Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Why hybrid work models fail: neuroscientist

To succeed in hybrid work requires organizations to establish clear expectations and guidelines for their employees. And unlike Disney and Twitter, it’s very important that they don’t change their minds randomly when the leadership changes.

However, a recent survey conducted by Mercer found that only a third of organizations have formal rules in place for managing flexible work. Mercer assessed 749 organizations and found that 48% rely on informal and ambiguous guidelines to manage flexible work, 17% are completely hands-off, and only 34% rely on clear and transparent formal rules. This lack of clear communication and expectations has a serious impact on both retention and recruitment efforts.

And how effectively do companies communicate about the policies they do have? Fishbowl recently conducted a survey, with about 7,300 professionals surveyed about how well they understand their company’s plan for hybrid work. 50.8% did understand their company’s hybrid work guidelines, but 49.2% did not. Not a good outcome!

Hybrid work guidelines should outline expectations for coming to the office, for communication, collaboration, and work hours, as well as providing a clear framework for how to handle issues that may arise.

Effective communication is a key element of hybrid work guidelines. When employees are working remotely, it can be difficult to get a sense of what everyone is working on and how their contributions are impacting the team. Clear communication guidelines, such as regular check-ins and virtual team meetings, can help ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Effective collaboration is another important aspect of hybrid work guidelines. Collaboration tools like video conferencing and project management software can help facilitate collaboration, but employees need to be trained on how to use them effectively. Additionally, guidelines should establish expectations for how and when team members should be available to work together.

Effective hybrid work guidelines must consider work hours and time management. Without a clear framework, employees may feel pressure to work longer hours or to be available at all times. This can lead to burnout and resentment, and can negatively impact both productivity and employee satisfaction.

Without clear guidelines for data security and privacy, remote workers may inadvertently expose sensitive company information to cyber threats. This can result in costly data breaches and loss of business.

Another challenge that companies may face without clear hybrid work guidelines is managing employee engagement. When employees are working remotely, it can be difficult to keep them connected to the company's mission and goals. Hybrid work guidelines should include strategies for fostering employee engagement, such as virtual team-building activities and regular communication from leadership.

Hybrid work guidelines should be flexible and adaptable. As the world continues to change and evolve, so too should the way companies approach hybrid work. Guidelines should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect the latest best practices and changing employee needs.

One way to ensure that hybrid work guidelines are effective is to involve employees in the process of creating them. This can help ensure that guidelines are tailored to the specific needs of the organization and that employees are more likely to buy into them. Additionally, it's important to provide employees with the necessary training and resources to be successful in a hybrid work environment. This can include things like virtual communication and collaboration tools, as well as training on time management and data security.

It's clear that hybrid work guidelines are essential for effective communication, collaboration, and time management. A lack of clear expectations and guidelines can lead to confusion, resentment, and high turnover rates. By establishing formal written guidelines and communicating about them clearly to employees, organizations can ensure that their employees have the support and structure they need to be successful in a hybrid work environment.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the CEO of the hybrid work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, and authored the best-seller Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams

What personality types do best in hybrid work?

Many employees excel in hybrid or even fully remote work settings, outperforming expectations to deliver outstanding results. Others in the same roles struggle to work effectively outside the office, even if they have the same home office arrangements and are deemed equally talented by their managers.

Such seemingly random differences frustrate and confuse managers. No wonder that Microsoft research found that “85% of leaders say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive.”

Having researched effective hybrid work at 21 organizations that I helped figure out their hybrid work arrangements, I can confidently state that employee personality differences represent one important driver of these seemingly random performance differences. By matching hybrid work arrangements to the relevant personality traits of their workers, organizations can optimize employee performance, resulting in a win-win for everyone involved.

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In assessing personality, it’s vital to use the right measurements. Avoid using tests that research shows poorly predict job performance despite their popularity, such as DiSC and MBTI. The Big Five personality test offers a much better option. It consists of five personality dimensions: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Openness to Experience, and Emotional Stability (also called Neuroticism). Unlike DiSC and MBTI, the Big Five test has shown a high degree of predictive validity, test-retest reliability, convergence with self-ratings and ratings by others, and predicting job performance.

I had my clients administer the Big Five to their employees at the start of consulting engagements, along with a survey focusing on hybrid work. Then, as we implemented changes to hybrid and remote work arrangements, we assessed changes in employee performance, as evaluated by managers.

We found that the Big Five factor of Conscientiousness - characterized by qualities such as being organized, reliable, self-disciplined, taking ownership of tasks, and showing initiative in problem-solving - strongly correlates with higher performance during the time when employees work remotely. Certainly, those with higher Conscientiousness also performed better in the office. However, the difference in performance between high-Conscientiousness and low-Conscientiousness employees was much bigger when staff members worked from home, with a high statistical significance (p < .01).

Those high on Extraversion perform less well when working from home, with a substantial statistical significance (p < .01), compared to working in the office. That’s not surprising: Extraversion is the personality trait describing people who are more sociable, outgoing, talkative, assertive, and energized by others. Those high on Extraversion tend to experience more loneliness and social isolation when working from home, undermining their performance.

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The factor of Emotional Stability also predicted higher performance outside the office with a statistical significance, though to a lesser extent than Conscientiousness or Extraversion (p < .05). Those high on Emotional Stability are calmer, more even-tempered, resilient in the face of stress, and less prone to negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, and depression. The time spent working remotely requires staff to do greater emotional self-regulation with less emotional support available from managers and team mates.

People higher in Openness to Experience performed better during the time they worked remotely, although the magnitude of difference was lower than for Conscientiousness or Extraversion (p < .05) - comparable to Emotional Stability. Openness to Experience refers to a person's willingness to consider new ideas and experiences, be open-minded, creative, curious, and imaginative. Those with a lower Openness to Experience score tend to have more difficulty adjusting to hybrid work modalities, and their performance suffers.

We haven’t found any statistically significant differences in performance between in-office and remote settings for the last factor, Agreeableness. This personality trait refers to a person's tendency to be cooperative and get along with others, with a focus on compromise and reluctance to engage in competition and conflict.

Managers don’t have to be frustrated by the seemingly random variation in productivity between the members of their hybrid teams. By assessing the personality traits of their team members and adapting hybrid work arrangements to fit their needs, they can optimize team member performance in a win-win for all.

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