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Jun 14, 2023

The Surprising Rise of Hybrid Work


tags: leadership,business,decision making,wise decision making,leadership development,cognitive bias,decision-making process,leaders,work from home,hybrid work,remote work



The Surprising Rise of Hybrid Work

With headlines screaming about JPMorgan Chase ordering its managing directors to work from the office for five days a week, along with other employers doing the same, you might think office-based full-time work is taking hold. Not so fast, I tell my clients who I am helping with the return to office - the data shows that these companies are outliers, rather than mainstream. And new research is supporting my words: like a phoenix rising from the ashes of outdated office norms, hybrid work is flourishing and leaving full-time office work in the dust. According to a recent Littler Mendelson PC report, over 70% of US employers are now embracing hybrid work models, proving that flexible work arrangements are more than just a passing fad. As the pandemic retreats, this trend solidifies its position as the new normal.

Draining the Office Fishbowl

Office life can sometimes feel like a fishbowl, with employees swimming around in circles, waiting to be fed their next assignment. But hybrid work has shattered that glass, allowing employees to explore the vast ocean of work-life balance. 

Traditional office work is draining away like water from a leaky fish tank, with Littler Mendelson finding that a mere 16% of surveyed employers still require full-time in-person work. It's a mass exodus from the confines of the office, as workers migrate to more flexible environments.

The pandemic has undoubtedly been a catalyst for change in the workplace, forcing employers to adapt to remote work and reevaluate their traditional office-based models. As companies scrambled to find solutions to the logistical challenges posed by lockdowns and social distancing measures, hybrid work emerged as the shining star of adaptability. This new approach to work has not only survived the pandemic but has continued to thrive in its aftermath, demonstrating that flexibility and resilience are now cornerstones of the modern workplace.

One might think that hybrid work would lose its appeal as the pandemic subsides. But like a tenacious game of whack-a-mole, it keeps popping back up. Littler Mendelson finds that nearly 40% of employers with hybrid working arrangements report no change in their schedules  compared to 2022, while 12% are offering even more flexibility and remote work options. The message is clear: hybrid work is here to stay, and companies that resist this new reality may find themselves struggling to attract and retain top talent.

A Win-Win Situation: Benefits for Both Employers and Employees

The hybrid work model offers a myriad of benefits for both employers and employees. For workers, it provides the much-desired flexibility to balance personal and professional commitments, leading to increased job satisfaction, improved mental health, and reduced burnout. Employees can now choose to work from the comfort of their homes, a local coffee shop, or a co-working space, offering a smorgasbord of environments to suit their unique preferences and working styles.

Employers, on the other hand, can reap the rewards of a more engaged and satisfied workforce, resulting in higher productivity and lower turnover rates. Additionally, by reducing the need for office space, companies can save on overhead costs and invest in other areas of the business. It's a win-win situation that demonstrates the undeniable appeal of hybrid work arrangements.

The Great Trade-off: Flexibility vs. Monitoring

With great flexibility comes great responsibility—or, in this case, monitoring. As employees spread their wings in the hybrid work landscape, employers are adopting more eagle-eyed strategies to keep tabs on productivity. Approximately half of the surveyed companies have turned to employee-monitoring technology, which they view as a necessary trade-off to ensure the hybrid model's success.

While some may perceive  this level of monitoring as invasive, it's essential to remember that accountability is a key component of any successful work arrangement. By implementing a combination of trust and technology, employers can create a healthy balance that promotes productivity while respecting employees' autonomy and privacy. But you have to have employee buy-in and show them the benefits of monitoring if you want to avoid undermining trust.

The tightrope walk of employee monitoring is fraught with challenges, as companies balance the need for oversight with the potential impact on morale and trust. It's a bit like playing Jenga: one wrong move, and the whole tower of employee satisfaction could topple. Alongside these considerations, compliance with privacy laws remains a critical concern for companies leveraging surveillance technology.

To maintain this delicate balance, employers must communicate their intentions and expectations transparently, reassuring employees that monitoring is not a means of micromanagement but rather a tool to ensure the hybrid model's effectiveness. By fostering a culture of trust and open communication, companies can mitigate the potential negative effects of employee monitoring.

The Evolving Role of Managers in Hybrid Work Environments

As hybrid work becomes the new norm, the role of managers must evolve to accommodate this shift. Managers are no longer just supervisors in a physical office space; they must now become virtual orchestrators, adept at managing a distributed team and ensuring consistent productivity and engagement.

In this new landscape, managers must develop their communication skills, learning to navigate virtual meetings, and adapt their management styles to suit the varying needs of their team members. By embracing the challenges of hybrid work, managers can become transformative leaders who inspire and support their teams to achieve new heights.

Regulatory Agencies in the Hybrid Work Spotlight

Hybrid work is not just transforming the way we work; it's also affecting the landscape of workplace regulatory agencies. Littler Mendelson finds that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has seen a significant increase in employers' expectations of oversight, growing from 43% to 61%. Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has seen a drop in employer expectations, from 76% to 59%, as it fades into the background following the Supreme Court's ruling on vaccination mandates.

This shift in focus underscores the importance of staying abreast of changing regulations and ensuring that hybrid work policies align with the latest legal requirements. As the hybrid work model continues to evolve, companies must remain vigilant in their compliance efforts and adapt to the ever-changing regulatory landscape.

Cognitive Biases and the Hybrid Work Revolution

The transition to hybrid work has not been without its challenges, and cognitive biases have played a significant role in shaping both the adoption and perception of this new work model. By understanding the impact of cognitive biases on the topic, we can better navigate the complexities of hybrid work and create more effective, bias-resistant policies. In this section, we'll delve into the roles of confirmation bias and status quo bias in the context of hybrid work.

Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to search for, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. In the realm of hybrid work, confirmation bias can manifest in several ways. For instance, employers who are skeptical of remote work may focus on employees' shortcomings when working from home, while ignoring the positive aspects and the increased overall productivity in a hybrid model.

Similarly, employees who prefer remote work may perceive the office environment as less conducive to productivity, even when presented with evidence that in-person collaboration can yield significant benefits. To overcome confirmation bias, employers and employees must actively seek out diverse perspectives and be willing to challenge their preconceived notions about hybrid work. By doing so, they can make more informed decisions and develop a balanced approach to work that benefits all parties involved.

Status quo bias is the preference for the current state of affairs, often driven by the fear of change and a desire for familiarity. In the case of hybrid work, status quo bias can manifest as resistance to adopting new work models, with both employers and employees clinging to traditional full-time office work.

Employers may perceive the shift to hybrid work as a threat to their control and worry about reduced productivity, while employees may fear the loss of established routines, camaraderie, and office resources. Overcoming status quo bias requires acknowledging the natural discomfort that accompanies change and actively seeking out evidence that supports the benefits of hybrid work.

To combat status quo bias, companies can implement pilot programs, gradually introducing hybrid work arrangements and monitoring their effects on productivity and employee satisfaction. By taking a measured, data-driven approach, organizations can demonstrate the merits of hybrid work and help overcome the innate resistance to change.

The Hybrid Work Symphony: A New Era of Work-Life Balance

The hybrid work model has become the orchestra conductor of modern employment, orchestrating a harmonious blend of office and remote work. With this newfound flexibility, employees can finally escape the draining monotony of full-time office life and embrace a brighter, more balanced future.

The Littler Mendelson PC survey is the sheet music to this symphony, providing clear evidence that hybrid work is not a temporary trend, but a permanent shift in the way we approach work. As we continue to navigate the post-pandemic landscape, it's time for employers to embrace this new reality and learn to dance to the tune of hybrid work arrangements, balancing productivity, employee satisfaction, and regulatory compliance.

Key Take-Away

Hybrid work is on the rise, with over 70% of US employers embracing it. It offers benefits for both employers and employees, but requires effective communication, monitoring, and adaptation to thrive...>Click to tweet

Image credit: William Fortunato/Pexels

Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on April 13, 2023


Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.



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