Signals #1 – Hybrid Work

Problem

  • Most organizations were forced to switch to remote work mode almost overnight during the pandemic. There was no time to build a proper culture or a foundation for new ways of working.
  • That led to many inefficienciesDeath by Zoom is a thing. Distractions are worse than in-office. Many are lonely, and don’t know when to finish working leading to burnouts.
  • With vaccines on the way, we are facing the possibility of returning to offices. But most people don’t want the pure corporate office experience anymore. They want the best of both worlds.

Solution

  • It’s time to take a step back and return to the drawing board. We need to re-think both remote and in-office work.
  • Taking laptops home is not enough. Building a real hybrid work culture takes time and effort.

Actions

  • Most people prefer a hybrid work arrangement that combines home and office.
  • Start building hybrid (or decentralized) work into your organization’s DNA. Craft a foundation that enables productive work from anywhere, keeps people engaged and provides them flexibility at the same time.
  • Treat decentralization as a tool to achieve your overall goals. Mark W. Johnson and Josh Suskewicz propose a 4-step future-back approach. Start from your end vision and work your way back to the start. This allows you to see things from a fresh perspective.
  • Pick the low-hanging fruit when it comes to cost savings. Embrace the opportunity to reduce office footprint and keep business travel at minimum also after the pandemic. Research suggests you could save an average of $11,000 per half-time remote worker per year.
  • Instead of huge central offices, provide access to smaller, safe and flexible satellite offices to enable on-site work when and where needed. See WorkmodeUMA Workspace and Mothership of Work.
  • Transform office time into a platform of collaboration, socialisation and sharing ideas.

Forecast

  • Companies developing a seamless decentralized company culture will tap into the global talent pool. Why work with the best living around your offices when you can work with the best in the country? Or the best in the world?
  • Hybrid work, Covid and increasing expenses in big cities will incentivize people to move into smaller local communities. Or to other countries. Work will be even less location dependent.
  • Countries are increasingly launching remote-friendly visa programs. Physical locations and jobs are increasingly uncoupling.
  • Technology will be an enabler, not an answer. Tools will not take care for the wellbeing of your people. And your people are the ones providing results.
  • Well-planned and managed cybersecurity will become even more crucial than before. The number of devices is exploding, transfer to cloud is accelerating. There will be a bigger surface area for attackers to target on. Take care of this now. Or suffer from the consequences.

Cases

  • Trello has built a hybrid work culture. They believe in iteration, proactivity, empathy and trust. Trello advices to build a hybrid blueprint first.
  • Hubspot was “remote-ish” in the past. Their new hybrid vision allows people to choose from 3 options: @office, @flex or @home. Everyone is allowed to change their working model once per year.
  • Dropbox is going remote-first. But they are very much promoting in-person collaboration and community-building. Dropbox also embraces results over hours and uses a toolkit to land those results.
  • Shopify went digital by default. Employees are allowed to work up to 90 days per year wherever they want in the world.
  • GitLab (among some others) is making the case for going fully remote instead of a hybrid model. They see that a hybrid way of working could lead into restricted access to information, managing guilt and demands for over performance. But there are no absolutes. Decide what’s right and wrong for your organization. “Learn, test, iterate and see what works”

Build

  • Remote work drives some people crazy. Open concept offices can be a health risk. Office pods solve that problem. See FrameryIntoUrban OfficeHush OfficemyofficepodVetro Space.
  • Turn buildings into a swarm of mini-offices. Consider offering them on-demand, instead of continuous memberships. Situations change, flexibility is key.
  • Offer quality WFH kits as an easy solution for the under equipped home offices. Ergonomy and employee health will stay important. Proper tools are a requirement for productive work.
  • Remote rewards should be a no-brainer for organizations seeking to boost the morale and spirit when working at remote locations.
  • Testing job candidates diligently but fast becomes even more important when they are working half or fully remotely. This requires new kinds of recruiting services. See Codility.

Challenges

  • Hybrid work models might divide employees into two levels. In-office people might get access to more information than their remote counterparts. Ensure that information flows freely regardless of location.
  • Everyone reacts differently to the new circumstances. Some people are better off, some worse.
  • Uncoupling of jobs and location can also lead to wage levels flattening out across the globe. There’s a tendency already to pay less for remote workers outside high-cost areas. In the distant future, this could lead to similar wages everywhere.

Resources

Takeaways

  • Switching to hybrid work offers many advantages. Employees get increased flexibility. Companies can reduce their physical footprint. Hiring the best talent is no longer restricted to physical locations.
  • However, the change will not happen overnight. Buy in to small changes first, see what works and what doesn’t. Build a proper foundation for hybrid work to succeed.
  • Big tech. companies are already paving the way. Trello, Hubspot, Dropbox, Shopify and Coinbase are switching to hybrid work systems. The trendsetters are largely going “remote-first” with possibilities for weekly in-office working.