What’s Our Plan?
Updated: Feb 16
One of things we’ve all learned over the last couple of years is that plans are tentative. Many organizations have planned—multiple times—to open up the office and bring employees back in some form, only to have those plans postponed or cancelled. Planned in-person events of various types, with various constituencies. They were postponed, cancelled or modified for remote interaction.
It’s hard to be excited to plan for a new normal—whatever that means for an given organization. The COVID virus mutates, the Great Resignation continues, and new research reveals advantages and challenges of hybrid and all-remote workforces. The organizational infrastructures sands shift under our feet. It will be an iterative process, rethinking the who, what, where, and when for a hybrid workplace.
Nonetheless, we have to look forward to and envision multiple paths to achieve organizational goals so that we can switch paths or create new branches of paths if needed. In essence, it’s a different type of planning, one that is a marathon that also includes sprints. It’s what we’ve been doing, but I’m suggesting formalizing that process. Acknowledging as we plan that there will likely be many changes in direction, both large and small.
Part of the challenge is that we are only in the very early stages of learning how to do hybrid well. But how to do it well will likely vary from industry to industry, organization to organization, working group to working group. As McKinsey notes in their 2021 report about hybrid work:
What work is better done in person than virtually, and vice versa? How will meetings work best? How can influence and experience be balanced between those who work on site and those who don’t? How can you avoid a two-tier system in which people working in the office are valued and rewarded more than are those working more from home? Should teams physically gather in a single place while tackling a project, and if so, how often? Can leadership communication to off-site workers be as effective as it is to workers in the office?
“Employees Want Flexibility"
Right now, employee surveys indicate that many employees want the flexibility either to be remote, or to come into the office only sometimes. Employers who do not plan to be fully remote are figuring out their hybrid plans. Furthermore, those wanting more time remote tend to be people of color, who report feeling more valued and supported working remotely than in office. Mothers are also more likely to want a flexible work schedule.
Plans for the Future
One of the dilemmas is that what people want may change as life opens up again. Humans are generally not particularly good at emotional forecasting—predicting how we’ll feel in the future. We mispredict how we’ll feel about future events. That said, it makes sense for many reasons that some employees will consistently prefer less in-office time than other employees. Nonetheless, the plans for hybrid that many organizations are currently making will likely change over time as employees live the hybrid work experiment. The trick will be assessing how the hybrid experiment is going for employees and organization over time. What you assess (i.e., what you measure) will determine what you find, so deciding what to assess is critical.