Why Should a Hybrid Employee Come to the Office? (Video & Podcast)

7 min read

Minimize hybrid employee time commuting by asking them to come in only for high-value face-to-face activities, such as intense collaboration, challenging conversations, cultivating belonging, and building weak connections. That’s the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes why hybrid employees should come to the office.

Video: “Why Should a Hybrid Employee Come to the Office?”

Podcast: “Why Should a Hybrid Employee Come to the Office?”

Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. My name is Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, and I’m the CEO of disaster avoidance experts, the future of work consultancy that sponsors the wise decision makers show. And today I’d like to share with you about why should a hybrid employee ever come to the office at all? That’s a question I get asked a lot by employees, especially in focus groups in hybrid workplaces, but also leaders who want to figure out well, what are the good reasons for my employees to come to the office because the commute is something that people really hate. People who work in offices overwhelmingly don’t dislike the office, they dislike commuting to the office. It’s understandable that it takes over an hour a day on average. And that’s just one way, it costs many 1000s of dollars per year in gas, car, wear and tear. You need to have your office lunch in to put on a fan and see nice clothing, and get them dry cleaned and so on. It’s not fun. Longer commuting times are especially clearly correlated with worse job satisfaction, increased stress and poor mental health. Because the commute itself, it’s not simply the money. But it’s also the stress, the labor of the commute, it’s really stressful to drive and have people honking at you worrying about getting killed. It’s the time of the day, when the large majority of us are most likely to get killed or get into a serious injury, accident situation. Not a great time. So people want to avoid the commute, it’s understandable. So you want to convey to your hybrid workers that you are trying to minimize their commuting time. That’s crucial for having really successful hybrid work arrangements. So use the data that I’ll talk about here to make good decisions about the best ROI return on investment, for coming to the office for an office work, and focus on high impact collaborative tasks, for getting people into the office. So making the commute to the office worth the commute, you don’t want people to come to the office to do the same things that they will be doing at home, or to come into the office and do things that they feel are not worthwhile done in the office. You want to communicate the value of coming to the office and you want to get activities bunched up together as much as possible for those face to face time to develop a communication strategy to show your hybrid employees why they should come to the office. So it should get there by it. So convey that you have a commitment to actually minimizing the amount of time that they’re commuting. That’s what you really want to convey so that they trust you and they see that you care about them. So you want to get the activities that require face to face presence that are done best on face to face together on as few days as possible. So doing so will help improve employee engagement and retention and reduce burnout. Let’s talk about individual tasks. Majority of the time or employees is spent on individual tasks, let’s be honest about that. Let’s not get ourselves thinking that employees should come to the office and work on their computers on their individual tasks. The large majority of people would much rather do that at home, they’re best done at home for higher productivity focused individual work. I can’t tell you how many people tell me that, hey, my bosses are returning to the office, and they find them really distracted doing my individual work in the office. What’s up with that? Well, it’s understandable, you’re not distracted by others who are in the office. This is a problem where leaders say, Well, you should come to the office three days a week. But really what people come to the office and they work on their individual tasks. That’s a very unproductive use of their time. But also your asynchronous communication collaboration. There is no need for you to come to the office to work on emails to work on Slack messages, Microsoft team messages to work on Google Docs if you use Google Docs or Microsoft docs if you use those, which you collaborate on with other people. So you don’t need to do that. You don’t need to come into the office to do video meetings to do phone calls. You’re distracting others and they’re distracted by you, especially in those big open offices. But even cubicles, not a good use of your time and space. The office is very important for certain things for high impact, lower duration activities, that are about collaboration and face to face interaction. So what the office is for is for face to face collaboration, interactions. That’s the main use of the office. Now, some people who don’t have very good workspaces at home or who have difficulty With work life balance separation, they will still, of course, use the office to work on their individual tasks and emails, that’s fine, they should be able to do so. And you should provide them with the ability to do so. But you shouldn’t force people to come into the office to do those things. Because the large majority of people find that doing these tasks at home was more productive, and they hate coming to the office, and then actually suffering the indignities and strain and labor, wastefulness money, and so on of the commute, and then do the same thing that they would do at home with working in their individual tasks. Let’s talk about the things that are best done in the office. intense collaboration is clearly best done in the office. So teams come together in person to solve problems, make decisions aligned and strategy developed plans, build consensus around the ideas of perhaps they brainstorm remotely, or maybe they do some brainstorming in the office. So face to face interactions are really good. They allow for you to observe other people’s body language, and pick up on those subtle cues about what’s important to people. So that’s really good. This is a good place for empathy in person interactions, these intense collaborations. They facilitate empathy, they build mutual trust and connection, it helps maintain strong team bonds. So that is really valuable for our team. Also, the office just provides a good setting for it because there’s meeting rooms with whiteboards and other tools. It provides a good mental context for employees for collaboration, where that is not the kind of thing that they’re used to doing in their personal home offices. So it helps them be more cooperative, more inventive, if they’re in that mental context. Okay, second thing. So that’s one, challenging conversations, conversations that are somewhat more intense than the kind of conversations that are good to do in videoconference meetings face to face as best for emotional or conflictual situations. So for example, performance evaluation conversations like one on one weekly meetings with your team lead, human resource concerns, conflict started remotely and couldn’t be resolved. Maybe if a leader is trying to convey strategy to their team. Those are the kinds of conversations that are good to have in the office. Next, cultivating team belonging for socializing, Team belonging, organizational culture, when we connect to other people, large majority of us prefer in person connections that offers a deeper group belonging not for everyone, but for the large majority of us virtual events, you can do those and plenty of my clients have succeeded in doing those, they can be fun, but for most people, it’s easier and more effective to connect in person. So in person activities, help groups cohere together. And that’s very valuable. As a case study, let me share with you an example of my client, the University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute. So this is a 400 people, AI and cybersecurity and other Information Sciences Institute, that organized retreats at the group and division levels, and social events for the whole organization, which helped facilitate a sense of belonging and connection, so that was very useful for them. Now, you’ll also want to think about in depth training taking place in person, professional development has been shown to be very valuable for retaining your employees. And online education is sufficient for most of these sorts of things, remote education, asynchronous or synchronous, webinars and so on. But face to face interactions are best for more in depth, longer training, more intense training, where you want people to collaborate together, because trainers can read body language and adjust that approach. And trainees can interact with other trainees more naturally in and in a breakout room that helps build trust and improves learning retention. There are also some physical prompts and customized spaces, which help learners engage with materials. That mentoring and related things like leadership development in the job training office is really valuable for such informal professional development, where mentors and supervisors can provide quick feedback. So mentors for mentees for on the job training supervisors, senior colleagues, it’s difficult to do so remote settings, it’s certainly doable, but it’s more difficult in person allows for real time question answers, which is really helpful. It’s also easier to navigate emotions and egos. So mentors and mentees need to develop relationships that are based on trust for mentees to reveal their weaknesses and the vulnerable and that in person setting really helps cultivate such trust. There’s also research that there’s decreasing cross functional weak connections when people are working remotely. For example, there was a 17% decrease in connections made by new hires during the pandemic remote workers Built actually closer intra team ties so within their team, but weaker inter team ties, so those weak ties between teams deteriorated, the loss of such weak ties can be a problem, because many innovative ideas come from cross functional inter team collaboration between different teams. So cross functional collaborations, spontaneous interactions, can help facilitate such cross functional connections. So those spontaneous interactions are easier in person. Of course, they’re doable. You can do these spontaneous interactions virtually, but they’re easier. They can drive innovation, they can develop those weak ties, so replicating them remotely is difficult. Of course, there are fully remote organizations and I worked with them that did so and I helped facilitate those. But it is difficult, it requires more effort and intentionality. In the office, definitely, it’s going to be easy. It’s a natural setting for such interactions, and there are benefits. Now, an optimal schedule. Surveys show that one day a week is an optimal balance of connection and job satisfaction. For most companies. It reduces burnout, it improves retention and engagement. Two days a week is going to be better for junior staff and people in leadership roles. Junior staff gain integration into the company into the team and mentoring and leaders help provide oversight and coaching coordination collaboration. So you want to develop an environment with a clear hybrid work policy with clear communication. You want to explain your approach, get feedback and make tweaks over time and that will help you get employee buy-in on this hybrid work policy. Alright everyone, I hope you found this episode of the wise decision maker show on the Why should a hybrid employee come to the office. Please make sure to subscribe wherever you check out the show whether the podcast form or video cast, and please leave a review. It really helps us improve the show and helps others discover the show. Alright everyone, I look forward to seeing you next episode of the wise decision maker show. And in the meantime, the wisest and most profitable decisions to you my friends. 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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 https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.