Google’s Myth of Losing Social Capital in Hybrid Work (Video & Podcast)

7 min read

Companies can effectively retain social capital in the hybrid and remote work environment by applying hybrid work best practices, such as the virtual watercooler and virtual coworking. That’s the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes Google’s myth of losing social capital in hybrid work.

Video: “Google’s Myth of Losing Social Capital in Hybrid Work”



Podcast: “Google’s Myth of Losing Social Capital in Hybrid Work”



Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision makers show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. And today we’ll talk about the wisest and most profitable decisions about preserving and cultivating social capital. In hybrid work. Hybrid work refers to both remote work that’s full time, so not a traditional office centric model. Or maybe people coming in one day a week, two days a week, flexibly, the key focus is on flexibility. With a hybrid first model, where teams, not the top level management, decide what works best for each team. And then again, that might be fully remote. That might be one day a week, that might be two days a week, it all depends on the amount of collaboration with teams do, we have extensive research showing that people are most productive in their tasks at home, something like 9%, on average, higher productivity, when they work at home, especially in your individual tasks, you get even more than 9% productivity in your individual tasks. Collaborative tasks are more of a wash. For some people that is better than the office for some at home. Some types of collaborative tasks are better than the office, sometimes they are at home. So the only reason for people to come into the office is for people to do collaborative tasks. And again, that depends on the team, and then depends on the person. Some people if they have a really problematic home environment that’s not conducive to work at home, then of course, they should come into the office. But there are so many leaders who are pushing for mandatory office work with a lot of IT office centric schedules, for example, Google is demanding at least free office days. That’s a pretty office centric schedule, you can’t really call that effectively hybrid work. That’s office centric schedule, that’s a top down inflexible model, Apple is pushing for the same thing. And in fact, for Google, there’s the former HR head of Google says that just the three days a week that’s a transitional model, the Google leadership intends to get everyone back into the office full time, because they want to be an office centric company spoke positively for the reason of preserving social capital, despite many, many employees being in that position. They know that over the years of the pandemic, but they were successful working remotely, they can do their job remotely. And they don’t want to take the incredible hassle and stress of going into the office. And having the rush time of the commute. That is pretty stressful, and takes a lot of time away from your day, and adds a lot of stress. And not to mention the environmental impact. So a lot of employees are threatening to leave. And some have already left. Because of Google’s mandates. Google claims that it wants to preserve social capital, the connection between people that trust, which of course, doesn’t sound very trusting if you’re forcing people to come to the office, and then they don’t like it. And that counters the idea of preserving social capital where people are threatening to leave a number. So that is a challenge. And that’s an obvious issue for leaders who want connections between people. Because people think that hybrid work undermines social capital and undermines those connections and trust that those connections and trust are built by people seeing each other face to face in the office, those spontaneous Hallway Conversations, those interactions with your teammates, and colleagues. That’s what builds social connections and trust and bonding. However, there are a number of companies, a number of progressive companies that have figured out how to build social capital in the hybrid worker, a number of them are my clients, for example, applying Applied Materials, a high tech manufacturing company, in the Fortune 200 company in the semiconductor business. So it really figured out well how to cultivate social capital and hybrid work or the Information Sciences Institute, which is a High Tech Research Institute with 300 ish staff, and a number of other clients that I have like Nationwide Insurance, they figured out how to build social capital into hybrid work, not by using traditional methodology, but by using innovative methods, best practices, best known methods because, also known as for hybrid work, so that is where we’re coming from, but a number of leaders, they really don’t want to hear this. They don’t like this idea. They think that there’s only one way to collaborate together. And that all stems from cognitive biases, which are mental blind spots that cause poor decision making in all areas of life, including on returning to the office, including on future work arrangements, hybrid work and so on. In order to address them, you need to not trust your intuitions, your intuitions are based on many, many decades of working in the office. That’s what the norms are. That’s all our intuitions tell us is the right thing to do. We can trust them, we can’t rely on them. So you need to rely on research based best practices instead of your intuition that other companies will work for you. And me, even though many people don’t believe it, you need to not trust your intuition. So you need to adopt best practices. And you’ll find out that you’ll get the social connections you want, the engagement you want, the retention you want, and the productivity you want. And so that hybrid first work culture is what you really need to adapt. Now the specific cognitive biases involved here, there are two cognitive biases I want to talk about. One is called functional fixedness, functional fixedness. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when we perceive that there is one way of functioning, collaborating together with teams, building those social connections that cultivate social capital, we tend to function that way. And we don’t think about other methods of building social capital or collaborating effectively, even when new situations like this major disruption caused by the pandemic call for different approaches. A problem with companies, organizations leaders adopting new approaches is called the not invented here syndrome, not invented here syndrome. It’s about the fact that when you have a best practice that’s not invented here, many people don’t want to hear about it. They think, well, it’s not invented here. Therefore, I’m going to apply here, it’s something different. It’s not applicable, that is a big problem. Because best practices, people are people everywhere, best practices, developed elsewhere, that do build social capital and productivity, they can be adopted in your company, and you want to try them out and adapt them to your needs. Rather than saying, well, it’ll never work here. There are two major ways of building social capital that I want to talk about. One is about collaborating together, kind of like you would in the shared cubicle space. Another is for social bonding, something you can use to replace things like happy hours, zoom, happy hours, don’t to do it. Although I will not talk about that. That’s not the technique. But first collaborating together. Virtual code is a technique I want to share about that, again, replicates the shared cubicle space experience, what happens is that the entire team, every day that you’re not in the office, you want to start this by trying it once a week, and then building it up to everyday that you’re not coming into the office. So a hybrid team that goes into the office one day a week, will eventually be doing this four days a week. So for about an hour or two, if it works for you, but at least an hour, each team goes on a live video conference call. And so you want to share that quality, you’ll be working on your individual tasks. At the beginning of the call, you share what tasks you plan to work on. And then you work on your individual tasks, you turn off your microphones, you leave your speakers on video is optional. I recommend teams try it with video. And then if folks aren’t comfortable, then you switch to audio only or some people can keep their video on. But it is helpful I find to have video on to see other people working, it’s good. Now, the cool thing about this technique, the crucial thing about it is that you can turn your microphone on and ask questions when you have issues. And that’s great for junior staff members to get on the job training and integration routine and what’s on the job training. Right. That’s something that many people have been missing. In the pandemic on the job training is simply getting your questions answered quickly. getting your questions answered quickly in the moment by your teammates. And that’s great, um, this way with virtual coworking, you have a question you can get answered right away by a teammate, and they can even show you how to do it virtually with screen sharing. That’s great. So something in the computer, that’s easy enough, right? So this is a great technique for junior staff members especially. And it can help your whole team to work on problem solving together. So if you can’t answer if one person can’t answer the question, other people can jump in and problem solve together. It’s a very good technique. At the end of the time, everyone shares what they accomplished, and you go off the call. This is very helpful for getting your mobile yourself motivated as well because you know that you’re working alongside your teammates on a variety of tasks. People have found that highly motivated. Likes team bonding, again, Zoom happy hours have been shown to not work if you don’t want to do that. There’s much more effective techniques that are native to actual Leave virtual interactions to remote interactions that work very well for building team bonds. And the virtual water cooler is one such highly effective technique. It replicates bonding around the water cooler in the break room. And what I am involved in is a daily update. So you form a digital space for personal conversations, for example, a Slack channel or a Microsoft team’s channel or a Trello card. And then you want to start each day by sharing a personal life update. So how’s your life going? What’s up with you? How are you feeling? What are you going to focus on that day, and then you respond to three other team members’ updates about what’s going on with you. And you can have the same prompt and recommend working with the same prompt. And you want to have a fun part of the problem too, by saying, what’s the fact about the world or yourself that other people don’t know, some people like to invent their own prompts, which is also fine, and have different prompts for different days. And then you want to respond to three other team members’ updates. So that’s important as well, that really boosts team collaboration and belonging helps people band together. So create so that personal life, knowing each other as a human being social capital aspects. Now, all of this shows that hybrid and remote work can really boost social capital. Organizations like Google and Apple only lose social capital when they try to shoehorn hybrid and remote work into traditional office centric methods of collaboration, which is what unfortunately, too many companies are doing. And they are not adopting best practices for hybrid remote work. And so leaders end up blaming hybrid work for the loss of social capital and saying, well, we need to go back to the office because we’re losing social capital, instead of figuring out actual best practices for doing hybrid work. Alright, everyone, this has been another episode of the wise decision maker show. My name is Dr. Gleb Zipursky. I’m the CEO of disaster avoidance experts. And I hope you will subscribe to the show if you haven’t yet. And please review it wherever you hear it. We have a video of the podcast, so if it’s on YouTube, iTunes, check it out, and the show notes contain much more information about this episode. I hope to see you on the next episode of the wise decision maker show. And in the meantime, the wisest and most profitable decisions to you, my friends. 


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Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps tech and insurance executives drive collaboration, innovation, and retention in hybrid work. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, which helps organizations adopt a hybrid-first culture, instead of incrementally improving on the traditional office-centric culture. A best-selling author of 7 books, he is especially well-known for his global best-sellers Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019) and The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020). His newest book is Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in prominent venues. They include Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Inc. Magazine, CBS News, Time, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fast Company, USA Today, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for mid-size and large organizations ranging from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from his research background as a cognitive scientist. After spending 8 years getting a PhD and lecturing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he served for 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University’s Decision Sciences Collaborative and History Department. He lives in Columbus, Ohio (Go Bucks!) and in his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at