Virtual Teams

A great question to ask hybrid and remote workers

As you may know, I’m a strong advocate of remote and hybrid working. I am also a strong advocate of going into it with a clear-eyed view of the implications. Inevitably after a tumultuous couple of years, people are very focused on their own flexibility, but that is not the only factor to take into account in determining your work pattern.

If you saved 2 hours a day travelling and found that fit your busy life much better, you may not be very influenced by your senior leaders concern about sustaining the corporate culture and values in the long term.

Most companies don’t yet seem inclined to be tough about insisting people come back to the office for part of the time, and are relying on persuasion

Here is a great question to ask an individual who wants to work flexibly – “where do you want to be in 10 years’ time?”

It works because it gets people thinking beyond today’s flexibility and towards the future state they want to create. How do they see themselves building the skills and networks they need; how will they maintain visibility, what kind of career do they want?

Now I know we can do all of these things in a remote first organisation, because I’ve been doing it for nearly 30 years, but many individuals as well as their leaders haven’t thought through the long term consequences.

In the same way as there are long term consequences for the organisation, there are also consequences for the individual.

One simple example, in one of our clients 80% of people said they only wanted to come in the office one or two days a week, but 75% thought they still needed a dedicated desk. I don’t think you can have it both ways.

We are working with companies to train managers and individuals in how to overcome proximity bias, build a network and stay visible when working remotely etc. But there is no doubt it will take time for organisations to change their culture, expectations and processes to overcome these biases and provide alternative mechanisms.

Where senior leaders deep down don’t really want remote working to work, and don’t engage with changing ways of working, this will take a very long time.

So if you’re an individual, think about where you want to be in 10 years and what you will need to do to make remote and hybrid working a success. It’s OK to decide you prefer flexibility to the career development that might come with improved visibility, but be sure to think through the consequences and decide what you really want.

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