Making Hybrid Work Human

We were excited to read the new Economist Impact report on hybrid work – especially since HSM Advisory Managing Director, Harriet Molyneaux, was one of the contributors. The report seeks to create a definition of hybrid work based on current trends and includes recommendations to help minimise the risks of exploring hybrid work.

It is easy to think of hybrid work as being just about location – but in reality, it is about using flexibility to redesign work for sustainable high performance. This means identifying the most productive combination of time and location for each job or individual to ensure that people can work as productively as possible in their specific role.

Harriet shared some key things organisations should do to make this approach successful:

Find a balance – Like any change, hybrid working can come with unintended consequences. For example, the unconstrained nature of working any time in any location can lead to an “always on” culture where employees struggle to maintain boundaries between work and home life.

Make decisions together – Before you start redesigning the way your organisation works, you need to draw up some guiding principles. These should be co-created not just with managers, but with all employees. It is important to aim for a distributed accountability model.

Spend time understanding people and their jobs – It is rare that a single flexible working model will fit every job or individual in an organisation. For example, a job that requires regular in-person contact will need more office time than one that involves focused solo tasks. Spending time understanding people and how their jobs work is essential.

Design for tasks – Many organisations are already falling into the trap of mandating specific days when they want people to be in the office. For hybrid work to be truly productive, however, they should focus on the tasks people need to do and allow them to perform those tasks in the most productive space for them.

Ensure everyone takes part – Organisations must take care not to inadvertently create a divided culture where people who spend more time in the office are valued over those who spend less. Designing flexibility around people’s real working lives will help ensure that everyone feels they can work flexibly and those who spend more time working remotely don’t become invisible.

Prioritise fairness – We’ve identified three different types of fairness that are important for hybrid working: fair process, fair outcomes and fair interaction. This is vital in an environment where hybrid working will not look the same for everyone.

Finally, it is important to be patient. Organisations should expect to go through a number of hybrid work iterations over a period of up to 18 months before they find a hybrid model that works. Listening carefully to employees will ensure the adjustments you make along the way are fast and impactful.

Interested in learning more? Read the full Economist Impact report, featuring Harriet’s Q&A.