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Hybrids are New, Not Just Different

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, one of the most common things we hear now is, “We’re going to have a hybrid working arrangement from now on.” A lot of people believe this, but it’s not necessarily true. A true hybrid is not just a mashup of other things, it’s something entirely new. As an example, a mule is neither a horse nor a donkey (despite having similarities to both.) It is a whole new animal.

Many people confuse the word “hybrid” with “blend.” Even before so many of us got sent home to work, we were in blended work environments. Some people worked from home full time, some worked in the office, and some worked wherever they wanted, depending on the day. We made it work and continue to do so.

While that was new and stressful for many people, it was really a blended approach. In most cases, the default performance management systems, times people worked, and the way work got done were office-centric. Basically, it was the way we’ve always worked—but with webcams and a lot more email.

Certainly, people have made this mash-up work for the past couple of years. There are serious questions about whether or not it’s sustainable. As people demand more flexibility, not just with where they work but when, things like keeping common “office hours,” become harder to do. We suffer Zoom Fatigue and just too many meetings because we’re trying to recreate the office environment despite our not being co-located.

>> Learn more at the webinar: Making Hybrid Work Really Something New

Real hybrid work calls for something more than just muddling through. It requires a truly new way of looking at the way people work, collaborate and interact across time, space and dimension. If people are going to be working when it makes sense for them, there will be less time when we can “jump on a call.” It’s not that meetings, Teams calls, and other synchronous communication aren’t important. We just need to be really clear on when that has to happen, or when alternatives make more sense.

HR has a critical role to play in creating this new environment.

  • How will payroll, taxes, working standards, and expectations work when people are in different jurisdictions?
  • Will succession planning and career development still benefit those who are in the office more than team members who spend most of their time elsewhere? Will that be policy or just a default behavior?
  • Who will help managers recognize and overcome the natural challenges of proximity bias to ensure an equitable and inclusive environment where people can collaborate and build relationships despite a lack of physical interaction?
  • Whose job will it be to help people move beyond tight, nuclear, teams so that they are working across the organization?

Many organizations talk a good game when it comes to moving to a hybrid environment, but many don’t understand the underlying challenges and the differences between being “remote-friendly,” “remote first,” and being a true hybrid.

Written by: Wayne Turmel

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