The past 18 months saw a global pivot towards remote work. Today, as organizations are planning to or already are reopening their office locations, many are at a crossroads between reverting to the old way of working, or seizing the opportunity to reimagine how work gets done. Most organizations are pursuing the latter; honestly, how will organizations compete for talent if they fail to recognize the potential benefits of a more flexible and fulfilling approach to work and life? Not wanting to lose the war for talent, most organizations are planning to implement a hybrid workplace, where employees can work from a combination of the office and remotely.
Indeed, while fully remote workplaces can be successful, many organizations will best thrive with a hybrid model, including ideal aspects from both remote and physical workplaces.
A workplace that offers the best of the remote and office environments is often found to be a recipe for stronger commitment, increased performance, greater well-being, and a strengthened employee value proposition. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for organizations to redesign workplaces to make them more hospitable, collaborative, creative, and social. Focused work, on the other hand, is often best done off site, in a distraction free environment.
The adoption of the hybrid workplace will of course raise several challenges for leadership. Whereas pure office or remote work designs reduce complexity and provide a “level playing field,” leadership in hybrid models will involve new complexities and therefore a learning curve for leaders.
In this article, we hope to help accelerate your leaders along the learning curve to excel in the hybrid workplace.
Navigating Change Through Leadership
So how do you ensure that your leaders enable people to succeed in a hybrid workplace and build your thriving and engaged workforces of tomorrow? One critical lever is Culture. In what follows, we will explain the importance of a healthy culture in the hybrid workplace.
Culture is the collection of shared values, expectations, and practices among members of the organization. Culture is critical because it guides and informs the actions of all employees, and therefore it can be a pivotal factor in the success of your organization’s hybrid work. Rather than being purely built through top-down initiatives (e.g., strategy and branding), culture is also built one leader at a time, and culture can be changed by changing one leader at a time. The first time a leader allows an unfair criticism of an employee just because they are working remotely, the culture begins to slowly deteriorate in its ability to support hybrid work.
The first time a leader allows an unfair criticism of an employee just because they are working remotely, the culture begins to slowly deteriorate in its ability to support hybrid work.
Consider the culture your workplace wants to be known for and why you’re adopting hybrid work.
The nature of your organization’s culture will inform your purpose for adopting hybrid remote work, which is key to designing a successful hybrid work program.
For example, if your organizational culture is one that rewards time spent in the office and maintaining a physical presence, then a hybrid work program will likely fail since few will utilize it. If your culture is one that emphasizes freedom and autonomy in work practices, then hybrid work will more likely be successful.
It might be time to re-examine your culture.
What elements of the pre-pandemic culture were holding your organization back? What were the elements that should be emphasized in the future? The key is to be very explicit in maintaining and improving your desired culture and allowing that to guide many of the leadership decisions and practices through the change.
Call to Action
What is the best way to help your leaders develop the skills needed to effectively support a hybrid-work-friendly culture? First, leaders should receive feedback on their leadership style and coaching on leader effectiveness in a hybrid world.
The Distributed Leader Profiler is a leading psychometric assessment of the traits and skills required for effective Relationships, Flexibility, and Productivity in a hybrid work world. Expert coaching helps leaders understand their strengths and areas for development as they navigate the New World of Work.
Additionally, busy leaders need regular touch points with bite-sized learning opportunities supported by a blending learning environment. The CONNECTED path at Humance is based on evidence- based practices around Remote Leadership Fundamentals, offering leaders the opportunity to learn and develop cutting-edge skills in only 1 hour per week, over 8 weeks. The knowledge acquired and goals set during this path are applied immediately in the leaders’ day-to-day activities in the hybrid workplace. Work EvOHlution™, now part of Humance, can help support your leaders as they transition into a hybrid workplace by creating a strong culture.
 Advanis (Feb, 2021). Canadians managers and employees are interested in a hybrid WFH arrangement. Mental health, and the impact on team collaboration and creativity, are top concerns managers and employees alike would have if permanently working from home. Link
About Work EvOHlution™
Before hybrid and distributed work became topics that took over the world, the Work EvOHlution™ team had already spent nearly a decade studying the effectiveness of remote work, consulting globally with organizations, and implementing strategies to transform workplace cultures.
Now part of the Humance team, Work EvOHlution™ increases performance and commitment in remote and hybrid workplaces globally.
Dr. Laura Hambley
Dr. Laura Hambley is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist based in Calgary, Alberta. Laura is co-founder and President of Work EvOHlution™, which creates innovative assessment and developmental supports for mobile/remote employees, leaders and teams. Laura is an experienced consultant and entrepreneur who is passionate about addressing the critical role of leadership, work styles/personality, and team dynamics as they relate to distributed work. Over the past 17 years Laura has published extensive research on the critical success factors for effectively leading distributed teams and has developed and delivered seminars on distributed teams for organizations, universities, and international conferences. In addition to Work EvOHlution™, Laura co-founded Canada Career Counselling (Toronto/Calgary), the Leadership Success Group, and leads a team of workplace psychologists across Canada.
Dr. Tom O’Neill
Tom is a professor of organizational psychology and Co-Founder of Work EvHOlution™. He is a leading expert in the areas of team dynamics, distributed teams, conflict management, personality, WORKshift, and assessment. Over the past 11 years, Tom has worked with organizations in numerous industries including oil and gas, healthcare, technology, government, and venture capitals. Tom has published over 60 peer-reviewed journal articles in outlets such as Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Organizational Research Methods, Computers in Human Behavior, and Human Resource Management Review, and he has worked extensively to translate the science of flexible remote work into practice through consultations, workshops, public lectures, training, and other resources. His research funding exceeds $6M and he currently leads a lab team of 15, which includes doctoral, post-doctoral, and masters candidates, as well as undergraduate students and staff members. He is currently engaged with the Haskayne School of Business and the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary to train, develop, and cultivate soft-skill teamwork competencies in order to equip graduates with strong interpersonal and communication capabilities.
Work EvOHlution™ has been a world leader in remote work success since our launch in 2014. We are a Calgary-based team of Organizational Psychologists committed to enhancing engagement and performance in distributed workplaces. We offer innovative assessment tools for leaders, teams, and employees based on research conducted since 2003, as well as consulting, coaching, and training solutions. Work EvOHlution™ specializes in supporting organizations both locally and internationally.