Jan 17, 2023

For your Return to the Office, one size does not fit all

How a nuanced approach can provide more flexibility, connection, and fulfillment.

Returning to the office.” We hear it all the time. While there have been many starts and pauses, along with rollouts and roll backs over the past three years, it feels like “the return” is finally here. Especially with large Bay Area tech companies implementing and enforcing hybrid policies that require employees to work in their physical offices a few days out of the week.

Understandably this causes a mix of anxiety and, perhaps in many cases, relief among employees who either love working from home or those who miss the comradery of good old-fashioned human interactions. Responses from our team members ran the gamut during our Living Lab surveys.

What both sides of the ongoing debate fail to capture, however, is that getting employees into the workplace isn’t a one-sized-fits all endeavor. Companies looking to build and enforce these policies successfully should do so with nuanced, case-by-case strategies that accommodate matrixed teams and can easily be adopted by employees.

Disparate teams call for nuanced measures.

Zoom in to any organization and you won’t find a single entity working lockstep in the same way. As the name implies, organizations are made of many interconnected teams. And these teams don’t all work in similar styles. Groups, divisions, and departments have unique needs, specialized habits and rituals. Think about an engineering team versus a sales team. The way each operates and functions couldn’t be more different. How about marketing and R&D? Their needs for in-person collaboration, access to tools, and security requirements might be on completely opposite ends of the hybrid spectrum. Forcing these departments to work using the same policy can doom a hybrid strategy before it has a chance to take off.

Any effective hybrid strategy must account for the different ways all teams communicate, coordinate, and problem solve. That means building in flexibility and empowering teams to decide when and how they “show up” at work. In other words, organizations should consider letting teams define their own working hours, locations, and communications preferences on an individual level by division or department.

All for one. Adaptable for many.
For organizations looking to build long-term hybrid policies, the task is to understand how different teams come together to work and share a common purpose. These ideas can help.

A nuanced approach is the best approach.

A nuanced return doesn’t mean intricate or overly complex. It does imply a thoughtful approach that gives employees a flexible framework that will accommodate varying work models and cross-team connection. After all, if the pandemic has taught us anything, flexibility and empowerment are what employees value most. Organizations who can deliver hybrid models to help employees and teams feel connected, productive as well as empowered, will ensure more productivity and a deeper, more aligned culture.

For more insights from our Living Lab, follow One Workplace on LinkedIn and see the research overview here.