Enterprises small and large are attempting to navigate the future of work and how hybrid work will fit into their operations moving forward. Last week, I posted a very interesting perspective on who is returning to the office and who is not. I shared a summary of the perspective on Twitter. In essence, the perspective suggested that the breakdown is broadly generational.
But is it generational? On the surface, one could make general assumptions based on the population. However, that does not tell the whole story. If you dig deeper, other aspects playing out here.
Many factors are surfacing with two of the leading contributors being 1) where the person is in their career and 2) what is important to the individual.
Stages of career
Folks in early or later stages of their career may favor in-person and in-office interactions, but for very different reasons. Those in the middle have a different perspective. For those early in their career, they are likely to crave interactions and to learn from others. They are building their experience and need to learn from others.
For those later in their career, their experience over the course of their career has been solely in the office. Aside from a sort of comfort that comes from the in-person interactions, the interest goes deeper as many believe this is a more effective way to work, collaborate and make decisions.
Focusing on what is important
Then there is a group of individuals that have sought flexibility in their work experience before the pandemic. The pandemic provided a means to bring a different balance into relief. These folks look more closely at the work life balance and may have struggled with a purely in-office experience.
For these folks, the pandemic is the proof they were looking for to demonstrate that a different balance was possible.
Is the focus on remote work or return to office generational?
Coming full circle, is the drive to work remotely or get back into the office generational? Not exactly. The characteristics make it seem like that could be the case. The danger is with those that just focus on generational stereotypes without looking further at the drivers. Similarly, assuming everyone fits into a single scenario or perspective is also flawed. Leaders need to consider the needs of their organization from multiple perspectives.
Focusing on broad stereotypes can be incredibly damaging to organizations and leaders. It creates an ‘us and them’ mindset that is not constructive. However, looking at the stages of one’s career is very enlightening and can provide leaders with further guidance to leading in a hybrid world. Of course this is just one of many aspects to consider.
Beyond categories, it is important to understand that every single person is unique and may have a different perspective and set of requirements.
Leadership in a hybrid work model
The culture of a company is set by its leaders. In a hybrid world, a new approach is needed. No longer can organizations, nor their staff, tolerate a one-size-fits-all approach.
People at different stages of their career, the way they work most effectively, how they view the work-life balance and other factors must be front and center. In a nutshell, leadership just got a lot more complicated.
Beyond managing individuals, hybrid work models bring additional complexity to ensure that those working remotely are not second-class citizens to those in the office. When organizations are all in office or all remote, the operating model is pretty straight forward. Today, those models need to adapt.
There are ways that companies are creating culture to address these challenges. Just like each person needing different things, so must each company consider what works best for their culture, customers, employees and partners.
That is not to suggest that in-person is better or worse than remote, just that there are different perspectives for different reasons.