Making the Hybrid Workplace Fair (2023)


Thanks to the benefits for both employers and employees, hybrid work arrangements will likely persist beyond the pandemic. In order for them to work, though, leaders must understand the power differentials they create within teams and take steps to level the playing field. Where individuals (including the manager) on a team are located relative to others matters, as does each individual’s skills in relationship building. The authors offer four strategies managers can take to manage the structurally inevitable differences in power that arise in a hybrid environment. Not doing so can damage relationships, impede effective collaboration, and ultimately reduce performance.

The pandemic has upended much about how we work, and what comes next is neither the death of the office nor a return to the way things were. Instead, our new reality will be hybridity: working with employees who are co-located in the same physical space as well as employees working remotely.

Hybridity promises organizations the benefits of remote working (increased flexibility, reduced carbon footprint, labor-cost optimization, and increased employee satisfaction) alongside the critical strengths of traditional, co-located work (smoother coordination, informal networking, stronger cultural socialization, greater creativity, and face-to-face collaboration). But hybridity is also inextricably tied to power — it creates power differentials within teams that can damage relationships, impede effective collaboration, and ultimately reduce performance. To lead effectively in a hybrid environment, managers must recognize and actively manage the two distinct sources of power that can impede — or facilitate — hybrid work: hybridity positioning and hybridity competence.

How Hybridity Positioning Affects Power

First, hybridity means that, due to where they’re positioned, employees have different access to resources and different levels of visibility — both key sources of power and influence.

(Video) Fast-track new employee onboarding in a hybrid workplace

Resource access differs depending on whether the employee is located in the office or outside of it. Employees in the office have ready and quick access to technology and infrastructure to support their work. They tend to have faster and easier access to information, and that information tends to be more current and broad (including informal water-cooler conversations), which provides them with an edge when it comes to the rapid changes of today’s environment. Being in the office also provides access to the emotional and task-based social support provided by peers.

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In contrast, employees who work remotely often find their weaker technological setup and infrastructure (slow connections, inability to access certain resources from home, a less sophisticated home office setup) makes it more difficult to demonstrate their competence. Not being present for informal interactions leaves remote workers feeling out of the loop and last to know. Being remote may also lead employees to feel more isolated and lacking the relationships and connections that provide social support.

Visibility level, or being seen by those in power, is also shaped by an employee’s location — especially their location relative to their boss and senior managers. Working in the same space as the boss increases the likelihood that employees’ efforts and actions will be recognized and top of mind. Employees who are seen in the hallways are likely to come to mind when it’s time to staff an important new project, and their actions on that project are likely to be recognized, resulting in credit for a job well done. Even if the boss is working remotely, when an employee is based in the office, it increases the likelihood that their actions will be seen by others and reported to the boss indirectly. When working remotely, no one sees the late nights or early mornings or how hard employees are working to deliver on their obligations. Credit for a collective output is likely to be unevenly attributed most to those who are there in the office and more visible.

Taking these two dimensions of hybridity positioning together, we can understand how hybridity affects each employee in a team or work group by thinking in terms of where the employee and manager are situated.

How Hybridity Competence Affects Power

Not all individuals are equally skilled at operating within a hybrid environment. The ability to effectively navigate in a hybrid environment is itself a skill and therefore a source of power. Hybridity requires employees to be ambidextrous — able to balance between and navigate across both worlds — in a way that fully co-located or fully remote working don’t.

(Video) Case Study Video for Hybrid Workplace

Employees who are strong at relationship building, both face-to-face and virtually, have an advantage in hybrid environments, as do those who are willing to ask for, find, and claim the resources they may not have easy access to. Employees with good network and political awareness are able to recognize advantageous positions and situations, and those who establish strong relationships that can transcend the gap between face-to-face and remote working can use informal connections to replace missing information. Hybrid environments reward employees who think and act adaptably and flexibly, who are able to organize and coordinate across a complex and dynamic environment, and who are able to establish and provide evidence of their own trustworthiness when working in a context of low visibility.

On the other hand, employees who are less effective at building relationships in either in-person or remote environments may find themselves struggling to work with collaborators who do work that way. Those who are less skilled at coordinating work within such a complex system may find they’re constantly out of sync with colleagues and managers.

Hybridity competence is a separate source of power from hybridity positioning. Someone in a disadvantaged position may still be able to work very effectively if they have high hybridity competence, while someone in an advantaged position may still be ineffective if they have low hybridity competence.

The Managerial Challenge

While employees need to ensure that they’re visible to their managers and can access the resources they need for their work, managers similarly need to make sure they stay informed about what their employees are doing and facilitate their access to those resources.

Managers who are co-located with their employees have more information about what and how those employees are doing. Managers who are remote from their employees may feel like they’re operating in the dark. Incomplete information is nothing new, but hybridity’s real threat is to fairness. Here are four ways managers can actively manage the structurally inevitable differences in power that arise in a hybrid environment and their effects.

Track and communicate. Create an accurate map of your team’s “hybridity configuration”: who is working where, and when. Once you’ve mapped this out, you need to have a conversation with them to surface the challenges they and you face and discuss what you can do to overcome them. Always bear in mind that your employees’ resource access depends on their location, and their visibility depends on their location relative to you.

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Making this task more complex is that hybridity is itself dynamic — a result of variations both across employees (“Martine works in the office, Mark works from home”) and for individual employees (“I work in the office MWF and at home TT”). This makes hybridity a moving target. It requires ongoing systematic tracking, codifying, and visualizing to help both managers and employees stay aware of the configuration of hybridity in a given work group and manage the resulting power dynamics.

Design. While some level of power imbalance is structurally inevitable in a hybrid team or work group, when necessary and possible, managers should intervene to redistribute power through shifting access to resources and/or visibility levels.

At the same time, policies and procedures should be revisited regularly to ensure they don’t provide an unfair advantage based on hybridity — for example, KPIs that don’t align with resource accessibility, or evaluations that don’t account for differences in visibility levels.

Educate. Many of these issues arise not solely from hybridity itself, but from a lack of awareness of the power imbalances it creates. To effectively manage in hybrid environments, managers must promote awareness of the issues and educate employees (and themselves) on how to avoid bias.

Particularly important is establishing a culture of psychological safety and (individual/collective) trust. This will increase the likelihood of employees speaking up and asking for resources when they need them, as well as their confidence that their efforts will be recognized.

Monitor. With this understanding in mind, it’s important that managers keep an eye out for key intervention moments. Through our discussions with executives, we’ve identified a number of key opportunities to address the potential challenges of hybridity for power dynamics within their teams:

(Video) Making the Hybrid and Remote Workplace Work

  • Performance reviews and evaluations. Managers must remain acutely aware of how hybridity creates an imbalance in their teams with respect to employees’ access to resources and visibility levels, as well as the information that they hold about their employees. Reviews present an opportunity for managers and employees to review and discuss imbalances and how to address them going forward.
  • Team launches. Hybrid teams start with team members who are not on the same footing. Team launches are an opportunity for managers and team members to recognize, acknowledge, and discuss power differences and to decide how collectively to manage them.
  • Onboarding. How can managers bring people into the organization when not everyone can physically come to the office? How can they put their new remote hires on a comparable footing to those who are brought into a face-to-face office environment? Hybridity’s impacts on group dynamics need to be incorporated into onboarding sessions and discussions in order to ensure new employees recognize the importance of consciously managing hybridity-based sources of power.

For companies to reap the many benefits of hybrid working, managers must be aware of the power dynamics at play. It’s critical that they develop an understanding of hybridity positioning and hybridity competence and take steps to level the playing field for their teams.


How do you make a hybrid workplace fair? ›

How to create equity and inclusion in the hybrid workplace
  1. Broaden your definition of flexibility. ...
  2. Invest in remote-forward advocates. ...
  3. Train managers on how to manage in a hybrid setting. ...
  4. Check in regularly on who is, and isn't, getting promoted. ...
  5. Make the most of employee resource groups.
Jan 17, 2022

How do you make a hybrid workplace an ideal workplace? ›

  1. Ensure The Flexible Portion Is Actually Flexible. ...
  2. Create Opportunities To Socialize. ...
  3. Let Employees Manage Their Time And Work. ...
  4. Swear Off Micromanaging. ...
  5. Be Proactive About Changing Needs. ...
  6. Prioritize Community. ...
  7. Let Employees Choose Their In-Office Days. ...
  8. Measure Productivity Over Hours.
Jun 24, 2022

What is the biggest challenge with the hybrid workplace? ›

The greatest challenges of hybrid work include: having the right tools to be effective at work, feeling less connected to the organization's culture, impaired collaboration and relationships, and disrupted work processes. Hybrid work is creating a need for better coordination of resources, both at home and on-site.

How can hybrid working be improved? ›

Tips for successful hybrid working
  1. Be transparent about your hybrid working policies. ...
  2. Empower individuals to make their own choices. ...
  3. Consider a redesign of your workplace. ...
  4. Evaluate your digital tools. ...
  5. Be flexible and open to feedback. ...
  6. Communicate regularly. ...
  7. Plan ahead to support company culture. ...
  8. Make it inclusive.
May 18, 2022

How do you resolve conflict in the hybrid workplace? ›

The key to avoiding or resolving conflicts in a hybrid working environment is communication, which is why it's helpful for employees to have opportunities to be open and honest with each other about their expectations and needs, and compromise where necessary.

How can I make my workplace more fair? ›

The fastest way to create a fair workplace is to regularly acknowledge your employees' contributions and make sure that everyone on your team is recognized, not just those working on-site or those with whom you have a better relationship.

How leaders can thrive in a hybrid work environment? ›

Hybrid workplaces rely on 3 key elements to thrive: emotional intelligence, trust, and psychological safety. By strengthening these elements through training and development, leaders and organizations can effectively engage their hybrid teams, improving collaboration, engagement, and retention.

How to create an inclusive workplace with a hybrid work model? ›

But make no mistake: Hybrid work is here to stay—pandemic or no pandemic.
It's an issue that my team and I have increasingly helped companies grapple with this past year.
  1. Don't forget your remote workers. ...
  2. Communicate the culture. ...
  3. Build trust. ...
  4. Stay flexible. ...
  5. Don't play favorites. ...
  6. Lead by example.
Jun 10, 2022

How can you make a hybrid work sustainable? ›

1: Cut the Commute
  1. Cut the Commute. The hybrid work model reduces the amount of commuting, as employees no longer need to travel to their central HQ each day, with the option working from home or at a local flexspace. ...
  2. Better Buildings. ...
  3. Employee behaviour. ...
  4. Optimised use of space.
Nov 14, 2022

What are the arguments against hybrid working? ›

Regardless of the approach, the argument against hybrid work boils down to these main claims; the reduction of productivity, culture will suffer, innovation won't flourish, and hybrid work is inherently unfair for certain customer-facing roles and industries.

Why some CEOS oppose hybrid working? ›

There are a variety of reasons why an executive might push back against hybrid and remote work arrangements for their employees. Concerns about productivity, communication and collaboration, managing remote teams, security, and culture are all potential factors that could influence an executive's decision.

How do you motivate hybrid employees? ›

Motivating and Managing Employees in a Hybrid Workplace
  1. EMPLOYEES WHO FEEL VALUED will always be more productive. ...
  2. Have both a growth mindset and positive attitude. ...
  3. Set clear objectives for daily and weekly productivity. ...
  4. Schedule daily huddles to set the tone for the day. ...
  5. Follow up with remote employees daily.

What is the key to a successful hybrid strategy? ›

Some key success factors for the implementation of hybrid strategies are innovative strength, close orientation towards customer needs, and organizational learning.

How can you improve employee engagement in a hybrid world? ›

How to Improve Employee Engagement in a World of Hybrid Work
  1. Foster collaboration to support the free exchange of ideas.
  2. Support flexibility to encourage work-life balance.
  3. Provide always-on security to protect your business data.

What are 3 ways you can resolve conflict in a positive way? ›

Some Ways to Resolve Conflicts
  • Talk directly. Assuming that there is no threat of physical violence, talk directly to the person with whom you have the problem. ...
  • Choose a good time. ...
  • Plan ahead. ...
  • Don't blame or name-call. ...
  • Give information. ...
  • Listen. ...
  • Show that you are listening. ...
  • Talk it all through.

What are 5 essential steps to resolve work conflict? ›

Here is the conflict resolution process in five steps.
  • Step 1: Define the source of the conflict. ...
  • Step 2: Look beyond the incident. ...
  • Step 3: Request solutions. ...
  • Step 4: Identify solutions both disputants can support. ...
  • Step 5: Agreement.
Jul 25, 2019

What are the 5 key principles of fairness and equity in the workplace? ›

These 5 domains are: Communication and Collaboration, Social Intelligence, Problem Solving and Conflict Management, Security and Safety, and Fairness and Integrity.

What are the three types of fairness at work? ›

There are three types of fairness in the workplace:
  • Distributive. This relates to equity versus equality in rewards. ...
  • Procedural. This relates to a fair or consistent reward process. ...
  • Interactional. This relates to the need for interactions that reinforce what the employee observes.
Jun 29, 2013

How do you create a fair and unbiased environment at work? ›

Some of the factors that support fair treatment in the workplace include mutual respect, strong interpersonal relationships and honest communication. Individuals who feel they're being treated unfairly in the workplace can have low morale, reduced productivity, and poor job satisfaction.

How do you lead a hybrid team 5 Best Practices? ›

5 Best Practices for Leading a Hybrid Team
  1. Hybrid is Here. ...
  2. Build Trust and Be Inclusive. ...
  3. Communicate Well and Often. ...
  4. Drive Focus and Accountability. ...
  5. Develop a Strong Team Culture. ...
  6. Beat Burnout with Empathy. ...
  7. About Great Place to Work®

What do employees want in a hybrid workplace? ›

In a hybrid work model, employees have more flexibility to get work done when, how, and where they're most productive. This means flexible schedules and locations. For example, some people work best early in the morning while others do better in the evening.

What is a successful hybrid workplace? ›

A hybrid workplace model mixes in-office and remote work to offer flexibility and support to employees. In a hybrid workplace, employees typically enjoy more autonomy and better work-life balance – and are more engaged as a result. Employers benefit by building a more productive, healthy, stable workforce.

How do you create a fair and inclusive workplace culture? ›

To get you started, here are some strategies to promote inclusiveness of culture:
  1. Use inclusive language. ...
  2. Create safe spaces for your employees. ...
  3. Be open to employees' feedback. ...
  4. Expand the company holiday calendar (include holidays that represent different religious beliefs) ...
  5. Provide diversity training for everyone.
Sep 19, 2022

How do I make my hybrid meeting more inclusive? ›

Keep inclusion in mind: Check in on remote participants and keep an eye on the chat window for questions or shared insights. Turn on live transcriptions and record the meeting to enhance the experience in real-time, and for those who couldn't attend and are reviewing it later.

How do you create an equitable and inclusive workplace? ›

Ways to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
  1. Be aware of unconscious bias.
  2. Communicate the importance of managing bias.
  3. Promote pay equity.
  4. Develop a strategic training program.
  5. Acknowledge holidays of all cultures.
  6. Make it easy for your people to participate in employee resource groups.
  7. Mix up your teams.

What could make a hybrid work setting more sustainable and satisfactory? ›

To ensure successful hybrid and remote work environments, companies need to invest in human resources and onboarding. In addition, it is important to clearly define expectations for employees, establish clear expectations, and accept that employees must meet in person sometimes, even if they are working remotely.

Are hybrid workers happier? ›

Study Finds Hybrid Employees Are Happier, More Productive And Not About To Come In More Often. An academic study on the effects of hybrid work has found that staff who work from home two days a week are significantly happier than they were working in an office full time. They're quite a bit more productive, too.

What are the disadvantages of hybrid strategy? ›

Cons of hybrid working
  • Less urgency with critical changes and announcements. Things can change quickly for businesses within certain industries; the stock market fluctuates rapidly and new software and technologies are developed overnight. ...
  • A divided and isolated workforce. ...
  • Too much work, not enough culture.
Jan 19, 2021

Are hybrids problematic? ›

Hybrids and PHEVs are packing two drivetrains into the one car, which means more weight, which can negatively affect fuel efficiency and handling, as well as the aforementioned need to compromise by downsizing both the battery and ICE.

Are hybrids worse for the environment? ›

Hybrids are not always better for the environment than gas-powered cars. Studies have found that plug-in hybrids actually consume more fuel because they're heavier than gas-powered cars, which makes their greenhouse emissions higher.

Do hybrids have a lot of problems? ›

Battery Life

In comparison to gas engine cars, a hybrid car tends to see more maintenance issues with the hybrid battery. The hybrid battery life is not always reliable and can die off sooner than expected. Between repair and replacement, hybrid batteries tend to have very high replacement costs.

What percentage of employees want hybrids? ›

Here are the key hybrid work statistics and the future of work: 74% of U.S. companies are using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model. 44% of U.S. employees prefer a hybrid work model, compared to 51% of employers.

Why do employers resist remote work? ›

One reason big companies don't want their employees to work remotely is they want to keep their employees in the office. This is because it's easier for managers to have control over the people that are physically near them.

Is hybrid work the worst of both worlds? ›

Hybrid work is “the hell of half measures” and “the worst of both worlds”, according to Yelp CEO and cofounder Jeremy Stoppelman. Strong words, especially considering that hybrid has been trumpeted as the solution for everything from employee engagement to the imminent destruction of the planet in a great ball of fire.

How do you negotiate hybrid work from home? ›

Let your employer know you've been more efficient and happy working from home. Show how you've kept the quality of your work high. If you can provide data showing how your productivity increased working remotely compared to when you were in the office full-time, even better.

How do you motivate a hybrid workforce? ›

How to motivate your teams in a hybrid working model
  1. Reinstate the company vision. Remind your teams what their purpose and goals are and link that to the overall company vision and mission. ...
  2. Feedback and reward. ...
  3. Trust your Team. ...
  4. Hybrid connectivity. ...
  5. Stay Social.

How can we make hybrid work more productive and engaging? ›

With that in mind, here are some ways to maintain engagement and productivity in a hybrid work environment.
  1. Maintain Communication and Visibility. ...
  2. Lead with Culture. ...
  3. Focus on Trust and Expectations. ...
  4. Support Inclusion and Mental Health. ...
  5. Set Managers Up for Success. ...
  6. Regularly Collect and Provide Feedback. ...
  7. Invest in Technology.

How do you argue for a hybrid schedule? ›

How to Ask Your Boss for a Hybrid Work Schedule
  1. Time It Right. ...
  2. Be Specific. ...
  3. Prepare Your Talking Points. ...
  4. Practice in Advance. ...
  5. Explain the Benefits. ...
  6. Emphasize Communication and Accountability. ...
  7. Offer a Trial Run. ...
  8. A Hybrid Future.

What is the ideal hybrid work schedule? ›

Cohort schedules are the most structured hybrid work approach. With this format, everyone follows one common rule set by their manager or the company. For example, everyone at the company works in-office on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the option to work from home Wednesday through Friday.

What are the issues with hybrid working? ›

Some of the biggest challenges of hybrid work include culture and connectedness, communication, productivity, motivation, stress management and balance.


1. How to Have a Hybrid Meeting That Works for Everyone
(Harvard Business Review)
2. The hybrid workplace: new forms of collaboration
(Google Workspace)
3. Phil Simon on Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace
4. Solutions for Managing a Hybrid Workplace Strategy & Working in a Hybrid Office
(Michael S Robinson)
5. Mastering the Hybrid Workplace: Increasing Workforce Productivity & Securing Remote Work
(MVP Network Consulting, LLC.)
6. The Hybrid Workplace - Power | Fairness | Trust: Mark Mortensen on Starting Remote #88
(Skills for Mars)
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