Putting the heart into hybrid

We’re no longer talking about ‘new normal’. Or ‘unprecedented’.  The new phrase in people bingo is hybrid working.

Many of the thousands of LinkedIn polls over the last year asking us to vote whether we wanted to ‘return to the office’ or ‘stay working from home’ showed early signs of a desire for ‘hybrid’ working … some time in the office, and some time working from home was the response from many of us.

And if the last year has proven anything in the world of work, it’s definitively busted that dinosaur-like myth that ‘people aren’t productive working from home’.  Instead, we’ve seen more concern about employee wellbeing being impacted by an ‘always on’ working pattern, enabled by an ease of ‘sending one more email’ into evenings and earlier starts taking up the space that used to be ‘the commute’.  The boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘not work’ are blurred.

For leaders and managers, ‘hybrid’ working means we need to bring a new lense to the conversations and ways of working with our teams.   We’re just not experiencing the ‘water cooler moments’ or the ‘casual collisions’ as Kirk Vallis, Head of Creative Capability Development at Google calls them.   And we’ll be collectively poorer for it (3M estimates up to 70% of it’s innovation comes from unplanned conversations).


Putting the heart into hybrid

Hybrid working means we need to be more intentional in our interactions with our team members.  And not just in making space for creativity, or task allocation and methodology to manage the work.   But in our curiosity to care for each other (one of the core aspects of Highly Effective Teams).



Amy Edmondson, writing in HBR this week (‘What Psychological Safety Looks Like in a Hybrid Workplace’; A Edmondson and M Mortensen), recounts hearing from employees who ‘feel marginalised, penalised or excluded from conversations’ about hybrid working or wellbeing.  Why? ‘because they are single or don’t have children’.  Really? We’re suggesting the desire for balance, and therefore the focus of employer care is some kind of exclusive club to which ‘significant others’ is the membership card, and single people have no place!

At this week’s CIPD webinar ‘Returning to the workplace: hybrid working (cipd.co.uk)‘, Gem Dale, Lecturer and Remote Working Specialist at Liverpool John Moores University talked about the need for leaders to engage in ‘meaningful face-time’.  Being intentional in creating space and connection with our teams in conversations beyond the ‘work’.  Feeling confident and skilled to engage in the ‘not work’ conversations.

Hybrid working is an emerging concept, with myriad possibilities and (as Gem mentioned) few precedents.  We can’t know all the answers, but we can certainly focus on being intentional in our curiosity to care. Putting the heart into hybrid.






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Michaela Weller

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