Hybrid Work Part 2: Do This, Don’t Do That

The Hybrid Work Series

In the Hybrid Work Part 1: Advantages and Challenges we considered research from Gallup and Steelcase and concluded the advantages for people and organizations far outweighed its challenges.

In this, the second instalment in our series on Hybrid Work, we consider what NY Times best-selling author and Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, Dan Schawbel, has to say about what organizations should do and not do in implementing hybrid work, as well as offer The Hive’s perspective on each of his recommendations.

In the third, and final instalment Hybrid Wok Part 3: Doing it Right – Strategic Considerations, we offer strategic considerations to doing it right.


As hybrid work becomes commonplace in both the private and public sectors, some truths have emerged on what to do and what not to do to make it smoother for both workers and their organizations. An Airpseed study says 2 out of 3 execs believe their workers will quit because they feel disconnected, and it’s the #1 reason workers say they’ll leave. Yet, the Steelcase and Gallup research suggest this is not the case.

In January 2001, a Steelcase research report on “Changing Expectations and the Future of Work”,  indicated 72% of organizations see themselves adopting a hybrid model of working post-pandemic. We suspect that number has moved upwards since then.

Hybrid is here to stay for the long-run. Hence, leaders and their organizations need to decide, not if they will accommodate, but how they can maximize its benefits and overcome its challenges.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Hybrid Work

In “8 Do’s and Don’ts for Hybrid Working”, NY Times best-selling author and Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, Dan Schawbel, offers four “don’t do this” and “do this” suggestions when considering instituting a hybrid work environment. As Schawbel tends to focus more on the things and tools of hybrid work rather than on people, we offer The Hive’s perspective on each of Schawbel’s do’s and don’ts from a people-first position:

  • Don’t let office workdays turn into a free-for-all where people must rush to find a workspace. On the days your people go to the office they don’t need the stress of competing for a place to sit to work or to collaborate/meet with their colleagues. You can’t simply downsize your space because there will be fewer people in the office on a regular basis without figuring out how much space will be needed. A rotating schedule does not mean it will sort itself out on its own. Schawbel suggests using tools to sort out space scheduling conflicts. We believe it’s not just a tool problem as was seen following the initial sigh of relief at the beginning of the pandemic when the connectivity issues were resolved; office workdays should also be the result collaborative decisions among the teams. While much of it was tool related, some work was not all that suited to work-from-home, and that being in meetings all day on Zoom to prove you are “at work” was not well received.
  • Do redesign the office for hybrid work: We’d suggest taking more of a discovery and collaborative approach by involving your people in figuring out what works for them and what does not, along with what they need and what will not help in terms of tools and accommodations. What may look good in a plan, may be disastrous in practice. It’s new to all – patience and collaboration will help to get it to work for most everyone.
  • Don’t expect fairness issues to just “work themselves out” and don’t tell people to come into the office more often if they feel left out. While having people in the same workplace is still seen as valuable (see our blog post “Hybrid Work Part 1: Advantages and Challenges”), making it such that it is the only option through coercion, or intentionally or unintentionally leaving them out of important work and decisions that affect them, is not a prudent approach. According to strategic partner and client, Andrew Down, a Director of Sales at Vendasta “It definitely takes effort on leadership to manage remote or hybrid.  You need to be mindful of your team at home and make sure not to just share information verbally with those in office”
  • Do focus on designing for collaboration and communication resulting in sustainable and inclusive decision making. It looks like hybrid is here to stay for a while. Look for ways people can elevate and address issues that impede its effectiveness and decrease their sense of belonging. While tools can help somewhat, we cannot forget people use tools to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency, not to address their humanness and connection to one another. Focus on people first, and tools second.
  • Don’t mislead employees about your hybrid work policy. This is as old as organizations, in the sense that there are a plethora of examples of people being told they are being hired to do a particular job, only to find out the “other duties” is most of the job. If the policy does not match the reality, you will get into trouble. Honesty, transparency, and follow-through are fundamental to building trust in all parts of our personal and professional lives. This is no different.
  • Do take a flexible approach and be open to evolving your policy. As everyone is learning the do’s and don’ts of hybrid work, organizations need to develop policies they mean to follow, and just as importantly, be willing to adapt as more evidence is gathered around their efficacy.

What can you do if Return-To-Office (RTO) is mandatory?

Thus far we have discussed Hybrid Work at high a level and what leaders can do to invite their people to help figure out how to implement it. When RTO is deemed mandatory, leaders have already decided they are unwilling to do that or that external factors have played a role, as can easily be the case in a public-sector setting.

According to Amanda Bernardo, a Transformation Leader in the Government of Canada, where they have been told RTO is mandatory, she is dealing with fallout of such a decision. Rather than adopt a “carry-on” mantra, Amanda has started to engage with her team to better understand their concerns around commute time, productivity, distractions, environment/office set-up, loss of flexibility – to name a few. Even when managers don’t get to set or influence the policy they can still engage their teams. When enough teams and their managers let their voices be heard, they stand a far better chance of communicating those concerns upward to influence course corrections.

Bernardo makes 4 recommendations for managers where they and their team had little influence over their organization’s hybrid work policy:

  1. Try to bring the change down to a team level. Communicate details of the change openly and often. Include desired results specific to your team and current information gaps.
  2. Gather their feedback, understand their pain points and work as a management team to address what you can.
  3. Be clear on what’s in your realm of influence and how what’s not is being briefed up (so feedback isn’t left unheard). E.g. we might not be able to change commute time, but maybe there’s an alternate office employees can use that is closer. Active listening here is key. If we aren’t showing how we’re listening and using said feedback or briefing up with it, employees may start to go quiet and this is where teams will start to see a lot of quiet quitting if not careful
  4. You can still be a champion for flexibility. Even with mandated days in office, flexibility should not suddenly disappear. There are moments that matter inside and outside the workplace, and as a manager you’ll need to help your employees navigate both.

She also noted in our follow-up conversation that not all managers are equipped to do this type of engagement with their teams, noting highly competent technical people will often take management positions in order to obtain higher salaries or other perks and, hence, are often not suited to the relationships aspect of being a manager. She suggests this is where leaders need to be cognizant of the capabilities of their management teams, and where technical people are in management roles, to become engaged themselves in leading the conversations in how RTO is rolled out and to actively seek out, listen, and validate the legitimate concerns of their employees. The Hive’s Strategic Diversity Analytics can help organizations identify and address these aspects of strategic vulnerability.

Even when it’s mandatory, helping employees understand why the RTO decision was made, can help it be rolled out in an empathetic manner.

Carol McEwan, while Managing Director of the ScrumAlliance, came at Hybrid Work arrangement from a different perspective. She says “it wasn’t until after we opened a brick-and-mortar that we discovered the challenges of Hybrid work.  We kind of did it backwards.  We did know that we would have a “Hybrid Environment” though, so we designed for it the best we could.  From a technology perspective with Huddle Rooms for team collaboration and such, but what we learned, was, that wasn’t enough. Your processes have to be designed for “Hybrid First” thinking.  You must design with collaboration and communication in mind if you want to have a sustainable and inclusive working system. 

Adds McEwan, “Fortunately for you readers, the good things we found in trying to get it right are covered well in your Hybrid Work series”

The Hive’s Perspective

  • Don’t offer tools without integration capabilities and don’t expect your employees to get up-to-speed right away. At the beginning of the pandemic when WFH was the only option, the rush to provide remote access so people could continue working was an obvious necessity. While it was fraught with challenges and in some cases, resulted in a few failures to launch, employees were mostly understanding due to the circumstances they all faced together. It’s now three years later, and that understanding is becoming frazzled as the other organizational issues that have always been there, not only have been exposed, but they are also being talked about openly like never before. There is no putting that genie back in the bottle.
  • Do invest in the right technologies: We are no longer at the beginning of the pandemic. Any new tools that are added to the mix to accommodate hybrid work, need to do just that, work, and work seamlessly with other tools in use, and more importantly, must accommodate the type of work being done, and accommodate the learning curve to adopt them into how people work. Involve employees and leaders alike in evaluating which tools to acquire/integrate. This is not the old way of doing procurement. Says Down, “For Hybrid, it is really important to ensure employees are enabled and set up to succeed at home (quality internet connection; monitor/keyboard/mouse) with all the necessary pieces of technology.

Schawbel, as we are at the Hive, is a strong advocate for hybrid working. We both recognize that getting this right will involve some trial and error. 

He suggests organizations making the best progress are those that are paying close attention to the latest research and observing what other companies are doing right (or wrong). In our experience, what works somewhere else, may not work for your organization. The opposite can also be true, what did not work elsewhere, may work very well for your organization.

Each organization, its context, and circumstances can be quite different from another organization, even in the same industry or a different part of government. It’s why we believe each organization and team will need to find its own way when it comes to developing its hybrid work policies and capabilities. We offer our strategic considerations for getting started in our final installment.

Noted leadership author and keynote speaker, Rod Collins suggests hybrid work arrangements will cause difficulties for people and organizations where innovation is a big part of what they do.  Collins says if you are going to manage a hybrid organization, you are going down the pathway of how you manage a network, not a hierarchy. He says all organizations are going to have to learn to become networks because of the emerging business landscape; it isn’t just because of COVID.

Collins says the essential difference between networks and hierarchies is how they leverage intelligence. He says if you leverage intelligence in a network versus a hierarchy, then a whole stream of things follows from that, not the least of which is undoing the traditional work model of compliance to rigid process and decision-making authorities. He points to serendipity, and emergence, as something technology companies who are known to be leading innovators have always understood. He adds you can only get serendipity if you’ve got people bumping into each other – either in the office or virtually. Collins views this as a key problem that must be solved for hybrid organizations. We discuss this problem in our last installment of the hybrid work series.

About The Hive Professional Network

At The Hive, we are committed to providing people and organizations with the insights, coaching, and mentoring they need to become who they are meant to be so they can realize their true potential in work and in life. To do this we are building an ecosystem for coaches and those seeking coaches to find their perfect match through our proprietary matching algorithm, unique platform, and strategic partnerships.

Find your Hive

Are you a Coach? Join The Hive and get set to take your coaching business to a whole new level in 2023 and beyond.

Are you looking for a Coach? Join The Hive to find a Coach to help you reach personal and professional objectives.


Larry Cooper is the Chief Strategy Officer and A/CTO at The Hive Professional Network.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: