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Jul 2, 2023

Most Organizations Fail at Hybrid Work

tags: leadership,business,decision making,wise decision making,leadership development,cognitive bias,decision-making process,leaders,work from home,hybrid work,remote work

Most Organizations Fail at Hybrid Work

The shift to hybrid work ushered in by the pandemic is here to stay. However, many companies are finding that hybrid work does not just happen on its own. According to my interview with Micah Remley, CEO of Robin, organizations need to be deliberate and intentional in  implementing hybrid work models. That’s exactly what I find with my clients who I helped transition to a return to office and successful hybrid work policies: intentionality is key.

Hybrid Work Doesn’t Just Happen

“There’s an expectation that hybrid work, you just say you’re a hybrid work company, and it just happens. And I think we can dive into that a little bit more. I think what most companies are finding out is, it doesn't just happen on its own, you have to be very intentional about hybrid work,” Remley said. Without intentional planning and structuring, most companies attempting hybrid work end up primarily remote.

The biggest challenges for companies in hybrid work are coordination, scheduling, and providing employees a reason to come into the office. As Remley noted, “Hybrid work is a very hard scheduling problem. If I'm at home all day, I know what my schedule looks like, I know exactly. I can plan it out with everything else. If I'm in the office all day, I know what my schedule looks like, I can plan for it. If I'm oscillating between the two, that all of a sudden at least doubles the burden.” Employees need help understanding where their teammates are located and the best way to connect with them for meetings and collaboration.

Without a clear reason to come in, most employees default to staying home where they are comfortable in their routine. Leaders need to give employees motivation to commute to the office. Mentorship and collaboration are two of the biggest reasons to bring employees together in person. According to recent research, mentorship increases by 25% when people come together face to face. Ad hoc conversations that spark new ideas are also much more likely to happen spontaneously in the office. Some employees are also simply more extrinsically motivated and thrive working around colleagues, while others are more intrinsically motivated and productive working from home.

As Remley explained, “Think about what happened with remote work. The pandemic hit, people spent lots and lots of time being very intentional, lots of IT budget, when enabling remote workers. I mean, Hundreds and hundreds of millions and billions of dollars spent doing that. And then, all of a sudden, leaders said: we’re a hybrid company, come back to work now. And existing in two different places, and existing in two different realities is very difficult for people.” The future of hybrid work will involve more structure and intentionality to address this challenge.

Rather than leaving it entirely up to employees, companies will implement policies around teams or individuals being in the office certain days of the week. Managers will consider productivity and motivate certain employees to come in more often based on their needs. “It looks like work before except that people have more flexibility. Well, that's actually not the case,” Remley said. Scheduling tools will make it easy to coordinate with colleagues regardless of location.

Most Organizations Failed at Hybrid Work

With the right balance of in-person and virtual work, along with strong social connections between colleagues, hybrid work can provide the flexibility and work-life balance employees want without sacrificing productivity, collaboration, or company culture. The key is approaching it thoughtfully and intentionally. Simply declaring “we’re a hybrid company now” is a recipe for failure.

As Remley put it, “Most organizations have failed at hybrid work completely over the past year and a half or two years after the pandemic has started waning a little bit. [They] have failed at that and the reason why is because they haven't been intentional in how they implemented hybrid work.” With deliberate strategies and structures in place, hybrid work can be the best of both worlds, enabling productivity along with personal flexibility and work-life balance. But organizations must invest in the tools, resources, and planning to make hybrid work actually work.

The strategies and structures to make hybrid work successful look different for every organization. According to Remley, it starts with an overarching company policy on hybrid work that provides general guidance, such as employees being in the office two or three days a week on average. However, there should be flexibility to adapt the policy to different teams and employees' needs.

Remley explained, "You have more recent research shows that [shows] mentorship increases by 25% for people that are in the office, right? So you see that happening. And these are all things that anecdotally we felt before the academic and empirical research started showing us that this is the case.” For teams where mentorship and collaboration are crucial, managers may require certain employees to be in the office more often. Junior employees, for example, will benefit more from face time with senior colleagues. Other teams that work more independently may have greater flexibility.

How to Make Hybrid Work Actually Work

The strategies and structures to make hybrid work successful look different for every organization. According to Remley, it starts with an overarching company policy on hybrid work that provides general guidance, such as employees being in the office two or three days a week on average. However, there should be flexibility to adapt the policy to different teams and employees' needs.

Managers should have coaching conversations with employees to determine what works best for their productivity, work habits, and work-life balance. Some employees thrive with the autonomy of working from home, while others struggle without the structure and social motivation of an office environment. “We had some people that when everyone went remote, their productivity went up. And we had some salespeople whose productivity went down, and they're all selling the same clients and everything else. And the only thing that made sense was that some of those fell into an intrinsic bucket where they're very good about motivating themselves. And some people did really well in a sales pit. They needed to be around other people,” Remley observed.

With a flexible policy and coaching, hybrid work can suit different work styles and job functions. The policy should aim for the right balance of remote and in-person work for both the organization and the employee. “For most employees, they're not thinking about long-term career development. How I describe it is, I feel most comfortable at home, in my sweatpants, eating potato chips on the couch watching TV. I know that if I want to live a long time and have a healthy heart and healthy everything else, I’ve gotta go work out right? Even though it's not comfortable for me at the moment. And I would say is in-person work for many people probably fits into that bucket is that they actually need to be coached into what good looks like there,” said Remley.


In the end, successful hybrid work boils down to intentionality. It requires deliberate strategies around policy, scheduling, collaboration, and productivity. Leaders must thoughtfully craft the right hybrid approach for their organization and coach employees and teams on how to make the most of flexibility while still achieving work and career goals. With the investment in the necessary tools and management, hybrid work can give employees the best of both worlds—a productive and purposeful work experience, as well as an improved work-life balance. But organizations shouldn't leave hybrid up to chance and assume it will work itself out. As Remley put it, “For most companies that have declared themselves hybrid companies, they are actually mostly remote companies unless they've been intentional about solving this problem.” Intentionality is key.

Key Take-Away

Organizations must be intentional and deliberate in implementing hybrid work models to avoid failure and maximize productivity and work-life balance...>Click to tweet

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on May 8, 2023

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

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