Why “hybrid” is not working

Why “hybrid” is not working:

–It leads with the wrong question “how many days in the office,” instead of “what do we need to do?” and THEN thinking through “where” that work is done best.

–But “what do we need to do” can’t just focus on the core tasks of people’s jobs because in many cases the argument can be made those tasks were done pretty well remotely. And the “standoff” continues. You need to elevate the analysis to include cultural and strategic priorities, that often do benefit from a purposefully-executed combination of in person and remote work.

–“Hybrid” is too focused on the “where” of work and that focus is usually between the binary “onsite in the office or work from home.” There are also client sites, conferences, restaurants, and co-working spaces. All enabling different work in different ways that need to be considered.

–Executing the flexible “next” of work is not going to happen via a policy, memo from the CEO or an HR webinar.

COVID disrupted the traditional, place-based work model at the foundation. Work”place” is now ONE enabler of work, not THE enabler.

That means the entire organization–not just HR–engaging in a process that puts all of the pieces back together.  Working together to fundamentally reimagine how, when and where your organization flexibly operates, with strategic intention, to achieve its talent, operational and performance goals.

This is the work and it’s ultimately where every organization that wants to thrive post-COVID is going to have to go. Until then, we will continue to read articles like this…hybrid isn’t working, because it’s trying to answer the wrong question.

 


Cybersecurity, Technology and Flexible Work

Recently, I was a guest on CyberTheory’s “Cybersecurity Unplugged” podcast where I shared my perspectives on “How to Approach the Reality of Remote Work,” including:

  • How we’re still unwinding the ramifications of the pandemic’s almost overnight shift to remote work and the rapid adoption of new technology most of us had not been using
  • How the reintegration of the hybrid workforce is placing pressure on employees and how employers can stem the wave of resignations
  • Security vulnerabilities and other technology concerns remote work has created

CyberTheory is a cybersecurity advisory firm. And while we certainly chatted about cybersecurity and technology, we discussed several current leadership and work issues.

Here’s a few highlights from our conversation:

  • We have not come to terms with the fundamental shift and change in how we work. I’m seeing too much “slap a little remote work” around the traditional, placed-based work model. That’s not sustainable. We’ve worked too differently for nearly two years now to go back.
  • Employees want to know why – why am I doing this? Why am I being asked to return to the office. Lots of three days onsite policies. But with no rhyme or reason why. Employees show up, but then they’re doing Zoom calls they could have done remotely from home. Days are driving the mandates instead of the work. There’s no planning, no coordination, no matching the tasks – the work — to the place.
  • We can’t rely on HR alone to lead flexible work. We need HR at the table with the execs from tech, facilities and EHS. Because flexible work is not a policy, it’s an operating model. It’s ongoing change that encompasses people, place, space, technology, process and pace.
  • Right now, we should optimize and experiment with new and flexible ways of working. Because we’re in dynamic transition period where we’re dialing up and dialing down the amount of onsite work. But that’s just one feature of a flexible operating model. That’s not a bug! It’s a benefit of flexible work, recalibrating, scaling up, scaling down as needed.
  • Specific to technology: The pandemic and the need to work flexibly accelerated the adoption of technology as well as emerging pre-pandemic technology and cybersecurity issues. Now is the time to build consistency around who uses what technology when, how and why. That includes addressing data security and training everyone as a defender.

Listen to our full 30-minute conversation or read a transcript here.


“Two Years into the Pandemic, What is Work?”

An outstanding story from Marketplace economics reporter Sabri Ben-Achour, “Two Years into the Pandemic, What is Work?” I joined Brian Kropp, head of Gartner’s HR practice, and Paul Statham, CEO of Condeco, to provide perspective.

“But when companies bring workers back to the office, be it for one day or all days, they have to answer a question: Why? To do what work?

“‘The challenge going forward is I don’t think we know how the work is going to be done when people are onsite,’ said Cali Williams Yost, founder of Flex+Strategy Group. ‘The type of work that’s going to happen on onsite locations is going to be much more collaborative. The pace and cycle at which the work will happen onsite may not be consistent,’ she said.

“Basically, there has to be a reason or a vision to get people in the office, get them there together and not waste everyone’s time.

“‘There are so many great tools that are being developed that will enable the flexible, dynamic way an organization chooses to work,’ Yost said. ‘That’s really important because the technology or the workspace really does only optimize what you’re doing if it enables a vision that you have created. You can’t lead with the technology, the workspace — you have to lead with the work. What are we doing? How, when and where do we do that best?’”

With so many return to office dates postponed, now is the time to re-think onsite work. Because if we’re looking to foster culture, collaboration and innovation, going back to offices and cubes doing things the same way we did before pandemic won’t be enough.

#returntooffice #hybridwork #flexiblework #officespace #realestate #facilities #technology #omicron


Top 2022 Flexible Work Resolutions for Leaders

Welcome to 2022!  The year I believe leaders, line managers, teams and individual employees have the opportunity to come together and ask:

  • “What’s best about the way we worked then, pre-pandemic?”
  • “What’s best about the way we’ve been working now?”
  • “What’s the best way we can work next?”

Then execute that vision of high performance flexibility in a culture of trust and shared leadership.

As those of you who follow our work know, not only is it possible, but we’ve helped make it happen many times, before COVID and over the past almost two years since the pandemic began.

In the new year, we are excited to help others do the same by simplifying the system of change and accelerating the learning curve to achieve strategic, flexible work success!

To get the process started, here are my Top 2022 Flexible Work Resolutions for Leaders:

1. Remember Flexibility is Not New, Just Scaled. 2022 will likely be the year we move beyond crisis-driven flexibility to optimize where, when and how organizations operate going forward.  The good news is there’s a roadmap to follow, because high performance flexibility is not new.  Leaders and organizations, before and during the pandemic, have reimagined the way their organizations and people can operate. To simplify and accelerate your organization’s transformation process, look to their path for guidance. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

2. Flexibility Must Work for People and the Business. Flexibility is NOT a one-size-fits-all policy, program or initiative. High performance flexibility is a process-based way of operating.  It involves the way people plan, coordinate and execute the delivery of goods and services, while managing their lives.  That requires giving teams and individual employees the trust and freedom to answer the question “What do WE need to do, and where, when and how do WE do it best?” guided by flexible work guardrails they’ve set together.

3. It’s Not Just WHERE We Work, but HOW and WHEN.  If high performance flexibility is a digitally-enabled way of operating across workplaces, spaces and time, then 2022 is the year we need to move beyond “hybrid” to describe the model we are trying to achieve. The pandemic taught us work is not organized around “where we go,” but “what we do.” Once the “what” is defined, then “where, when and how do we do that work best” naturally follows. While “place” is still an important enabler of work, “hybrid” is too place-based. A flexible operating model also encompasses HOW we use technology to communicate and collaborate, WHEN we work and the pace at which we perform.  It’s not just where, but also when and how.

4. Give Managers, Teams AND People the Skills and Tools to Optimize Flexibility.  Gaps emerged during the pandemic—people reported they “love the flexibility” but “struggle with boundaries around their work and life.” Employees say their productivity has been the “same or higher” while managers aren’t so sure.  Not surprising because flexibility was executed, practically overnight, in response to a crisis.  There was no time to plan or introduce the skills and tools leaders, teams and individuals needed to efficiently and effectively execute work, and manage life, in a flexible, dynamic way. Train managers, teams and individuals and let them actively experiment with the new skills and tools they need to succeed working flexibly.

5.  Align Leadership Behind “What is High Performance Flexibility and Why It Matters” Then Cascade. To achieve the other four Flexible Work Resolutions in 2022, leadership at all levels must first be able to answer these three questions: What is high performance flexibility in our organization? What does it look like in action?  Why does it matter?  Then ensure the “what” and “why” they define doesn’t get stuck at the top. Cascade it throughout the organization so everyone is aligned–managers, teams and individuals—as they reimagine and optimize how, when and where they work in 2022.