A hybrid new world – Part 3: ‘Time & Place’

In the last blog, we looked at hybrid working from a competency perspective: what do managers need to do well, in order to build high performing hybrid teams.

In this blog, we will look into the different types of work arrangements, that exist when it comes to creating a hybrid working policy.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the new world of work. Some employees love working from home—swapping a one-hour commute for a morning jog and enjoying more family time. Others are happiest at an office or co-working space full-time, with plenty of social interaction throughout the day. Many want the best of both worlds and the flexibility to choose when and where they work (The hybrid work model playbook on howspace.com).

One of my favourite thinkers about the future of work is Lynda Gratton from London Business school. During a recent webinar that I attended, one person asked her what she thinks of companies (such as several large US banks) that have gone back to 100% mandatory presence in the office. Ms. Gratton replied that it is not up to her to judge the decision by the CEO’s of these companies as it is a strategic decision. She continued voicing her expectation that this bank is likely to have a recruitment challenge, given the fact that only a minority of employees is willing to work 5 days a week in the office anymore. This limits their talent pool to a very small part of the workforce.

My observation is that most employees are not going to appreciate having to come into the office, to spend a day sitting behind their own computer, doing focused work or joining online meetings. I see two exceptions: new hires, who need to be integrated into the organisation and younger employees, who value the workplace for social interaction to a higher degree. These two categories deserve special attention from their manager when working in a completely remote setting.

Photo by Seth Philips

Types of hybrid

When thinking of remote or hybrid working, we tend to look at where people work: either in the office, or remote: at home, or in a coworking space such as a café.

The other dimension of hybrid working is when people work: do all team members work at the same moment, let’s say 0830 till 17.00, or do we work anytime, to get the job done? This is the time dimension and here we distinguish between ‘synchronous’ (such as a phone call or Zoom meeting) and a-synchronous work (E-mail or chat; I answer when I want). When we combine the dimensions of Time & Place it looks like this:

From Lynda Gratton in Harvard Business Review, Nov/Dec 2021

Many managers recognize that employees can work productively from any location at any moment (the upper right hand box in the graph). Hybrid teams that collaborate intentionally have a stronger awareness of how, where and when to use each of the 4 hybrid collaboration modes:

  • Working together, together: when teams are collocated, contributing to meetings in a shared space (lower left box)
  • Working together, apart: when teams are distributed, but participating in virtual meetings (upper left box)
  • Working alone, together: when teams are in shared spaces, but not working at the same time (lower right box).

Working alone, apart (upper right box): when teams are distributed, and individuals are conducting deep focus work.

Most jobs require concentrated, individual work and each person knows what works best for her or him. Introverts, for instance, may focus best in a quiet space at home or in a library. Extraverts may prefer a busy, noisy place such as a n open plan office, and others may do their best thinking while exercising. All of these are productive ways to get work done.

So, what do people prefer?

For organisations that are developing their hybrid working policy, it is important to start with an assessment of employees’ preferences.

In the screenshot below we see the CEO of a financial services comment on his policy for hybrid working. An inspiration to keep things uncomplicated.

In the next post, ‘Hybrid working – Part 4’ we will zoom in on how to build a team when some members are remote, and some are collocated.