As a society we have come to define ‘hybrid work’ as simply having the flexibility to work between our home and the office.
But, the problem with this definition is that it’s narrow. Unnecessarily so.
In reality we have always been hybrid workers.
- Sometimes you might work from your laptop, sometimes you might work from the whiteboard.
- Sometimes you might collaborate with a colleague who has a completely different skillset.
- Sometimes you might partner with another Department.
- Sometimes you might work in a different time zone to your colleagues.
- And yes – Sometimes you might work from your home office or your office office.
What’s important to realise is that this last point simply broadens the scope of our longstanding (note: pre-pandemic) relationship with ‘hybrid work’. It is not the only way to define it.
‘Hybrid work’ is collaboration vs sole focus, it is digital vs analogue, it is home vs office. It is any number of things.
And yet, 99% of the ‘hybrid work’ conversation is dominated by the home vs office debate. We have anchored the term in just one facet of something much bigger and with much more potential.
‘Hybrid work’ is actually just flexibility
So, redefined: ‘Hybrid work’ brings flexibility to better enable positive outcomes. The crucial thing is not where or how the work gets done, but that it does. This means we must become more intentional in creating flexible and supportive environments.
Many are oblivious to this broader meaning of hybrid work because we don’t necessarily see what has always been there. We are blinded by the monotony of normality. It is only when there is a dramatic change, such as a pandemic-fuelled shift towards relocating entire workforces to their respective homes, that a term like ‘hybrid work’ finds new life and such focussed meaning.
And as society shifted from the office to home, the notion of ‘hybrid work ‘was challenged by the all too familiar mindsets — such as “If a report is written from home and no manager is there to see it, did it really happen?”.
One way we can bust these ‘hybrid work’ myths is to understand that at all times we live a ‘hybrid life’. We exist in multiplicity with our many selves. We are a friend, a colleague, a partner, a parent, an individual — and at no time are we just one of these.
‘Hybrid work’ (as we have come to know it) simply acknowledges something that has always been true. We are every self at once, simply leaning into the attributes that are appropriate in each moment. We oscillate constantly and at all times of the day. Yes, even between 9-5.
We pay power bills at midday, we reply to work emails at 10 pm.
But we’re not our best selves when our priorities are in competition for our attention. So we look to compartmentalise in ways that allow us to focus more clearly on our ‘work self’, versus every other.
This is where we can uncover value – in challenging language and the meanings, assumptions and conventions in which our words are based. To acknowledge and enable our already blended lives by pulling apart and challenging terms like ‘hybrid work’. In doing so we can broaden our mindset on what might be possible.
For instance, beyond ‘hybrid work’, many of us will refer to our ‘home office’. Perhaps we should also consider having an ‘office home’. When the pandemic sent us home we brought our colleagues with us and into our living rooms, giving each other a view of our less filtered lives — bringing a more authentic version of ourselves to work. Where we have felt disconnected in some ways, we have found a deeper and more personal connection in others.
So, what if we sought to integrate our home lives more in the other direction? What benefits might we uncover?
Hybrid work is just work
It’s not new, or unique. It’s human. ‘Hybrid work’, in many ways, is how we have always worked. As a species, we have always adapted to survive and excel.
At its most human level, the ‘hybrid work’ conversation is actually just about something as simple as trust. Trust in our employees and colleagues to manage their own time, to meet or even exceed expectations. Trust in our managers to empower us with the flexibility be our best selves — in work and life — so that we can truly embrace our hybrid lives for the best outcomes possible.
So rather than focussing so intently on where we are when we work, let’s broaden our mindsets towards understanding the behaviours that build trust between employees and managers. And if there is a lack of trust, ask ‘why’?
If we can help you change behaviours around your approach to hybrid work, get in touch today.
Access Synergy’s Hybrid Workplace Framework, a useful guide on how to navigate the changing workplace environment. You can also access our Hybrid Life Survival Guide – a playfully helpful toolkit designed to empower you to be your best self.