Hybrid work is a favorite target of radical candor these days.
What originally seemed like a solution that would combine the benefits of office space with the flexibility of remote work has been called “hell” by at least one CEO and decried by leaders on both sides of the remote work debate.
So what’s wrong with “come in to collaborate” as a concept? According to Allyn Bailey, executive director of hiring success at SmartRecruiters and former Intel hiring exec, it’s about a lack of trust.
“I think inherently people are coming at this with good intent,” Bailey told HR Dive. But it’s hard to shake the narrative that what worked for decades must be replicated to maintain efficiency, even if change has already taken hold at the organization, she said. Managers ultimately fear that if they don’t set up structures outlining who, when and where workers must collaborate, “employees just won’t do it.”
That creates one of two approaches, Bailey said:
- Companies mandate set times for certain teams to come in for “collaboration time.” But that may not fall into the flow of work for individuals, Bailey said, which means employees come into the office feeling mandated to do so but are not actually using that time to collaborate.
- Companies give a broad declaration that all workers must spend a certain number of days in the office each week and don’t mandate when, putting responsibility on the workers to figure it out. But if employees don’t coordinate with team members or others with whom they collaborate, going into the office “may be a waste of my time anyway,” Bailey said.
Employees push back against these policies in many organizations exactly because they have been working — often with high productivity — without those structures for two years or more, which easily makes new policies feel overly paternal and gives the impression the organization doesn’t trust workers, Bailey said.
How do you solve it? Turn away from risk management as the first question
HR pros, in particular, may keenly understand the downstream effects of even small changes to company processes.
“Any small changes can cause lots of stress on the system,” Bailey said. When companies come face to face with massive disruption that changes how business is done, “they will do everything they can not to make those choices.”
In other words: Change without strategy is a frightening proposition. But there are ways to approach changes to work without thinking about risk first and foremost, she said.
The first question to ask, according to Bailey, is “What is the problem I am trying to solve?”
“HR needs to reframe itself from being the police of the organization,” Bailey said, and reimagine itself as a department that uses its tools to help employees be successful.
The next step, Bailey said, is to ask what is required to compete with other companies in their spheres. Does solving the perceived problem allow a company to be more competitive?
After answering these questions, a company should then turn to its risk profile, Bailey said; “If you start with risk first, you’ll always start with an answer of no.”