How to Address Hybrid Work Procrastination (Video & Podcast)

7 min read

Manager perceptions of hybrid employee procrastination come from coordination problems, which are the responsibility of the manager to fix, and involve learning the skills of managing an increasingly-hybrid workforce. That’s the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes how to address hybrid work procrastination.

Video: “How to Address Hybrid Work Procrastination”

Podcast: “How to Address Hybrid Work Procrastination”

Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the wisest decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. My name is Dr. Gleb Tsipursky. I’m the CEO of disaster avoidance experts, the future of work consultancy that sponsors the wise decision maker show. And today we’ll talk about how to address the procrastination of hybrid and remote workers. Let’s talk about that. Now, managers I’ve heard time and time again, when I run focus groups for clients, managers complaining about those who work in the hybrid or remote mode, missing deadlines, and having delays on tasks. And research by Microsoft shows that 85% plus of leaders find it challenging to have confidence in the productivity of employees when they work remotely, whether full time remote workers, or hybrid employees when they work remotely. So tight labor markets, still have tight labor markets. And they can make managers resentful of employee flexibility. And so companies driven by these managers are concerned about deadlines and procrastination trying to get employees back to the office. They must have it the week or even all of the week. There’s more and more drive to get employees in for four days, five days a week. Now, is this really procrastination by employees who just sit at home and watch TV and don’t actually do their work? Or is it something else? In my experience, it’s something else : poor coordination. So hybrid workers are actually no more productive than office workers. It’s very clear to see that extensive research shows that people who work in a hybrid mode are more productive. But they complete tasks often actually later than managers prefer, even though they’re overall productive. Because they are Miss coordinated. The issue is not procrastination, but poor coordination. Overall, they’re more productive, but they might not work on the tasks that are most important to the manager at the moment. And that’s not the fault of the employee. That’s the fault of the manager. The manager is responsible for setting up a coordination system that will make sure that your staff members or team members are working on the most important tasks. Now in office centric work coordination is much easier. Managers coordinate teams naturally, intuitively, they’ve been taught to coordinate and manage by walking around. They have brief chats with employees who provide task updates. And so managers can adjust their internal anxiety and gain confidence and progress and realign tasks if they’re not aligned with Team objectives. So these misalignments can be quickly addressed. Adapting to changing priorities is another key thing, because plans often change quickly. That’s the reality of modern businesses. So managers know pretty quickly and easily how to reprioritize activities. When they’re in the office and their staff are in the office. They simply walk to their team members, and have a chat about reprioritization. But it’s harder to do so in remote work when hybrid employees are working remotely. So Microsoft Research shows that managers can’t visually they can’t see activity in the hybrid workplace. So they can’t see who’s hard at work by walking around, they can’t know who they can pull over to chat to and coordinate with and re-coordinate with. So they can easily align and realign and reassign tasks through in person conversations. And they don’t know where their human resources are deployed. And creating this cohesive team culture and knowledge is pretty challenging, because that’s a difficult thing to do when employees aren’t physically present with each other. And you don’t know the tactics of doing so in a hybrid modality. So this is the challenge of coordinating and hybrid work. Ey had a survey called Work reimagined, which found that 79% of employers actively promote hybrid work to retain and attract talent, so at least some of their employees are working in a hybrid modality 79% of employers, but managers don’t actually receive training in hybrid work. That’s very sad and even tragic. This lack of tragedy leads to using outdated strategies like trying to manage by walking around recreating this management by walking around in the remote environment. And that just doesn’t work. Well, it doesn’t work in the hybrid workplace to try to email people and get their check ins. So the challenge of managing priorities and hybrid work is managers don’t have the training to evaluate the performance of hybrid workers and they don’t know how to set up systems to reprioritize tasks effectively, and to see when and how and what their team members are doing. So they’re trying to reinvent the wheel on the fly and often doing New methods don’t really work well, because they’re not using best practices. Microsoft Research shows that 81% of employees actually want help prioritizing their workload. But only 31% say that they get clear guidance during their one-on-one on what they should be doing. So that’s not great. So there’s a need for intentional coordination hybrid teams much more so than the natural and intuitive way, gut reaction way. That’s something that’s comfortable that managers are comfortable with, from office centric work. So a Sherm survey found that 42% of supervisors forget about remote workers when assigning tasks, that’s obviously a problem. So managers must learn deliberate skills systems and processes to coordinate their hybrid teams effectively. But there is a reluctance to learn about how to do hybrid work arrangements Well, due to cognitive bias called functional fixedness. functional fixedness refers to something that’s a fixed perception of a correct way to function. It’s kind of like the hammer nail syndrome. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when you learn one way of functioning like leading a team, coordinating a team, managing a team, and prioritizing tasks, you tend to apply that to all other contexts. Even when something that was functional in a previous context becomes dysfunctional in the new context, you still have that functional fixedness managers still have it functional fixedness. So old ways of functioning are difficult to change that really impedes their ability to adapt to managing and coordinating teams and remote settings. So managers are trying to shoehorn office centric methods into hybrid work. And that’s a great effective project management and hybrid teams means accepting that all the ways won’t work. And using a good collaborative project management tool to actually track employee progress on any tasks. Employees should update their progress daily and what they’ve done that allows for easy checking of current task status by their manager. And it helps replicate the managers ability to quickly assess progress even more so than they would by walking around previously, because they can just glance at their computer screen. And then they can check with the employee if they want a current time update. That helps them gain confidence and reduce anxiety and ensure alignment and revise misaligned tasks. As part of this, you want to set the communication guidelines. This is important for solving that coordination problem, where tasks and priorities suddenly change. So managers complain about late communication from hybrid employees. I’ve seen this time and time again, they need to set reasonable and clear expectations about communication. For example, you want to set a specific timeframe for common hours. And that depends on your company. But something I typically do with clients is 11am to 3pm in their timezone. And that will be adjusted depending on how large the company is, and where other time zones for the company are located. So for example, if this is a company that has employees, both in the Eastern and the Pacific central mountain time zone, you might want to set different time requirements. So instead of 11am to 3pm, it might be 12 to 4pm. Eastern, for example, which will capture at 9am Pacific, and that will go until 1pm, Pacific, and we’ll go from 12am, Eastern to 4pm. Eastern, so that’s fine for everyone. And again, it depends if you have European time, and you want to capture some of that. So that’s going to be an eight hour difference. So you’ll want to capture the four to 5pm time slot in that time slot, you might make it something like one to 5pm like that a common time slot. And that should allow flexibility of your work time as well. So that means there’s gonna be some morning birds some night owls keep that in mind when you’re setting time zone differences, that it’s not going to be something that’s going to be especially stressful for people who are morning birds who like to wake up in the morning and they don’t function as well, in the late evening, night owls who like to wake up late on function so well, in the end, they function really well in the late evening, but they don’t function so well in the morning. And there are some people who might want to take some time off during the day for caretaker, do his chores, etc. I see a lot of working parents ticking you off, going like an hour around the 3pm time slot to pick up their kids, especially working moms. So it depends on whatever their needs are. So keep that in mind when setting those common times. So during common hours, what those are about is that employees have to check messages regularly. They could decide every 15 minutes, 30 minutes and so on. And they respond right away when they see the message at least with a confirmation of received and when you’ll follow up. So one of the benefits of these coming hours. It helps facilitate quick and easy collaboration. It keeps teams on the same page and helps you reprioritize quickly as needed. It’s very effective for projects with tight deadlines. So that is a really good strategy for you to pursue those common hours. Now, another thing that you want to be thinking about is regular one on one meetings for performance assessment with your manager. So managers who set up team with each of their team members, one on one weekly meetings, weekly, bi weekly depending on the team depends on how closely coordinated and how much collaboration you need. Employees before the meeting send a brief report of their three to five top goals for the week, what they did in these goals, their tasks, any issues they faced and a self evaluation. And together, you review the progress report with every team member. So the manager and the team member review the progress report or the weekly one on one meeting, and the determined tasks for the coming week. So for the three to five key tasks, the manager should provide some coaching and problem solving for the issues, if any is needed, and review self evaluation, approve it or revise it. And the result should be recorded in a permanent and continuous performance evaluation. So this is going to really help you coordinate with your employees and help you see that performance over time. Okay, so let’s review hybrid employee procrastination and managerial responsibilities. coordination problems are what really causes manager perceptions of hybrid employee procrastination. And that the responsibility of the manager to fix management by walking around is not enough for success. Managers must learn the skills to manage an increasingly hybrid workforce. And the skills involved there involve deliberate and intentional coordination for using tools like project management collaboration software that might include things like Trello, Microsoft Teams, Asana, Monday’s any core project management coordination software, set clear and reasonable communication expectations and conduct regular one on one meetings with team members. All right, so that’s how you should address hybrid work procrastination. Please make sure to subscribe wherever you checked out this episode of the wise decision maker show and make sure to leave a review. It really helps others discover the show and it helps us improve the show. All right, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this show of the wild, this episode of the wise decision maker show and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode. In the meantime, the wisest and most profitable decisions to you my friends. 

Transcribed by

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. 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