Five hybrid work mistakes leaders make (and how to avoid them)

The nature of work is changing, and it's becoming a hybrid. But leaders are still struggling to define how exactly to apply the hybrid work model to their organizations. Is there one size fits all solution? We know that different industries have diverse needs so there is no perfect formula when it comes to returning to work strategy. Leaders in the tech industry are proudly announcing their fully remote work policies, while those in the banking sector are tightly holding on to the pre-pandemic working habits.

Research shows that nine out of ten organizations are going for the combination of remote and on-site working. McKinsey surveyed 100 executives across geographic regions and industries. From findings, customer satisfaction and productivity increased during the pandemic.

Even though nine out of ten executives are ready to accept a hybrid work model, most are still not sure how exactly should their organizations adapt to it. Only a third of them said they have created a high-level implementation plan and a third of leaders think their organizations lack alignment on a high-level vision among the top team.

While 10% of companies say they have a detailed vision in place, only 1/3 have started negotiating policies and implementing those.

-MCKinsey & Company

There are many misconceptions about the hybrid work model and it’s important to understand the right way to implement it. We found that leaders often make these common mistakes that ultimately prevent them from reaching their hybrid work goals:


1. Not giving everyone an equal chance to participate 

Internal collaboration needs planning. Collaboration in the hybrid work model needs even more planning. Many companies hired whole teams during the pandemics and some of those employees are going to meet their coworkers for the first time. Simply thinking they are going to blend in like others who had the chance to work together before the pandemic is not going to happen.

On the other hand, some people are going to continue to work remotely, and leaders need to find a way how to build a more inclusive work culture. It’s not easy to express your ideas if you are joining a physical meeting virtually.

Make sure that online participants have a chance to contribute to the meetings. Give them time to address what is being said in the room. It is easy to overlook the power of eye contact physical participants can easily make during the meeting. If you rush through a meeting, online members may miss important parts of the discussion. If possible, delegate someone who is not participating in the meetings to make sure online employees see/hear everything in the room.


2. Not allowing flexible work schedule  

Flexibility is key for the future of work. If we are going to embrace the hybrid work model and really make it work, we must become more flexible. Leaders need to rethink traditional 9-5 working hours and start valuing productivity more than formal work rules.

In fact, people who work from home typically have different daily schedules than those who work at the office. For example, parents with kids need time to pick them up from school, caregivers with elderly parents need time to help with food preparation, etc… Employees need to find a way to fit important life events into their day.

A flexible schedule is crucial to a hybrid-work model, where the company can maintain just enough structure to coordinate. Leaders can always designate fixed times for synchronous collaboration so employees can plan workday around it. Some companies established that teams need 4 hours of overlap in a workday for a successful collaboration.


3. Thinking all employees have the same needs- offering one size fits all solution 

Last year people had a chance to experience working remotely. Based on different circumstances everyone came to a different conclusion. Some people loved it and are trying to make a case to work from home forever, but some did not enjoy it so much.

Returning to work is a complicated process. Given the huge impact that the transition to in-person work will have on employees’ lives, they want to have a voice in the process. Before formulating return-to-work plans, organizations should survey their employees to understand employees’ needs and concerns.

– David Niu, CEO TINYpulse

If your designated workplace is your kitchen table, and you are trying to meet a Zoom with bored children, and annoyed spouses complaining in the background, chances are you are not going to be happy if your company goes fully remote.

So, it is all about finding the right balance and talking to your employees.
Simply deciding people should work two or three days a week in the office based on gut feelings/your preferences is not going to work. Leaders shouldn’t look at employees’ needs in aggregate. Instead, they should make sure they have the right data and understand employees’ needs so they can find a flexible solution.


 4. Copy-pasting old practices into a hybrid work environment 

When we were forced to work from home during the pandemic, we all noticed how old office practices did not work in a remote environment. The same goes for the new hybrid work setup. Optimizing employee performance takes more than just defining your KPIs.

Leaders and HR managers need to identify employees requiring extra support and think about building a sense of community. If there is one thing the pandemic thought us is the importance of community.


5. Not being humble enough

40% of those working in the EU began remote work full-time because of the pandemic.

If someone told you 2 years ago that working from home will become the norm for millions of workers in the EU and worldwide nobody would believe it.

Research shows that close to 40% of those working in the EU began remote work full-time because of the pandemic. Let’s face it, nobody knows what the future holds, and leaders need to admit that. The best leaders right now are the ones who are open and brave enough to say: “I am not sure what is the best work model for our company at the moment, but here is what I think we should do. We are all on the same team, let’s keep learning, and work together towards better solutions. “



It is important that leaders become present and accessible. Finding ways to engage and hear employees out are going to be key factors in making the hybrid work model successful. Leaders are facing big challenges in the future but also a wonderful opportunity to change the work culture as we know it.

This is an unbelievable opportunity to remake culture. It’s rare in a leader’s lifetime to have such a clean drop for reshaping how you run the place.

– Bill Schaninger