This Is The One Element Missing From The Hybrid Workplace Conversation

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Cecilia Amador de San José
Cecilia Amador de San José
Cecilia Amador de San José, Senior Associate Editor of Allwork.Space, is based from wherever her laptop is. She enjoys traveling and visiting new flexible workspaces. If you'd like Ceci to check out your workspace, feel free to reach out to her at [email protected] (and send a plane ticket).

In a Q&A with Allwork.SpaceNadia Tatlow, CEO of SaaS company, Shift, explains why it’s important to be intentional about the days people come into the office, and how to build engagement with a flexible workforce. 

Hybrid work only works if the in-office experience is worthwhile.

This article was originally published by Allwork.Space.

According to McKinsey, 52% of U.S. workers say they want hybrid work. A recent FlexJobs survey found that flexibility matters to employees, so much that they are willing to make certain sacrifices if their employer forces them to go back into the office full-time:

  • 44% know at least one person that has already quit or is planning to quit their job due to in-person work requirements
  •  29% are currently searching for a new job that allows remote work
  •  17% would quit their job if it did not offer some remote work options
  • 21% would give up some vacation time in order to work remotely
  •  24% will take a pay cut of 10% to 20% to work remotely as much as they want.

Luckily for employees, (most) companies are listening to their demands. A recent survey found that about half of U.S. companies are planning on pursuing the hybrid work model. This has prompted conversations around technology, collaboration, and productivity.

But the shift to hybrid work requires more than a digital transformation. It requires organizational change. Rather than focusing the conversation around the logistical and technical aspects of hybrid work, leaders would benefit from setting a new tone for the workplace.

Allwork.Space chatted with Nadia Tatlow, CEO of Shift, to find out how the SaaS company is approaching hybrid work, how it keeps employees engaged, and how it all started by saying thank you.

Allwork.Space: Work has changed over the past 18+ months. This is prompting change in the workplace, in how teams are organized, and how employees engage with their employer. In your view, what is missing from current efforts?

Nadia Tatlow: The pandemic accelerated the need for work from home. The way I see it, there are 2 parts to the shift to work from home. The initial part (the first 3 months) was a huge shock to the workplace ecosystem; despite the shock factor, the transition was fairly easy considering the circumstances. Workers figured out how to work remotely, companies deployed the necessary technologies, and productivity levels in some cases went up.

After about 3 months of remote work, after everyone had the practical things figured out, the shortcomings of the approach became apparent; disconnected teams, anxiety, burnout, lack of collaboration.

This served as an impetus of change in organizations; it presented a huge opportunity for organizations to set a new tone to the workplace.

Allwork.Space: What do you mean by setting a new tone?

Nadia: There really is a systemic change happening to the workplace. This is forcing us to question inadequacies in traditional office culture that were no longer working for most workers. One way to tackle this is by taking a more personal approach to leadership.

It’s time for leaders to listen to employees and build trust with them. It’s about being transparent about challenges and clear about what you don’t know and what you’re still navigating.

The way I see it, it’s all about gratitude. I started by simply saying thank you.

Allwork.Space: How does gratitude and saying thank you help set a new tone?

Nadia: It’s about setting an expectation for excellence. Expressing gratitude in advance helps sets that bar.

Saying thank you in advance shows the person that you can’t even imagine that they can’t achieve what has been laid out. Doing it proactively opens the door for conversation, where if they are encountering challenges along the way they are not afraid of talking about these challenges and getting help.

Gratitude then, increases the chance of succeeding.

Allwork.Space: Surveys have found that feeling valued and feeling like they contribute to a company’s overall purpose is important for workers, so I can see how being grateful for their contributions helps motivate and engage employees. What are some ways leaders can express and practice gratitude on a day-to-day basis, with in-person and remote employees?

Nadia: There are some tactical things, like when you are looking at direct reports. Think of it as the professional love language of each of your team members. How do they like to be communicated with? It means getting to know people more personally and understanding what makes them tick outside and inside of work.

I go down to the tactical level, I put calendar reminders outside of one-on-ones and more formal conversations. Rather than sending them company swag, find the time to send them something that will make them smile. If you know your employees, you will know whether that’s a cup of coffee, flowers, a work from home treat, or a funny meme.

Beyond making it personal, I think it’s key to ensure that people own their work (trust your people). You get more valuable insights when the person that spearheaded a project actually speaks to it vs their boss.

Allwork.Space: As companies move from planning for hybrid teams to actually managing them, what are some things leaders need to keep in mind to ensure all employees are engaged regardless of where they are working from?

Nadia: First and foremost is to keep communication channels open. I believe the biggest challenge for organizations will be to make the office worthwhile for employees.

What we are doing at the moment is that we work remotely from Monday to Wednesday. Thursdays and Fridays we ask employees to come into the office. The way we see it at Shift is that you only get the positive side of the office if other people are there.

If someone goes in on a Monday and there is no one there, they won’t be motivated to go back—and the hybrid work model won’t work that way.

As companies prepare for the hybrid work model, managers will need to be intentional in terms of the days people choose to come into the office.

Cecilia Amador de San José
Cecilia Amador de San José
Cecilia Amador de San José, Senior Associate Editor of Allwork.Space, is based from wherever her laptop is. She enjoys traveling and visiting new flexible workspaces. If you'd like Ceci to check out your workspace, feel free to reach out to her at [email protected] (and send a plane ticket).
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