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How Can Companies Transition to Hybrid Workplaces?

By Jacquelyn Adams

Hybrid workplaces have been a trending topic for the last couple of months, yet it is unclear how willing businesses are to accept this new business model. A recent Microsoft annual report revealed that 73% of employees want a hybrid workplace.  Surprisingly though,  according to McKinsey, only 32% of companies have communicated a hybrid workplace vision or have a detailed plan in place. With the previously mentioned Microsoft report also stating that 40% of employees are considering a change of job in 2021, corporations need to consider the needs of their employees if they hope to retain their star talent.

So, what can companies do to transition to a hybrid workplace properly? How can they support leadership in leading virtually, ensure their tech will enable a hybrid workplace, encourage collaboration within a hybrid setup, and preserve their corporate culture?

To delve more deeply into these questions and concerns, I decided to check in again with our remote workplace guru Larry English, President of Centric Consulting. Larry has been operating Centric without a direct office space for over 20 years. He’s literally written the book on hybrid workspaces, and now Centric is leading companies through best practice accelerators as they transition to hybrid workplaces.

What is a hybrid workplace?

While starting by defining such a commonly used phrase may come off as too basic, in this case, it is still the best place to start. With so many dabbling in this new work structure and adding their own take, it is best to guarantee, at least in this article, that we are all on the same page.

A hybrid workplace is a design that supports employees doing business anywhere. Hybrid organizations equip and enable their workforce to thrive in both virtual and in-person settings. Employees have the flexibility to manage the balance of their work and personal life. They decide where, when, and how they want to work. For a hybrid workplace to be successful, it requires that employees have the tools, training, supporting leadership, culture, and dedicated teammates to work from anywhere, anytime.


Teams spend time reflecting on and adjusting their operational priorities and core processes to ensure smooth hand-offs and virtual coordination. This is because performance metrics measure output and value to the business, not metrics focused on exclusively hours worked. Additionally, all applications and data are accessible from the cloud.

What hybrid workplace design decisions does your organization need to make?

Several key factors should be considered for the long-term success of building a hybrid workplace. Some of these include:

    • Hybrid workplace design:
      The first step is to reimagine the vision for the workplace. Assess the current remote experience, collaboration technology and remote work compatibility. As the business determines what changes need to be made, it is vital to know the current pain points and prepare for new pain points during this transition.
    • Workplace norms & talent management:
      The next step is to decide which established workplace norms align with a hybrid workplace. Changes will be needed to ensure a healthy, productive culture, and modernizing the talent management processes. For example, has employee onboarding transitioned from instructor-led training to virtually-based or eLearning sessions?
    • Capable leaders & teams:
      Modernizing the talent management process will enable leaders to lead virtually (enterprise, business unit, local). Employees and teams will also need to be able to collaborate virtually. What do check-ins look like? How often and how should they be done? What are the best hybrid workplace practices in supporting a new employee or an established employee who might feel overburdened?
    • Work mode compatibility:
      Remote/hybrid might not be an option for all employees; and for some of the employees, it perhaps won’t work for all aspects of their work. Determine what work can effectively be done remotely.
    • Real estate footprint:
      Once there has been an accurate assessment of onsite/hybrid staff, use it to determine how much office space is needed. Keep in mind that employees who work on alternate days can potentially share — Employee A uses the desk on Mondays and Wednesdays and Employee B uses it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This assessment will also indicate whether alternate “on demand” workspace options are provided.
    • Digital processes:
      Since most businesses have been remote for about a year, some processes have been modernized/digitized. However, perhaps that more complicated processes have been neglected over the past year. In addition to doing an inventory to help determine if the processes have been updated, it is good to also consider whether the prior performance metrics still apply to their new structure.
    • Modern technology & security:
      Finally, consider what productivity, collaboration and core business applications will enable the business’s hybrid vision. What’s the right mix of cloud vs. on-premise infrastructure, and what security is needed to protect identities, data and devices?

One thing is clear, whether on-site, remote, or hybrid, the path forward will still be a bit bumpy for all businesses as we attempt to bounce back from last year. However, according to Larry, “The genie is out of the bottle: hybrid will be the way most companies work going forward. And doing hybrid well is hard. Companies should get started now to head off loss of great talent and learn to work with remote teams to maintain their competitiveness.” This is why we need to look to experts to guide us, and as we continue to listen to the needs of our employees, we can strive to come out better on the other side. So be mindful, keep asking the good and hard questions, and implement the change you need to see.

Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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