Hybrid work culture is often challenging, even for leaders who are committed to diversity and inclusion. When speaking to the leaders in a hybrid environment, leaders need to balance allowing employees the flexibility to work when and where desired vs. expecting their constant availability, worrying about employees feeling isolated vs. invaded if they work remotely, and choosing which actions will be allowed in a hybrid workplace vs. rewarding others.
Three Tensions Leaders Need to Manage in a Hybrid Workplace
As a hybrid workforce transitions from a temporary, pandemic-era fix to the norm, many leaders and employees are wondering how they can build an inclusive culture. Though previously undisclosed inequalities have been made clear by the pandemic, there is an opportunity for “building back better” for all types of workers through policies or benefits that work for every type of employee. However, because this approach isn’t one size fits all, it is often difficult to know where to start.
Some tensions leaders need to manage in a hybrid workplace are deciding between allowing employees to work when they want and expecting them to be always available. Then, knowing whether or not their staff is feeling isolated or invaded by communication technologies and figuring out what practices will work for a hybrid work environment. Meanwhile, the major tension is related to the practices that are possible in a hybrid workplace.
1. Working Anytime vs. Working All the Time
Leaders need to manage three tensions in a hybrid workplace. The first tension is between giving individuals the chance to work when they choose and imposing expectations that never leave an individual with too much time during the day (especially for those who are primary caregivers for family members). As leaders, you need to manage expectations of constant availability in a hybrid workplace by giving your team a balance of flexibility and clear guidelines.
There are two ways to manage tensions in an ever-increasingly hybrid workforce. A new way to set boundaries for after-work communication, and for employees not on a standard workday, it is important to model adherence to the rules by reminding them of their working hours and from when they should respond.
The Boston Consulting Group found that their employees reported significantly greater job satisfaction and the likelihood of long-term career at the company if they were allowed to take pre-planned days and nights off.
2. Isolation vs. Invasion
As the popularity of remote work continues to rise, the interactions between these two identities must be managed. Leaders in hybrid workplaces have the task of balancing an employee's need for safe public connections at work and private connections for themselves.
As is common in a hybrid workplace, leaders often feel isolation, social pressure, and emotional exhaustion. To combat this uncommon workload, organizations need to institute weekly "social time," either a twenty-minute discussion window on a personal prompt like the best birthday memory or favorite movie. Even brief moments of connection can help with emotions and prevent burnout.
Effective leading in a hybrid enterprise environment requires toggling between three tensions: how to give employees privacy and sustainable video-conferencing fatigue, what records are being captured, and who may hold and view the records. Inviting employees not to partake in meetings or conferences provides a balance of peace between those who desire privacy and those with dual employment needs. Creating background images while using Zoom proactively affiliates the company under a specific branded visual scheme.
3. Possible vs. Preferred
One tension leaders at a hybrid workplace have to confront is balancing what is possible from what is best. Multiple studies show that flexible hours allow mothers, in particular, to stay in demanding professions when they have children or find new jobs without violating their commitment to their child.
In his article on Buffer, Jamie Stanley talks about three tensions leaders need to manage in a hybrid workplace. While the future workplace may offer flexible work arrangements such as flexible work hours and flexible working locations, some workers are still penalized when they take advantage of these arrangements because constant availability and in-person work are still preferred by many. This creates a flexibility bias, where workers who choose flexible work arrangements are often stereotyped as less committed and not worthy of rewards.
The Right Balance
With changing workforce arrangements come three tensions to manage: whether or not to offer a variety of work styles, how to navigate within a traditionally non-family supporting company, and the difficult balance between caregiving even for people without families.
Leaders of hybrid workplaces now need to manage several tensions in addition to the pressures they are already under. Flexible work arrangements, commendations, and a change in norms can address these conflicts so that leaders can continue to meet their targets while addressing the needs of those who are struggling.
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