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The problem with hybrid work

Photo by Cedric Fauntleroy on

Hybrid work is making the news these days thanks to COVID and lockdown. Some are calling it the future of work, and others started working on software to make it possible at scale. But is it really the future?

I’ve been following the remote space for more than 8 years, and I’ve been working remotely for the last 4. I’ve been watching this “future of work is hybrid” wave from a distance, and it is time to write my thoughts. The hybrid model of working is the worst.

But how did we end up here?

For a decision-maker, a hybrid culture is having the good parts of both worlds. You can come to the office given we all need human connections, but you can also work from home and stay close to your family, win your commute time, and be more productive. It sounds good on paper, but that’s an overly simplified view of how things work.

When you work remotely or from an office, a lot of the decisions are done to support and take advantage of that choice. The tools you use, the way of communication, team activities, company structure, etc. But the most important thing about these decisions, in both cases, is they are opposite:

Remote workWork from an office
CommunicationAsync firstSync first
DiscussionsSlack or othersAround a table
Remote decisions are the opposite of working from an office

Now, with a “hybrid culture”, companies are basically communicating two opposite principles, and leaving the choice to their employees to make a decision.

For example, you are part of a team of 5 working in a hybrid environment. You and your co-worker from the office today, the remaining 3 from home.

During the day, you have something important you want to discuss with your team. And given you’re in the office, you decided it’s better to take advantage of face-to-face communication.

But wait, what about the 3 other teammates working from home? They need to know about the subject too! So, you decided to use an online communication tool instead. But if you’re going to use that, why are you in the office anyway? What is the added value of being in an office?

Too many questions, too many decisions, too much pressure on employees.

A “hybrid culture” is a patched solution, where a company can’t go full remote due to trust issues or some weird excuse for not doing so. And at the same time, they can’t go back to the office given employees are enjoying remote work. The easy way out? Hybrid.

A better solution is giving your team the possibility to work from an office, but making it clear that the culture of the company is remote. This means any decision, work, communication… should happen online. The office in this case is just a co-working space.

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