Hybrid working – balancing different perspectives

For many businesses, the conversation about hybrid has begun. Policies are very much in development.  However, it is inevitable that not everyone will agree on the shape of the future, as a recent argument at Apple demonstrates. 

We know that the employee voice about remote working (and hybrid in particular) has been loud and consistent.  Many organisations are responding positively, but even within those that do there will be differences of opinion.  There are surveys already that indicates employees  may vote with their feet if they cannot get their desired level of flexibility – the potential for a period of ‘great resignations’ has been mooted.  Whether employees will resign, or indeed whether new opportunities will be available to them if they do so, remains to be seen. 

As those policies and approaches are laid out, how then to address internal issues?  The employee that wants 100% remote versus the manager that wants everyone back in the office.  Or perhaps less extreme, the employee that thinks they can do a lot of their work from home but the manager thinks it should only be an a once a week maximum thing. 

Essentially we are talking about a balancing of perspectives, wants and needs.  Individual, team, manager, organisational.  What the role will allow. Sometimes these will align.  Sometimes they will not.  It may not be possible to provide every employee what they personally want.  Difficult conversations will result. 

In aiming to balance these different perspectives, consider:

  • What form of hybrid working does the individual prefer?  What suits their working style and personal circumstances? 
  • What form of hybrid is most appropriate for the role and responsibilities of the job?  Where the organisation is using a category approach – which hybrid category is most appropriate for the role itself?
  • What needs to be considered from an organisational perspective?  Consider culture, values, aims and objectives. 
  • What will work best for the team as a whole, including effective relationships, collaborative working and team cohesion?
  • Where there differences in perspectives, how can these be balanced?  Are trial periods appropriate?

Employees may not always agree with decisions that are made about future flexible working.  We can however work to consistency of process, if not outcome.  One thing we can absolutely strive for is transparency.  Providing clear explanations to employees about what options are available to them and why.  How decisions have been reached and how these decisions support particular aims and objectives. Where perspectives and preferences have been balanced, why and how?

Finally, when completing this balancing act we should be open to challenge.  Hybrid is new, and we may not have it right. 

With thanks to my colleague Meg who helped me to shape my thinking on this.

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