Hybrid work has become a trendy term, generating many debates.  I would argue that hybrid or not hybrid is not the question as there is no going back to “normal”. Think of the younger generations who graduated during the pandemics or just after and who have never experienced “going to the office”! The COVID-19 pandemics has deeply challenged the assumptions that most of us need to go to a special building, at specific times, to do our work. It has shown that tasks get done and meetings get held just fine even if we were all remote. In fact, organizations realized that their employees were even more productive – at a cost though as recent surveys on burn out and mental health suggest. Today though most organizations are trying to lure people back in the office as they are realizing that is hard to maintain culture overtime if people never meet. This was why IBM and Yahoo a few years before the pandemics had reversed their liberal commuting policy: because they needed more collaborative creativity and wanted to maintain their culture.

Organizations are facing three challenges that they need to keep in mind as they explore new ways to organize for hybrid work:

- How to nurture relationships without the intimate discussions that regular physical presence can afford?

- How to support informal learning? How to teach newcomers, and reinforce for everyone, the unwritten rules of how we do things around here that seeing and hearing each other all the time affords?

- How to collaborate across silos when there are less opportunities for informal interactions and serendipitous encounters?

In our research with John Weeks and Mahwest Khan, we found that there three main enablers: space, technology, and organizational processes. The first two are usually those on which we focus when thinking about hybrid work. I would argue that the last one, while often discounted is the most important one. It includes nurturing trust through transparent and inclusive norms; moving from time-based metrics to outcome-based metrics, embracing flexibility to recognize different and changing needs, and recognizing the role of managers as not only coordinating of workflows but also helping people grow and thrive.

Hybrid or not hybrid? While remote work and more flexible schedules are here to stay (and for good reasons), the question left for companies to grapple with is how this will look like. And so far, no one has found the answer. Yet, there are a few things to remember as you consider how hybrid work might look like in your organization: there’s not a one-size-fit-all solutions; you have to be ready to continuously experiment and adapt; it is essential to keep the office and intentionally design it as a “culture space”. In the end, this pandemics as others in history, is forcing us to break with the past and imagine our world. In the context of work and organizations, it is an opportunity to reset work. 

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