Four Ways Middle Managers Can Successfully Implement Hybrid Work

Hybrid work is here to stay.

So says Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economics professor and co-founder of WFH Researchin an interview with Fortune Thursday.

Bloom’s last month research on remote work, published this week, reveals that hybrid working is becoming mainstream because it makes employees happier and more productive, supports DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and (perhaps) saves space.

But there is a problem: hybrid work has become a nightmare for middle managers. Gallup Research finds that hybrid managers feel less connected to their company culture than their hybrid bosses or their managerial colleagues who work entirely remotely or in the office. And several middle managers recently said to financial times that implementing the return to office policy can be lonely and confusing.

Executing a hybrid work plan has been very difficult for managers because the current state of back-to-the-office “is a pretty challenging 180-degree turn” from last year, says Bloom.. While those at the top of a company can do as they please, and those at the bottom do as they are told, middle managers have to figure out the game plan, an increasingly complicated business.

Until recently, Bloom explains, bosses wanted to avoid too many people arriving on the same day, which would pose a health risk. But with COVID precautions largely in the rearview mirror for most of the country, managers are back where they started.

“Now, the whole reason for hybrids is to get people on the same day, and that’s hard for those who need to manage that change,” he adds. Her research suggests four main ways leaders can make the most of a hybrid model:

  1. Coordinate your team to come on the same two or three days each week.
  2. Promote face-to-face meetings, events, coffees, trainings or lunches on those days.
  3. Suggest Zoom meetings between offices and reading, writing, data, etc., on home days.
  4. For new hires (less than one or two years), add an additional day in the office for mentoring.

In short, Bloom advises, establish a culture and organize yourself to create office time that also doubles as group social time.

A bad hybrid plan is like a bad driving

Many managers had trouble executing the hybrid job last year because it was designed in horrible conditions, Bloom says: “It wasn’t harmonized or organized, but this year it’s been so much better.”

He points out that the best hybrid arrangements are in companies like Uber, which newly ordered in-person assistance on “anchor days”: Tuesday and Thursday. Bloom anticipates that these days will have significant events, meetings, presentations and connections. He says the ride-sharing giant is doing “exactly what I’ve been recommending for over a year,” a step up from last year, when he says employees would come to the office only to leave when they saw their co-workers. work were not there.

Bloom encourages middle managers who have been unable to unlock a sustainable plan to keep the faith.

“Certainly the hybrid can go wrong if it’s misapplied,” he says. “If you see someone who is a terrible driver who has accidents, you don’t tell them to get rid of all the cars. You say we need to get someone who can drive properly.

A bad hybrid roadmap, like poor driving, can be destructive, causing “untold damage,” he says. “But if you say we love cars, but people need to learn how to drive them, suddenly they become very valuable. Similarly, if you just trigger a hybrid job without planning or coordination, you can predict what’s going to happen.”

You can also predict who the winners and losers will be, adds Bloom. “In 2023, we will laugh at anyone who does anything other than hybrid.”

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