In the past year, we experienced massive workplace shifts, which leads to the question: “What should we expect upon return?” The future is hybrid. The companies that exit the pandemic the best will be those that adapt to physical distance with more dynamic cultures. It’s been done before, and we can do it again. To make it succeed, leaders must understand and manage the power differentials created within teams. On the one hand, employers hope to give employees the flexibility and focus from working at home without sacrificing the in-person connections of the office. But on the other hand, employees have different access to resources and different levels of visibility - both significant sources of power and influence.
Resource access differs depending on whether the employee is located in the office or outside of it. Employees in the office have ready and quick access to technology and infrastructure to support their work. They tend to have faster and easier access to information, and that information tends to be more current and broad. Being in the office also provides access to the emotional and task-based social support provided by peers. In contrast, employees who work remotely often have weaker technological setup and infrastructure, making it more difficult to demonstrate their competence. Not being present for informal interactions leaves remote workers feeling out of the loop and may also lead to isolation and lack of relationships and connections that provide social support. It’s essential to be clear about which roles can be performed remotely and which roles must be on-site. This will help set proper expectations and position new hires for success.
With pandemic restrictions lifting, companies face a new challenge: how do they keep the increased productivity and other benefits of remote work while also unifying employees under a shared company culture? While employees need to ensure that they’re visible to their managers and can access the resources they need for their work, managers need to make sure they stay informed about what their employees are doing and facilitate their access to those resources. Here you have three ways managers can actively manage the structurally inevitable differences in power that arise in a hybrid environment and their effects.
The hybrid workplace will be successful because it supports all types of work styles and personalities. With the proper mix of collaborative setups and team-based offices, people can feel comfortable re-entering the office. Giving staff a variety of options to work with can boost creativity and improve work and life quality.