Hybrid working won’t work

‘Hybrid’ working won’t work.

Because the future of work is not about location.

Organisations are already finding out that people don’t want to come into the office nearly as much as they thought.

It’s partly to do with the design of the office. It’s not really conducive to doing Zoom calls. Or for doing focus work. Well, it’s not really optimal for most of the work people do these days.

But it’s also to do with the way organisations are working.

For the same reasons that those organisations that simply took their synchronous, in-office pattern of work and stuck it on Zoom or Teams found it was terrible.

Taking the existing way of working into a hybrid model just isn’t enough. The ways of working, the tools being used, the whole approach has to change.

For example, if one person in a meeting is calling in remotely, it’s a remote meeting. So in the hybrid model, almost every meeting is remote.

In-person interaction is now the exception rather than the norm. It has a premium attached to it and so we must use it carefully, purposefully, deliberately, whereas previously we squandered it thoughtlessly.

Every team is now a distributed team, which means that there may be only small windows of time when synchronous working is possible, even online. We have to move to mostly asynchronous working, which means redesigning, retooling and reskilling.

We have to understand how teams coalesce, how relationships are developed, how networking and informal learning take place. The office allowed us to be lazy and just leave these things to chance. We just got a bunch of people together in one place and it sort of happened. Inefficiently, unpredictably, unmanageably, but it mostly did happen. Or at least, something happened.

We have to consciously reward outcomes and positive behaviours, rather than succumbing to our biases and rewarding presenteeism and busyness.

Hybrid working is not the answer. It’s just the territory that we have to build a new way of working in. 

It doesn’t matter where the work gets done. It only matters why, how and when.

That means re-imagining it in a flexible, location and time independent way, that enables people to work autonomously and efficiently. 

And that’s a lot more work than just slapping the label ‘hybrid’ on it.

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