Hybrid remote work is challenging, because it can be the worst of both worlds. Remote work isn't about where you are, it is about how you work


Remote work isn't about where you are, it is about how you work

Hybrid remote work, where you got into the office 1+ days, and work from home 1+ days a week, will increase over the next few months. There is a huge disconnect between what most companies think is about to happen and what many employees expect. Many companies will lose good people because they want to get back to normal, but some of their best people have found a new normal that allows them to be just as productive and have greater margin in their life.

Hybrid remote setups can work, but only if you fully support a remote work manner. To have effective remote work, you have to work async, write everything down, and meet only when needed. In-person time, however rare, needs to be spent building relationships and major coordination activities. Activities should be either rapid, aggressive collaboration or quiet, flexible concentration. A well-run remote team speaks deeply in-often and works the rest of the time deeply. A remote organization needs to focus on work output and not work appearance.

Working in an office 2 days a week doesn't necessarily jive with this in a few ways:

  1. If you genuinely understand async, then being in an office in general forces sync behavior which might not be how most people work. Work best in the morning? Well, one of your best hours is going to be spent getting ready, in the car, and then getting settled.
  2. Being in-office means you have in-office traditional herd behavior like more meetings and people thinking about what they look like as they work rather than how much work they are getting done.
  3. If in-person time is best spent establishing relationships, then employees sitting around chatting will be interpreted as employees slacking off.

So if you are an organization, this boils down to the following equation:

  • If you force people to go back into an office too many days a week, you will lose a few people to companies that are 100% remote-friendly.
  • If you want to be a remote company, you must be OK with the office days being a bunch of people working on their computers without many meetings, but more small talk and laughing.
  • Your leadership and management staff need to adjust their behavior to work with async, written communication, and tracking output rather than hours.

The alternative is that you default back to old behavior:

  • A full return to the office, which means you will lose a greater number of people.
  • A return to a more manager-friendly environment for managers that haven't worked remotely.
  • A more significant amount of long-term attrition as employees leave and you have trouble competing for good people as more companies flip to remote.

In my opinion, there is not a traditional way of working the says: "we let people work from home 2 days a week". Those two days will fail, and you will end up with five days soon enough.

It is all or nothing. Remote work is a wildfire.

There is no going back; for millions of employees, they have seen the promised land; they can work from where they want while still getting as much done, but now have more time for exercise, cooking, and spending time with their families. The work/life balance equation has changed, and it is taking your traditional views of the office with it. Adapt or die.

If you are looking for true advice from someone who understands the struggle of remote work and has actual useful advice, check out  Navigating Remote Work.