César Vera Méndez
Chief Commercial Officer
Naviera Integral
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Expert Contributor

To Hybrid or Not to Hybrid?

By César Vera Méndez | Tue, 04/19/2022 - 10:00

If your business is trying to return to pre-COVID-19 work ways and habits, be ready to face some complications. Volatility is inevitable and we all need to reinvent ourselves because our workspace must be ready to respond quickly to its role in a post-COVID-19 world.

How quickly? With the pandemic the time seems to have been compressed, hours feel like days that in turn feel like weeks. So, the future is here, literally. Think about this: What you have read so far is already in the past, is in it?

There is an urgency not to get back to where we were but to move forward, be resilient and succeed. Our workplace needs to deliver greater safety and a higher level of well-being to our associates. Technology and scientific solutions are there to help but without a change of mind from business owners, corporations and all stakeholders, no help will be received.

It is necessary to adapt our workspace and way of working to modalities such as hybrid work. Experts affirm that now is the time to grab opportunities and face the challenges of reconfiguring the workplace. Some statistics in Mexico show that 75 percent of employees prefer the hybrid work model, some 20 percent want to return full time to the office and 5 percent choose to work from home. This ratio varies per country. In other nations, there is a larger population wanting to stay home and occasionally go to the office, providing it is a welcoming space, safe and flexible.

People have a need to be together and renew their sense of community. However, this does not necessarily mean physically together but a virtual and physical experience that brings people together with a sense of belonging. So, we need to plan with a mindset of adaptability rather than permanence, becoming fluid rather than static.

We need smart offices with flexible furniture, open workstations, reengineered spaces and common areas. Today's good enough isn't enough. Ninety-seven percent of employees want changes that make the office safer before they consider returning to the office and by returning, we mean those good old days of 8 hours of physically present work time.

The workplace is no longer simply an office. The recent shift to remote working has allowed organizations to recognize that work can get done from any place.

Let us recognize the challenges. Hybrid working has made team leadership more difficult for everyone, especially for leaders in their early to mid-career stage since many first-level leaders remain quite operational in their roles and maintaining balance between managing hybrid employees and doing their own work is somehow challenging.

Hence, it is important to train those managers on how to build a strong organizational culture that’s focused on outcomes and not employee-time-clock hours. Supporting your organization with programs and tools that help develop these leadership skills will boost productivity and increase engagement levels and retention. This last concept remains controversial in Mexico as many employers rely on the old-school concept of saying, “If you like it fine; if you don’t, I can always hire someone else.” Unfortunately, it is true that there is a large percentage of the population that needs income and they will do what it takes to earn a living.

No doubt, hybrid work is here to stay. However, this environment presents new challenges and leaders should carefully assess what needs to be done to empower their people and business as they move into the future.

With the invention of electricity, the industrial revolution was ushered in. With the invention of the internet, we entered the digital revolution. Now with the global pandemic, we are in the hybrid work revolution.

Let us get rid of any misunderstandings about the hybrid workplace. Going back to the pre-pandemic work model would be a huge step backward. Our organizations won’t be resilient without rethinking strategies like hybrid workforce models. Let us pursue a coordinated strategy in which we experiment, learn and iterate implementation to make hybrid working a real win-win for our teams and our organizations by going to a human-centric work design, by shifting talents and skills, rethinking the workplace with digital enablement that allows us to excel in the hybrid world, consequently reshaping the way we work with a culture for inclusion and sustainability while being resilient and highly productive without prejudice. This is our time to embrace and thrive.

Photo by:   César Vera Méndez