Why Hybrid isn’t Working (Part 1)

There is a lot of talk about what’s going right with Hybrid, and not so much chatter about what’s going wrong, never mind how to fix it. So, here we go…

Issue 1: We still can’t agree on what hybrid even means.

Ok, it’s no wonder really given the term came from the media, during a global pandemic, when the options were office and home, so ok the term ‘Hybrid’ (bringing two things together) was correct. The issue is that the world of work already has more than enough terms and anybody working ‘flexibly’, will reference 3rd or even 4th spaces.

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All the terms we already contend with!

I am wholly in favour of ditching the term “hybrid” altogether. It’s super unhelpful when a way of working is only being defined by the location the person is working in. Can I propose we focus on actually delivering these 4 components so we cover all angles.

  1. Flexible working practices – When (time/day)
  2. Agile – How
  3. ABW – The spaces we use
  4. Smart Technology – The ‘what’ tools which underpin the when/how/where.
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The fantastic four

Issue 2: Senior Leadership, Middle Management and The People.

What people desire, is not being heard by senior leadership = Frustration is building.

The intentions of senior leadership are not being operationalised (or are simply being ignored) by mid management = Mistrust is building between senior leadership and middle management.

The communicated intentions of how hybrid is intended to work is not in line with how mid management are communicating and managing their team = People are confused by the mixed messages.

Why? – Misaligned wants and needs, poor communications, a lack of listening, a the lack of “how” guidance in the form of guiding principles/target operating model, a lack of having difficult conversations and siloed data.

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This is a slide I shared at the Workplace Futures Conference this week.

Issue 3: Hybrid Workers should be seen and not heard.

The expression ‘children should be seen and not heard’ is an old English proverb, dating from the 15th century. In the original form it was specifically young women who were expected to keep quiet.

It’s something that is now playing out for Hybrid Workers. It’s like organisations ‘caving’ into Hybrid Working now means they can forget everything else which is wrapped up into a true Employee Experience, because well, people have flexibility (what they wanted) and they can’t have everything they want. So yes, Hybrid Workers, you should be seen….but please shut up moaning now because on some days we accept that you won’t be seen. Oh jeez.

Cause: A lack of understanding, acceptance and/or engagement in what hybrid means and how it benefits both people and the business.

Issue 4: Proximity Bias

The tendency to favour the people/ideas physically closest or most familiar – this is playing out in various forms:

  • Promotions (or not).
  • Pay (less for hybrid/remote workers).
  • The Halo Effect – leadership excusing poor performance of those in their proximity, and not valuing the skills/expertise/impact of those they have less contact with.
  • Questions over productivity. Ignoring the old aged issue of presenteeism, and assuming those who work remotely are less productive or less committed.

Cause: Well, like any other bias, it’s a natural instinct, a safety mechanism. Humans feel the safest with those they are closest to.

Issue 5: Technology

We have all of this available to us:

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Most experience this:

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Yet, we talk about this:

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Cause: Focusing on the next shiny/cool thing.

Closing up:

There are other issues… but it’s 7pm on a Friday evening so I’m going to wrap up now and call this part 1. But to end, here are some key tips to tackle some of the things I’ve written about here.


  1. Proximity Bias: Acknowledge and accept it, the awareness will allow you to be conscious and to question your decision making. Noticing when you might be falling into proximity bias allows you to redirect your focus to include those who contribute remotely. Collectively, practice valuing deliverables, collaboration and innovation — as opposed to employee location. Instil the culture and mindset that you are all in this together, working to achieve shared business goals.
  2. Technology: Avoid the gimmicks and focus on understanding what people need to do their roles and connect with people effectively, whilst maintaining spaces which limit the detrimental affect on the planet.
  3. With colleagues in the pattern on receiving timed feedback (weekly/monthly/quarterly) from their line manager, and the day-to-day chats or smiles across the coffee machine, the lack of face time becomes an issue so leaders need to initiate more frequent 1-2-1’s.
  4. Decentralise decision-making around hybrid and remote work and adopt a team-led culture for determining work arrangements. As a leader who has access to the room where decisions are made, push back against rigid, top-down policies and advocate for employees to determine autonomously where they will work — with the support of their managers.
  5. Boundaries – We all need to know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Guiding principles / team operating goals will aid structure and familiarity.
  6. Focus on output and outcomes by reviewing what has been achieved and those who contributed to that work.
  7. Meeting Etiquette: Make sure the invite enables people to contribute. Are screens needed or can they be walking outside? Is in-person attendance required? What is the agenda? Is any prep required? Book the right space/tech and communicate that to avoid people sitting in the office with a headset on and pissing everybody else off. Then chair the meeting! – ensure the remote worker has a say, adopt etiquette such as the hand raise and only one person talking at a time. It may seem obvious but there’s nothing more irritating than being on a remote call and hearing multiple side chats!
  8. Focus on “the why” of the office and communicate the value. Don’t assume that people only go to the office to collaborate or learn. Listen to your employees.
  9. Feedback is a gift.
  10. Determine success measures, collect data and continue to iterate.

Part 2 to follow, drop me a DM if there are any particular issues you’d like me to tackle in it.

Have a fab weekend all and of course, be a good human,



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