Is Hybrid Work Actually…Working? Here’s What the Data Says.

Did you put on real pants, fight traffic, and eat a suboptimal lunch today just to sit in your corporate office…on a zoom call? You’re not the only one.

We know there can be huge benefits to in-person collaboration and relationship building. We also recognize (well, most of us) that demanding a 5-day in-office work week poses a big obstacle for recruiting, engagement, and retention. Which leaves us somewhere in the murky middle.

Some of our clients have shifted to 100% remote indefinitely, others are fighting an (uphill) battle to return their teams back to the office full time. The vast majority are somewhere in between- trying to figure out the awkwardness of a hybrid model. It’s emblematic of a larger shift in the workplace.

Here’s what Gallup found: When asked where they (respondents) plan to work long term — remote-capable employees confirmed that a hybrid work schedule will be the predominant office arrangement going forward. About 53% expect a hybrid arrangement, and 24% expect to work exclusively remotely.

Gallup’s recent report also revealed that 6 in 10 people want a coordinated effort around when to go into the office. Here are three best practices I’ve seen make the difference:

Remember, that all days are not created equal
Take a look at what you want to accomplish for the year, and ask: What activities depend most on collaboration? What relationships need shoring up? What do I want to be more involved with? Of course, all these things can be done remotely, but they’re often easier in person.

Prioritizing where you get the most ROI on your “face time” brings a strategic view to your role and your schedule (vs allocating your in-office days to when you have clean clothes).

Sync up when you can, even though it’s more work
Whether it’s 3-days a quarter, 1 day a week, or somewhere in between, syncing up with colleagues, and especially your boss, will make in-person time feel more worth it.  It also minimizes the awkward (on both sides) feeling of sitting in a conference room, but still telling your colleague they’re on mute.

The odds of a perfect sync-up are slim to none, but don’t let the fear of imperfection keep you from an attempt.

Reevaluate regularly
If it’s not working, or even not working as well as you hoped, step back and reassess. Even if it’s not your first choice, you might need more time in the office, more time at home, or a more coordinated effort. Keep refining and recognize that your needs might change over time. For example, a big push for product innovation is likely going to require more in-person collaboration than the following quarter of data review.

If you’re finding yourself constantly on Zoom in your office, or constantly wishing the people in the room would remember you dialed in from home, don’t accept it as the given pain of “working hybrid.” Yes, this model is a work in progress…. Emphasis on the in progress.

In my view, a hybrid model can work, but not without deep intentionality. Left to chance, everyone will be on zoom in their office, eating lunch alone, and become increasingly resentful every time they fill up their car.

Taking a strategic view of your role (and team) can help you maximize the best of both worlds.