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Leadership within hybrid work models

Based on a poll conducted at the beginning of 2022, Gallup anticipates that 53% of U.S. ‘remote-based’ employees will make use of a hybrid working model moving forward. Working from the office day in and day out is a thing of the past. Before COVID-19, most companies offered minimal flexibility for their employees in terms of working time and locations. Experts, businesses, and workers have spent the past two years introducing and encouraging the hybrid work model. As the pandemic restrictions have been slowly lifted, employees have been able to resume in-person work, however, many companies have chosen to use a hybrid set-up, involving a combination of in-person and remote working days.



Understanding a hybrid work model


A hybrid work model provides employees with the option to work from home or from wherever they feel that they can produce the greatest productivity. This provides employees with a great deal of flexibility as the workplace is not confined to the traditional four walls of a corporate office. A hybrid work model is an ecosystem of employees working from home, in co-working areas, or from the office.


Different types of hybrid set-ups


One of the appealing aspects of the hybrid work model are that you can decide how to implement it. The company leadership has the choice between a flexible, fixed, office-first, or remote-first hybrid model. A flexible hybrid model involves employees being provided with a choice to choose their location and hours based on what their day looks like. Cisco is a company that has been using this model, whereby for instance if an employee feels that they would be more productive for a project working alone, they can work from a coffee shop. When the company allocates days and times that employees are allowed to work from the office and remotely, it is a fixed hybrid model. An office-first hybrid model necessitates that employees are on-site but are allowed to choose a few days per week to work remotely. Google plans to implement this model. A remote-first hybrid model is an opposite.


How leadership has changed with the introduction of hybrid work models?


To effectively manage teams that are working remotely or using a hybrid model approach, leaders are required to leverage leadership to allow relationships to impact and get over virtual obstacles. Leaders also need to continue flexing their mindset and remaining open to the dynamic work world. Emotional intelligence is key when it comes to hybrid working. Leaders of hybrid workplaces need to be in tune with their emotional intelligence and self-development. Hybrid leadership needs to be built on self-awareness and adaptability for creating the right work culture and making the correct decisions. Owing to the decrease in visibility with the hybrid model, leaders need to ensure that they are implementing a fully dilated management process, improving the trust level within the company. Social and emotional elements such as stories and narratives, symbols and elements of design, and metaphors can be utilised to create trust.


The development of tailor-made performance boosters will allow for the team to determine ways that maximise performance and for the leader to determine conditions that the team requires to be the most effective. Protocols can then be generated to enhance these conditions in the office and remotely. An effective time-management system must be developed. After receiving feedback regarding what is most effective, inventories should have been created around what works best remotely versus in person. Time then needs to be allocated accordingly.


It is beneficial to create a schedule that is optimised for the work requirements while creating a sense of habit and consistency. Hybrid strategies vary according to the company and the leader. Leaders need to establish what type of work will be done on-site, and what type of work can be done off-site. It is also essential that leaders are realistic when making these types of decisions. Input can be gained from the team regarding their perspectives by asking questions such as “what do you feel is most appropriate or useful?”. It is essential to realise that there is no ‘one size fits all approach to hybrid working as every organisation is different. Creating experiences that are rich and connected can impact the hybrid organisation significantly.