Managers Guide to Hybrid Work

The manager’s guide to hybrid work

Learn why hybrid fails — and seven tactics to ensure your team thrives.
managers

Why This Article

Across the world, everyday life has returned to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. Travel restrictions have been lifted. In the U.S. and Europe, masking is less frequent. Restaurants, theaters, museums, stadiums, and concert halls are once again brimming with locals and tourists alike.

But one place hasn’t reverted to its pre-pandemic status.

At home working

In March 2020, COVID-19 forced hundreds of millions of knowledge workers out of their workplaces and into their living rooms, kitchens, and home offices. Although most corporate offices reopened their doors, a significant proportion of workers – and bosses – have been adamantly opposed to a return to the office (or RTO) of five (5) days per week. 

In overwhelming numbers, the world’s knowledge workers have stated a preference for ‘hybrid work’ – where workers have expanded flexibility to choose when, where, and how they work. But the companies and team leaders who believed ‘hybrid’ was just a ‘small tweak’ to old ways of working have been severely mistaken. Surveys have shown employee experience scores and manager satisfaction ratings have declined – often precipitously – amidst ‘hybrid’.

So, how does one make hybrid work…work?

Teamraderie, the world’s leading provider of team building solutions to hybrid teams, surveyed the world’s most respected thought leaders on workplace issues. We collected tactical, actionable ideas that a manager can put into place tomorrow to make ‘hybrid work’ a mode in which teams can collaborate, connect, create – and thrive.

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Hybrid work is becoming the norm

Worker preference: 80% of knowledge workers seek ‘hybrid’

Half of the world’s workers can adopt some form of ‘hybrid work’.
More than 80% of those eligible for ‘hybrid work’ want this to be the work mode for their company or team.

In the United States and Europe, 50% of workers are in manufacturing, retail, or essential services where they cannot work from home. The remaining 50% are knowledge workers and eligible for hybrid work.
Source: Nicholas Bloom, Stanford University
 Hybrid/Remote
 Office
As-of June 2022, nearly 80% of these workers “eligible” for hybrid work seek a hybrid arrangement from their employer.
Source: Slack Future Forum
Employer preference: Rising acceptance of hybrid work

The world’s companies show rising acceptance for workers spending multiple days per week ‘elsewhere’. Since September 2020, employers have shown a nearly 50% increase in ‘how hybrid’ they will let their workplace become.

workers able to from home
Average days per week working from home after the pandemic ends: employer plans
Responses to the question:

“After the pandemic ends, how often is your employer planning for you to work full days at home?”

Sample: Data are from August 2020 to April 2022. The sample includes all respondents who reported their employer’s plans for post-COVID WFH and who have work-from-home experience during the pandemic (thus able to work from home). We exclude respondents who report having no employer. We re-weight the sample of U.S. residents aged 20 to 64 to match Current Population Survey on age, sex, education and earnings.

N = 51,439 (able to work from home)

Hybrid work increases productivity

LESS TIME COMMUTING

The average American saves
60 min/day

LESS TIME ON CLOTHES

The average American saves
10 min/day

TOTAL TIME SAVINGS

The average American saves
70 min/day

TOTAL TIME
REINVESTED IN WORK

on days they work from home
35 min/day

Source: Nick Bloom, Stanford University:  “Working From Home Around the World”

Workers are generating more output when they have flexible work

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“Our results indicate that an intermediate number of days in the office results in more emails sent, a higher number of email recipients, and increased novelty of work products.”

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Call center employees who volunteered to WFH were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for nine months. Home working led to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and their attrition rate halved, but their promotion rate conditional on performance fell.

Source: Nick Bloom, Stanford University – “Does Working from Home Work?”

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Hybrid work increases equity

The flexibility to work from places other than a traditional office can lead to real equity advances.

Caregiver Colleagues

Flexible work schedules expand the talent pool by allowing parents, caregivers, and others to select the hours that work best for their family. Several million women left the workforce in 2020 due to parenting challenges caused by closures of schools and childcare facilities. In the U.S. economy – where ‘jobs’ outstrip ‘job seekers’ even in a softening economy – there is opportunity to both increase the labor force and to bring better balance to the profile of job seekers.

Disabled Colleagues

Flexible work expands the talent pool to include more people with physical disabilities. Over six million people in the US labor force have some form of disability. Commuting poses a significant barrier to many of these people, depending the nature of their disabilities

Capital-Constrained Colleagues

Finally, flexible work expands the talent pool to include people facing economic housing limitations. In expensive metro areas, like London, the Bay Area, or New York, people commuted more than 90 minutes a day in the pre-pandemic era – simply because they could not afford to live near the offices where they worked. People are frequently excluded from job opportunities simply because they cannot afford to live close enough to commute to the office. Making the location of one’s home an implicit qualification for employment creates major hiring barriers for workers in many demographic groups.

Hybrid work increases sustainability

Hybrid work makes the planet more sustainable.

Less Vehicles on the Road

Hybrid working significantly reduces the number of vehicles on the roads every day. In most cities, office occupancy is ~40% of pre-pandemic levels – with CO2 emissions from ‘commuting’ down by approximately the same level.

Reduced Energy Use

Unfortunately, hybrid work is a net negative for energy consumption. Offices have the same heating and cooling cost, no matter whether occupancy is 40% below or just meeting pre-pandemic levels. Home heating and cooling systems are less efficient than office grade systems.

Downsizing and Flexibility

Experts predict that – once companies reduce office footprints to better match demand – there will be net benefits as offices become smaller and homes become more ‘used’ throughout the week.

“Thriving” hybrid work is harder than it looks

80%

of employees

Hybrid work is preferred by 80% of employees.

It increases productivity, equity, and sustainability. But ‘hybrid’ represents a seismic shift in ‘how’ work gets done. As a result, we need to reconsider some old habits and embrace new ones. Let’s start by defining ‘models’ of hybrid work – and then look at expert advice on how to help your team thrive under any model.

How many days onsite vs. remote?

It depends on how interdependent people are. There are three models of workplace interdependence, according to Harvard
University’s Nancy Katz. These models map to individual sport, relay sport, and team sport.

What kind of interdependence does your team have?

People Work Independently

  • Similar to people playing an individual sport like gymnastics.
  • Maps to industries like call centers, accounting, and some engineering.
  • The whole can be equal to the sum of the parts.

100% remote work is fine.

People Work Sequentially

  • Similar to people playing a sport like a relay race.
  • Maps to industries like media (writer to editor to designer)
  • People passing baton must be in-sync

Hybrid work must include effort to ensure coordination onsite.

People Work Together

  • Similar to people playing a sport like basketball or soccer.
  • Maps to consulting where success depends on rapid exchange of ideas.

Hybrid work must include effort to ensure ideation onsite.

Source: Nancy Katz, Harvard University:  “Sports teams as a model for workplace teams”

But don’t assume you can pick a mode, pick a number of days
onsite – and just rinse-and-repeat.

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Hybrid work has been accompanied by a decline in EX scores

decline-in-ex-scores

Employee Experience Scores

Since January, employee experience scores have been in steep decline. As offices reopened in early-2022, Slack Future Forum’s survey of 30K+ global workers reported the steepest declines in history. Similarly, McKinsey measured rising worker burnout – despite office’s promise of more in-person interactions. In June, Gallup reported employees were distrusting of the equity of their hybrid work arrangements.

Don't let your EX score decline

Explore our experiences to improve hybrid team engagement.

Why early hybrid experiments are failing

In 2022, companies staging their returns to office often based them around a flexible model. Most companies chose a 3-2 model (three days in-office, two days at home).

Human resource teams published guidelines to teams on how managers should communicate the new model – including how they might select days on which they would tell teams to be in the office. But most of these companies quickly saw declining employee experience scores, departures of employees, and tanking of employee morale.

What went wrong?

The core issue was that companies mandated a “return to office” without thinking about how to make those office days “valuable” to employees. As a result, ‘hybrid’ felt like an arrangement where employees “lost ground”.

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1. The Paradox of Choice

Companies that mandated a one-size-fits-all hybrid work model found employees pushed back. In May, Apple employees made their demands public to the delight of media outlets. To placate employees, companies compromised by giving employees “choice” in which days they would attend. The result? Most employees working from offices did not see their teammates there on the same days. A few weeks later, many employees stopped going to the office altogether.

2. The Reality of Work

While an organization might agree to go to offices on specific days, individual managers might have business travel scheduled for “in-office” days. As the economy opened-up and business travel resumed, organizations found up to 50% of employees might not be present on “in-office” days. Suddenly, other workers felt their time was wasted on commutes.

3.The Challenge of Coordination

One organization might agree to be in-office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. But the boss or key leaders might find an adjacent organization to theirs was in-office on Wednesdays. So they adjust their personal schedule to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And this leads those attending on Mondays to feel their time is wasted on commutes.

Hybrid requires creating a 'digital presence': Here’s how

DO THIS

Embrace new mediums – often digital ones – for communicating

X

DON'T DO THIS

Discontinue use of digital mediums (no one wants to work for the guys who refused to embrace email and kept typing ‘memos’)

The requirement to embrace digital during the pandemic led to many new and highly-effective communication mediums. Generation Z, particularly, insist on a digital-first approach.

A Modern Way to Think

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The “in-person” culture that leaders were accustomed to is like theater culture – where people primarily use their physicality to communicate all things.

Today, we are in a world of television – where “ideas” can be communicated just as effectively, but we need to evolve ourselves to become great actors in a television world.

Where we heard this: Tsedal Neeley, Harvard Business School

So how does a manager get their team to ‘feel’ their digital presence as much as their ‘physical presence’?

An Actionable Idea

“Over communicating. Some leaders are doing a weekly video update to keep people in the loop on what they’re thinking. Others are holding daily office hours to find out how people are feeling.”

Source: Adam Grant, Wharton

“Leaders have to develop emotional trust. People have to believe that leaders see them, that they care about their difficulties, that they care about their preferences, that they care about their careers and career development. And you have to be able to convey all of those things through your actions and your deeds.”

Source: Tsedal Neeley, Harvard

Hybrid requires adapting your interaction style: Here’s how

DO THIS

Ask your quieter teammates to ‘dial-up’ in meetings; ask
your more vocal teammates to ‘dial-down’

X

DON'T DO THIS

Don’t ‘leave it up to chance’

The boss is not the only person who needs to evolve to meet the new demands of hybrid. It’s ok to ask quieter employees to dial-up their presence — to reflect what’s required in communication mediums like Zoom.

A Modern Way to Think

harvard-business-school-logo-vector
A tennis player knows they have to adopted different techniques to demonstrate effective play on clay vs. grass.”

Where we heard this: Tsedal Neeley, Harvard Business School

So how does a manager get their team to evolve their approach to make hybrid successful?

An Actionable Idea

“In 1:1s with quieter employees, tell them ‘how’ to be successful in the new environment. It’s no different than any other ‘coaching’ you’d give employees.”

Source: Michael McCarroll, CEO Teamraderie

“We need to make sure that our turn-taking is carefully thought through. So some people have to dial up. Some people have to dial down and a leader’s responsibility is to hold an inclusive meeting each and every time.”

Source: Tsedal Neeley, Harvard

Hybrid requires becoming multi-modal: Here’s how

DO THIS

Add additional dimensions to ‘how’ you communicate in meetings

X

DON'T DO THIS

Don’t rely on a single channel – particularly one channel that favors one group of attendees over others

Adopting Chat

One benefit of remote work – where the playing field was leveled and ‘everyone’ was just a rectangle on Zoom – was that it forced many teams to rethink ‘how’ ideas are shared in meetings. In remote meetings, there could only be one conversation (not two conversations on different sides of the room) and that conversation could have only one person speaking at a time. When ideas flowed faster than ‘voice’ would permit, teams adopted chat and other means of surfacing parallel ideas.

A Modern Way to Think

With hybrid work, we need to be multimodal–to toggle between multiple channels to communicate.

Where we heard this: Robert Hooijberg, IMD (Switzerland) Business School

Remote work helped introverts get an equal place in the discussion–which tracks with evidence that remote interaction can enable introverts to be heard. When managed effective, ‘chat’ can prioritize the quality and clarity of thought over the charisma and confidence of the people behind an idea.

An Actionable Idea

(Describing how he adapted teaching style)

“We decided that we would use the chat window instead of the raise hand feature. We would give them hashtags. So we had, if you have a question put in hashtag question and you can type it out, or we’ll just see that you have a question and we’ll call on you. We did hashtag debate. If you want to challenge something that I’ve said, or one of your classmates has said. If you have a burning question or burning comment and you have to get in now, if I see on fire, I literally stop at mid-sentence floor’s yours. And that way you can, you can make your very timely point. And then the students added a hashtag #aha when they had a light bulb moment. Which was so valuable because I was able to track– is the learning happening in real time. And I have to tell you, I had the deepest richest conversations I’ve ever had in the classroom because instead of calling on the random hand that happened to be waving, I was able to choreograph.”

Source: Adam Grant, Wharton Business School

Hybrid requires a team relaunch: Here’s how

DO THIS

Conduct a 45-min ‘relaunch’ meeting

X

DON'T DO THIS

Don’t transition work modes without explicitly discussing your team’s needs and what everyone needs to change

Team Relaunch

During the pandemic, the concept of a ‘team relaunch’ was popularized by Harvard’s Tsedal Neeley. According to Harvard research, the ‘team relaunch’ is an opportunity for each member to update the team’s shared purpose by offering input, asking questions, and responding to others based on their experience working together thus far. In the relaunch session, the team can discuss how business goals and strategy may have changed and adjust working styles accordingly.

A Modern Way to Think

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“Relaunch your team when you start a new work mode, such as hybrid work.”

SOURCE: Tsedal Neeley, Harvard Business School

Remote work helped introverts get an equal place in the discussion–which tracks with evidence that remote interaction can enable introverts to be heard. When managed effective, ‘chat’ can prioritize the quality and clarity of thought over the charisma and confidence of the people behind an idea.

An Actionable Idea

wharton-183

1. Schedule a 45-minute meeting titled “Relaunch”
2. Run the meeting; ask each person to describe a set of constraints (hard or soft) they want to work within; these can include days in-office, available hours, communication cadence
3. Summarize the norms

If you seek a facilitated version of this, consider the “Team Refresh” experience – a 45-minute session led by Stanford University’s Kathryn Segovia.

Source: Adam Grant, Wharton Business School

Source: Adam Grant, Wharton Business School

Hybrid requires a change to how we share information: Here’s how

DO THIS

Share complex information via email -- giving teammates a way to process and react to new ideas

X

DON'T DO THIS

Don't return to 'old' styles of sharing information -- waiting for teams to be in-person or relying on slides to introduce ideas

Face-to-Face vs Digital Communication

What kinds of information should we communicate face-to-face vs. digitally?

Many people are sending simple information remotely, and saving complex information for in-person meetings. This is a bad idea. People generally assume the more complex the issue is, the more critical it is for us to gather in person in the same room. That’s a big part of why Amazon loves the structured memos, where people sit down and digest.

A Modern Way to Think

harvard-business-school-logo-vector

If you have complex information processing, you actually want asynchronous because you want the delay for people to absorb that information. In the absence of that, you’re going to have 2, 3, 4 meetings before you arrive at a mutual understanding.

SOURCE: Tsedal Neeley, Harvard Business School

Hybrid requires being more consistent: Here’s how

DO THIS

Ensure consistency between policies and your stated preferences

X

DON'T DO THIS

Avoid declarations that you prefer one work mode over another

Avoid Mixed Signals

One of the biggest challenges of hybrid work has been bosses that send mixed messages. Most companies state in-person isn’t superior to remote; it’s better for some tasks and worse for others.
However, you’ve probably seen leaders deliver mixed messages. For example, on the days when everyone is onsite, the boss raves about how much better it is. The declaration goes something like this: “Oh, I’m so glad we’re together in person. I just couldn’t stand all the Zoom we’ve been doing.” That’s mixed signals.

Once an organization makes a decision, whatever that may be — remote-first, hybrid, in-person — whatever their decision is, the leadership team needs to commit to it, embrace it, and move forward with it. Otherwise, confusion will play out inside the workforce.

An Actionable Idea

harvard-business-school-logo-vector
If you have complex information processing, you actually want asynchronous because you want the delay for people to absorb that information. In the absence of that, you’re going to have 2, 3, 4 meetings before you arrive at mutual understanding.

Source: Tsedal Neely, Harvard Business School

Hybrid work will involve everyone making adjustments — and deferring judgment based on personal reactions.

Recap: Seven Things To Do Differently

Intentional Planning

✔ DO: Think of the office as a ‘tool’

X Don’t: Think of the office as a ‘destination’ that everyone goes to on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays

Shift Perspective

✔ DO: Embrace new mediums – often digital ones – for communicating

X Don’t: Discontinue use of digital mediums (no one wants to work for the guys who refused to embrace email and kept typing ‘memos’)

Shift Norms

✔ DO: Ask your quieter teammates to ‘dial-up’ in meetings; ask your more vocal teammates to ‘dial-down’

X Don’t: Don’t ‘leave it up to chance’

Become Multi-Modal

✔ DO: Add additional dimensions to ‘how’ you communicate in meetings

X Don’t: Don’t rely on a single channel – particularly one channel that favors one group of attendees over others

Relaunch

✔ DO: Conduct a 45-minute ‘relaunch’ meeting

X Don’t: Don’t transition work modes without explicitly discussing your team’s needs and what everyone needs to change

Change to How We Share Information

✔ DO: Shift to assuming all information should be shared ‘digital-first’; then, be selective about which information is shared ‘live’ in meetings

X Don’t: Don’t rely on meetings – specifically, in-person meetings – to share significant information

Be More Consistent

✔ DO: Ensure consistency between policies and your stated preferences

X Don’t: Avoid declarations that you prefer one work mode over another

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