Updated: Nov 16

'The term hybrid is an illusion'. 'An old trick played by a new magician.' 'Managerial bollocks.'


Are hybrid work rivals actually the good guys? Is hybrid really just one of those blown-up hypes? And shouldn’t we be paying more attention to the cynical voices, rather than let ourselves be seduced by the eloquence of consultancy profiteers?


Making work more flexible is nothing new. That’s true. And it’s as clear as day that the term hybrid gives away much room for interpretation. But I get rebellious when people dismiss the hybrid work movement as delusional. The movement is fighting an honourable battle. It sees the beauty in the pandemic. You see, the health crisis has made sure that reflecting upon wellbeing, self-realisation and sustainable careers has become a serious undertaking.

Hybrid Word is a cry, an appeal to make work work. As valuable work. As work that dignifies employees and creates maximum value for customers.


To despise this endeavour as the umpteenth hype is a testimony of cynicism. And that doesn’t get us anywhere.


How can we make sure that the crisis has a lasting positive impact on work? That we won’t slip back to a situation whereby we waste time and lose ourselves in traffic jams, overflowing mailboxes and badly prepared meetings? Here are three tips.


Away with team tyranny


A battery cage. A humming beehive. A tin of sardines. These are the images I associate landscape offices with.



In his book, A World Without Email, Cal Newport tells about “the hyperactive hive mind”. I used to sit in such an office at my previous employer. Whenever someone bellowed out a question, all team members were expected to react instantly and simultaneously. Serviceability translated into continuous availability.


It was in this setting that the term “team tyranny” came to my mind for the first time.


The pandemic has freed work from the suffocating, humming beehive. Employees have discovered that they can concentrate better at home – providing their home situation allows it. Physical distance between colleagues has lead to discovering the joys of focus, the positive effects of sustained attention. Away with team tyranny! Research by the Antwerp Management School suggests that the possibility to focus is one of the most important reasons why employers want to continue to promote home working.


Successful hybrid work doesn’t begin by answering the question “for which tasks should we go back to the office?”. It begins by institutionalising focus time. I firmly advocate the right to be unavailable for 1, maximum 2 hours a day. Meaningful knowledge work cannot tolerate constant interruptions.


For me, the term hybrid work also means a healthy balance between working on your own and working together with others. In my book, Hybrid Work – A Manifesto, I refer to this with “the magic is in the mix”.


Don’t get distracted by the bouncy rabbits


Thomas Boone Pickes, a rich American industrialist who passed away in 2019, used a delightful metaphor whenever people asked about the secret of his success. “When hunting elephants, don’t get distracted chasing rabbits”. Those bouncy rabbits, we know them all too well. They are the M&Ms: meeting and mails. They give us a false feeling of productivity.


Successful hybrid work begins by identifying our elephants: those more challenging tasks we sometimes dare to procrastinate on, but with which we can create high added value for our customers.


Where is the magic in elephant hunting?


The feeling of contributing to something that transcends us as individuals leads to a sense of purpose and meaning. This is what research by psychology professor Michael F. Steger teaches us. Research carried out by social psychologist Baumeister teaches us that finding life meaningful stems from the feeling of giving, especially when giving is accompanied by difficulties, obstacles and plugging away.


Hunting elephants demands courage, discipline and energy. It is more tiring than shooting at bouncy rabbits. But it leads to work that works. It leads to valuable work. It leads to a sense of purpose and meaning.


To me, the term hybrid also signifies a healthy balance between proactiveness and reactiveness, between effort and rest. And here too the advice applies: “the magic is in the mix”.


Away with the tyranny of synchronous collaboration


I discovered the magic of asynchronous communication with Twitter and LinkedIn. When my connections would publish a post, I’m not obliged to react immediately. My answer will come later – after an hour, a day, a week. Communicating non-simultaneously invites one to reflect, to take things into consideration, to slow thinking.


It is as if we, knowledge workers, have actually forgotten how to do knowledge work. We are trapped on a hamster wheel. Knowledge work assumes that we reflect, take the time.

Successful hybrid work means to make more time for slow thinking. I already see two possible examples.


First and foremost, by optimising our meetings, those intrusive synchronous moments of collaboration that pulls us away from meaningful knowledge work. We can pass on information in an asynchronous way before the meeting. With text or video. It’s best not to let our ideas sink in and formulate points of view during the meeting, but before the meeting. Let us just come together only for those activities that require our synchronous presence.


In her book, The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker writes that a gathering is “a social contact”. And it’s true. The participants and host of a meeting form a contract together, and their interaction starts beforehand. Asynchronously. Not simultaneously.


A second example of slow thinking is taking the time to reflect. To stop and think about what we learn every day and share those insights with each other. In French we have a wonderful expression for this: reculer pour mieux sauter.


Get started with these ten questions


I’d like to turn these three tips into the following questionnaire. Why don’t you use them and get started with your team?


1. Which are our high-value activities?

2. How many hours of focus time are we going to block?

3. How are we going to guarantee that we use that focus time to hunt elephants?

4. Which meetings have little added value?

5. Which parts can we take out of our meetings and do up front?

6. For how many of our activities are we in reactive/proactive mode?

7. Which percentage of our time do we want to spend in proactive mode?

8. How are we going to guarantee that we will keep on learning?

9. How are we going to make sure we learn from one another?

10. For which kind of activities do we want to meet physically?


The term “hybrid” makes the grade. It stands for a healthy balance between slow and fast thinking. Between proactiveness and reactiveness. Between effort and rest. Between working together and on your own. Between synchronous and asynchronous communication.


Go and look for a healthy balance together with your team.

And don’t let anyone scorn this movement. Hybrid Work is a cry for work that works. For meaningful work.


Who wouldn't want to embrace this endeavour?

561 views0 comments

“All experts agree. The ideal combination is two days at home and three days at the office.”


Oh now really?


The research used to justify this statement is from Professor Nicholas Bloom. What no one tells us is that this particular research dates from 2014. And that is done in China. With call centre employees.


Are we going to carry on gaping at a study that is 7 years old, from a period where the digital workplace was still in its infancy?


In many organisations the urge to regulate seems to prevail. There is an obvious lack of vision. And if there is a vision, there is not a word to be found about the customer, who seems to be missing in the story.


Not so at the Belgian organisation, DELA.


Hybrid Work regulated by strict rules, is doomed to die even before it is born.

In the text below, you find some parts of their home working policy, the result of a close dialogue between employees and management.


Read and discover how

  • Hybrid Work is not regulated by strict rules;

  • Hybrid is defined as a compelling vision of the future where clients and employees play a crucial role;

  • Hybrid is defined as a way to shape a result- and people-driven work environment.


DELA’s home working policy


(…)

Covid-19 made clear DELA’s employees are in favour of working from home. At the same time, there is a clear wish to carry on seeing each other and maintain our warm family culture. We also found that more home working does not affect the quality of work.


(…)


Even before corona, DELA was an organisation that worked on a foundation of trust. Trust remains very important and we combine this with a clear focus on output. We believe wellbeing and result orientation go hand in hand.


It is important to know that we each have our responsibility to ensure that this home working policy is successfully implemented.


  • As an organisation, it is DELA’s duty to take the necessary measures to ensure that its employees can carry out their work in a comfortable and effective way.

  • Managers have the duty to direct, coach and guide their people – based on attention and connection – in a people- and result-driven way. DELA will invest in the growth of its management.

  • The employee has the responsibility to make sure that s/he sets up a comfortable workplace, carries out his/her work in a correct manner, and contributes to the warm family culture, with what DELA hereby provides and following his/her manager’s guidelines.

This policy will contribute the realisation of all these expectations.


General


Maybe the term ‘home working’ does not cover the whole picture: you may as well work from other places like a funeral home, an external office space…


1. Who is allowed to work from home?


Not every function can be carried out from home. The following functions are allowed to work from home structurally:


- all functions in Insurances, except for HQ reception.

- all functions with supporting services (FINC, IT, Corporate Com., Mgmt. Assist., HR).

- the following functions or departments within Funerals: FOM, Repat, NBZ, Business Development.


2. Guaranteeing freedom of choice


‘One size fits all’ is old hat. We consider our employees to be people with each their own needs and desires. We regard them as adult people who can judge and deliberate for themselves. Hence no uniform guidelines such as “everyone in the office 2 days a week”. The employee takes the responsibility to go about his/her freedom in a mature way.


After consulting the team and with the manager’s permission, you – the employee – will choose when you work from home. You will then pay attention to a few conditions:


  • You can work from home with the consent of your team and manager. This guarantees operations to run smoothly.

  • If required by your work, you will be present at another location, depending on operational needs (team meetings, project meetings). Home working is therefore a privilege, not a right.

  • You dispose of a comfortable workplace at home where you cannot be distracted. Home working is not a synonym for, for instance, looking after the children.

  • Just as in the office, at home you are available during office hours or according to the agreements made with your manager and team.


3. Keeping our DELA DNA and our warm family atmosphere


Our company culture is extremely important. Within the organisation of home working, we wish to do the necessary so as not to lose the connection with each other and the organisation. We absolutely want people to carry on seeing each other and take a structural approach for this. As mentioned in point 2, the manager or the employee can take the initiative to be present with (part of) the team at HQ or another location.


We call upon everyone to take these kinds of initiatives on a regular basis. A guiding element could be that you agree to meet up with the team physically at least once a month, besides other meetings with colleagues from other departments. And that you organise a virtual coffee break with the team once a week.


4. Making clear arrangements


Even within the new home working policy, it is perfectly viable to be both people- and results-oriented. Clear agreements contribute to this:


- Setting up the workplace: DELA provides the means to comfortably set up the workplace. The employee then has a duty to do it.


- Organising work


o What needs to be done by when? (make expectations clear)

o Available during office hours or according to agreements made.

o No obligation to be available outside office hours. Make agreements for this.

o No obligation to work outside office hours.

o Email traffic: during office hours.

o Work outside of office hours when necessary: discuss and make agreements.


- Agreements about the duration and frequency of meetings; not too many agenda points; time for breaks; camera on.


5. Guaranteeing transparent home allowance and means


Whom does this apply to? The home working amenities listed below apply to anyone meeting the following criteria:


- Fixed employees who have been structurally working from home since 1/01/2021.

- Employees who belong to Insurances or supporting services (FINC, IT, Corporate Com., Mgmt. Assist., HR), or work for the following functions and departments within Funeral: FOM, Repat, NBZ, Business Development.

- Those who do not receive more than EUR40/month for costs proper to the employer.


Which amenities does DELA offer?


a. ICT

- A computer screen (68.6 cm/27” wide)

- A keyboard

- A wireless mouse

- A USB 3.0 docking station


(...)


b. Office chair


Within the context of corporate social responsibility, the decision was taken to offer a comfortable refurbished office chair, type BMA AXIA 2.2 with “Amechaniek”.


An ergonomic office chair with a broad range of adjustment options, for which some parts have been reused to contribute to a sustainable and liveable world. Thanks to its user-friendly adjustability, the Axia 2.2. office chair can be used by anyone (see attached sheet). All Axia office chairs have a modular set-up and can therefore be easily adapted to length and weight. All delivered Axia office chairs are individually adjusted by the supplier itself upon home delivery.


Depending on the floor surface, the chair can be supplied with hard or soft wheels.


(...)



c. Home working allowance


The employee receives a net monthly allowance of EUR 40 for full-time employment. The allowance is prorated according to the timetable. This allowance allows the employee to work comfortably from home: with a good Wi-Fi connection, heating, stationery...


The employee is responsible for a healthy and safe working environment and informs the employer, the risk management advisor (psychosocial aspects) and/or the confidential advisor in good time when a problematic situation arises.


The home working allowance cannot be combined with a reimbursement of expenses specific to the employer for the same or higher amount.


6. Determining the role of HQ


There is a real chance that fewer colleagues will come to work at HQ. That is why it is necessary to think about the role of HQ. Taking points 2 and 3 into account, it is desirable that HQ remains a place to work and that, more than before, is complemented with a place for people to meet. We need to think about this carefully, for it will have an impact on layout and even on the parking policy.


This exercise will be carried out separately.


7. Digitalisation and safety


DELA foresees ICT amenities (see point 5). The employee is responsible for a correct use of these amenities and will handle them with care.


The original text dictates a number of guidelines regarding cyber security, the use of passwords, clean desk, social media and so on.


8. Ensuring ergonomics


Point 4 already refers to a few agreements. Even regarding the layout of the workplace. DELA supplies the means (ICT, office chair and allowance) for employees to set up their workplace comfortably. This reduces the risk of injuries. It is therefore also the employee’s duty to do the necessary for this.


9. Arranging leave due to medical reasons


(...)


10. Respecting the legal specifications


For those taking part in the home working policy, this is made official by means of an appendix to the employment contract. Every structural home worker will have to sign the appendix.


The home working policy appendix must always be available to the employee. It is not necessary to conclude a collective labour agreement.

100 views0 comments
1/5