 C’s of Leadership.
- Section 3: Making Hybrid Work.
- Section 4: Guardrails for Success in Hybrid Work.
Julie P. Kantor, PhD
Today, the authors share these additional insights with us:
Question: Do you truly believe hybrid workplaces are here to stay and that in five years or so, most employees won’t be back in offices and no longer working from home?
Ekelman: The hybrid workplace is a term used to describe arrangements where employees split their time at work between an office and their home or other non-office location. Remote work is typically used to describe an arrangement where employees do not report to a workplace.
The current reporting indicates that hybrid arrangements are on the rise, while remote arrangements are flat or becoming less popular. Hybrid arrangements can vary. Typically, an employee working a hybrid schedule is expected to report to a designated office several (but not every) days each week, although we have seen arrangements where employees are expected to report to an office on alternating weeks or several days per month.
Kantor: Hybrid workplaces are here to stay. That is, in five years it is likely that people will still be working some combination of in-office and remote work. It is unlikely that most employees will be back in the office five days per week, all on the same schedule.
Currently, hybrid workplaces are in flux. They vary from company to company, vary within an organization, and within teams. They are changing as organizations are struggling to figure out what policies (including work location and time differences) yield the highest-level productivity and the company’s definition of success (e.g., profitability, employee engagement, turnover, talent acquisition, innovation, etc.). In five years, organizations will have figured out the right policy for their organization.
Question: What are the few most important benefits for a company that has a hybrid workplace? And what are the typical few major drawbacks?
Ekelman: The key advantage to hybrid work is it provides employees with greater flexibility to manage what has become “work life balance” while providing employers with adequate opportunity for collaborative in person work opportunities.
Hybrid work is widely recognized as a coveted employee benefit, allowing employees to limit the number of days required to commute, yet providing the in-person training, mentoring and professional development opportunities that come with in-person work.
Kantor: The benefits of hybrid workplaces are it helps the company become an employer of choice as they provide coveted employee benefits (e.g., better control of their time, flexibility to manage work-life balance, and decreased net time and costs) simultaneously with providing opportunities to benefit from in-office work (e.g., in-person collaboration, mentoring, professional development and enhancing work relationships).
The major drawback is the intentionality that is required for leaders and employees. Rather than winging it, leaders must take time and be thoughtful about:
- determining what are the activities best suited for in-person work (e.g., collaboration, building interpersonal glue, and mentorship) vs. remote work (e.g., answering emails, report writing, strategic thinking) and how much time for each activity.
- establishing and coordinating team and individual schedules.
- ascertaining how to inspire and build culture and manage effectively.
The drawback for employees is the time it takes to be thoughtful about:
- their work needs and schedule.
- how to identify best ways to communicate and collaborate.
- coordinating with work, work hours and location with team members.
- dealing with the stress of changing work schedules.
- building interpersonal glue with stakeholders, and obtaining supervision.
Question: Which is typically easier and why? Employees adapting to a hybrid workplace or leaders adapting to a hybrid workplace?
Ekelman: Both have challenges. My practice as a management-side employment lawyer focuses on the challenges to employers. I recommend that employers devote meaningful time to develop a hybrid work policy that is both flexible, yet outlines the expectations for both employees and leaders. Such policies must take into consideration the duties of particular positions and whether those duties can be best performed on site, or whether they can best be performed by employees working on a hybrid schedule. Employers adopting hybrid policies must be cognizant of legal compliance challenges that may arise when adopting a hybrid approach. Such challenges involve compliance with wage and hour laws, and accommodating employees with disabilities.
Kantor: Julie’s practice as a business psychologist and leadership consultant finds adapting to hybrid workplace is somewhat easier for employees only in so far as their initial focus for adapting is only themselves. In contrast, leaders need to focus on themselves as individuals, each individual team member and their team as a whole.
And yes, both have challenges.
Employees need to adapt to changes at work and home; including such things as the interface between personal and work demands, modes of communication, ways to build interpersonal glue, producing work, and relating to their boss.
Leaders need to adapt to their own personal changes, learn new leadership strategies, create new ways to connect with themselves and among their team, changing schedules, setting standards for in-office and remote work, etc.
Question: Had COVID
not happened how many years into the future would the hybrid workplace taken
hold within the business landscape?
Ekelman: What a question! Before the pandemic, employees typically were on site five days a week, or remote. Hybrid was not an arrangement that employers typically considered.
Hybrid came about as the pandemic was winding down, and employers were faced with the challenge of bringing white collar workers, who had become accustomed to working from home, back to their offices.
Reports of clashes between workers and leaders over return to work led to the compromise which we now call hybrid work. Both employers and employees acknowledge that hybrid arrangements are now highly coveted and are part of the employee benefits package that applicants seek when evaluating opportunities.
Kantor: Working in different places and at different times has been increasing over time as technology has afforded new opportunities to connect both synchronously (e.g., video conferencing, screen sharing and editing) as well as asynchronously (both for different locations and times of collaborative work (e.g., Slack, shared documents, online white boards).
The combination of increased demands for better work-life balance with additional ways to communicate is what’s been driving and will continue to drive hybrid work.
Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.