Few organizations have communicated their plan for hybrid work. This is anxiety producing.

By Kate Lee

Communicating where work will take place and how your people will work together is crucial.

recent survey finds that although nine out of ten executives envision implementing a hybrid model going forward, only one in ten organizations have begun to communicate and pilot their vision. The primary reason so few organizations have begun to communicate and pilot their vision – most have, at best, a high-level plan. What’s more, nearly a third of executives say their organization lacks alignment on a high-level vision among the top team.

In the absence of certainty in the form of detailed guidelines, policies, expectations, and approaches on what and where working together will look like going forward, employees are feeling anxious. Neuroscience research shows that uncertainty and the resulting anxiety negatively impacts job satisfaction, interpersonal relationships with colleagues, work performance – and fuels burnout.

Communicating where work will take place and how your people will work together is crucial.

When developing your plan, don’t revert to the status quo. While challenging, the past 15 months have been an incredible learning experience for organizations and individuals. It has forced innovation, forced agility, and enabled accomplishments that previously had been unimaginable. Three years ago, if you were told you had 24 hours to shift your entire workforce from working in the office to working from home, would you have thought it possible? Would you have predicted the results you have achieved over the past 15 months?

It is amazing what can be achieved during a crisis. Take these achievements and learnings and leverage them to strengthen your organization.

Two days after Tim Cook sent an email to staff asking them to return to the office three days per week starting in September, employees responded with a letter to Cook. The letter voiced concern that the policy was “not sufficient in addressing” the needs of the employees, and it pointed to a perceived “disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote / location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple’s employees.”

What stood out most from the letter was this line: “Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored.”

When developing your plan, ask your leaders what they would recommend – and listen.

Listen too to your employees. If you give people the opportunity to share what has worked and what hasn’t, along with their ideas for the path forward, you will gain valuable insights that will help you strengthen your organization.

Consider what has worked over the past 15 months and what hasn’t. With respect to what hasn’t worked, identify why. The answer may or may not be location-based.

It is important to recognize that there are “new” factors that need to be considered with respect to where and how people work. For example, vaccination status, whether schools and child-care centers have reopened, an employee or family member’s health status.

Gravity Payments went directly to their organization and asked what employees wanted. On LinkedIn, Founder and CEO Dan Price shared:

“Instead of making a top-down CEO decision, we asked our 200 employees where they want to work. Only 7% wanted to go back to the office full time. 31% wanted a home-office hybrid. 60% wanted full-time remote work. So we told everyone: do what you want. This stuff isn’t hard.”

What is hard is uncertainty. Work with your team to create a plan that will enable your organization to thrive. Communicate your plan across your organization. Include as much detail as possible, and help your employees prepare for what’s next.


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