Remote,  Flexible, and Hyrbrid are NOT are NOT the same

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Is your organization remote, flexible, or hybrid?

If you’ve gotta be at your desk from 9am – 5pm, whether at home or in the office, then, your job may be remote, but is not necessarily flexible.


If you’ve gotta get your work done by certain deadlines, but your organization doesn’t care when or where you work, your role is more flexible; however, you have less flexibility the more integral you are too a team whereby your output impacts other people. So, your job may not require a particular schedule, but there are certain norms that you need to manage in order to be a more effective team player, which starts to push you toward what is, actually, a hybrid role.


A hybrid role allows employees to work from where ever they want at times (remote), requires employees to adhere to a certain schedule or other norms at times (remote, but not necessarily flexible), and allows employees some freedom to decide how, when, and where they will work (the greatest amount of flexibility.


Which is the best?

None of these situations is good or bad; they just are. The same is true of organizations that are predominantly on-site organizations. The problem occurs when organizations are not clear about which type of organization they are primarily and which roles can work in which ways. The hesitation to choose a label comes from leaders’ who need to balance organizational design against fear of being less attractive to potential employees or losing the ones they have. While leaders try to gauge the validity of their fears of employees resistance for increasing requirements for on-site work, they must also consider whether their cultures and processes lend themselves to norms beyond fully on-site work. However, in order to focus on questions about how to facilitate work arrangements other than on-site work, leaders must answer the most fundamental question about how their people work: do we want to to be something other than an on-site organization?


As organizations wade into the waters of figuring out the work options that are best for them, they should begin with these questions:


  1. 1Where does our leadership team stand on the issue, and do we need to examine whether people who wok remote will be viewed negatively?
  2. How will the quality of our work be impacted in a remote/flexible/hybrid versus on-site environment? If we explore remote/flexible/hybrid work, what steps do we need to take to truly facilitate remote/flexible work?
  3. If our organization is such that we can be somewhat remote/flexible/hybrid, how do we structure and communicate expectations so that the work gets done while we give people as much flexibility as possible?
  4. If we’re an on-site organization, how do we demonstrate to our employees that coming into the office is not just about distrust or controlling them?


The tough decision can’t be avoided.

Many a leadership team is stuck and their indecisiveness trickles down to the people they lead. Nobody wants to see if their fears about an employee exodus is true. Additionally, many leaders hesitate to design the unique solutions that they need when they realize one approach will not work for every team or employee. Making this decision and revisiting it periodically is like dieting and budgeting: there is no avoid them and and be either healthy or financially stable. As the norms around work continue to evolve, leadership teams cannot play it safe on the sidelines. Yes, there is risk in owning an unpopular organization design, but there is also risk in not dealing with the issue. In both cases, employees deserve clarity so that they can choose where they work. By the same token, leaders also benefit when they are decisive and clearly communicate the direction in which they intend to move. Just like employees benefit from clarity, leaders benefit from knowing who is aligned so that they can plan for the needs of the team they actually have and offer credibility to the team members they hope to attract.

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