Before you settle on post-pandemic work arrangements for your new hybrid, review this blog to learn 3 key things worth considering.

The rush is on. No sooner than we are finally making performance strides working remotely, it’s time to change things up again. As more people are vaccinated, there is a push to return to life pre-pandemic. Some organizations are pivoting quickly, pulling workers back into the office as if nothing has changed. Others are wondering what to do. The federal government has asked that agencies have their finalized plans for both reentry and post-reentry procedures and policies by July 19.

At EMI, we understand organizational effectiveness. Before rushing to create the return-to-the-office plan, it is the perfect time to pause to reflect upon what we’ve learned from working remotely over the past 15 months. Flexibility will be key in this next wave of work design. According to David Rock, CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI), this year offered more conclusive data supporting the benefits of giving more flexibility to employees. NLI’s research shows that there is a measurable positive correlation between flexibility and productivity and employee engagement. 

Flexible work arrangements have been around on some level for a couple of decades.  But now we need to re-imagine flexibility with broader parameters. As you design your plans here are a few points to consider: 

Consider When and Where

In the recent Harvard Business Review article How to Do Hybrid Right, Lynda Gratton suggests that leaders consider new work arrangements along two axes: place and time, considering a continuum of constrained to unconstrained on each axis. When it comes to time, instead of requiring everyone to work 9-5, determine the minimal core hours that are designated for synchronous work (meetings, etc.) that serve as an anchor time structure for the team. From there, allow employees the autonomy to schedule when they will complete their “heads down” work. Getting the balance right will require looking at roles and tasks to new work patterns.

Consider Employee Preferences

If you develop your plan based on what the majority of employees want, you run the risk of not being as inclusive as you could be and ultimately sub-optimizing your talent. No two employees are alike regarding what they need for focus, creativity, and productivity. During the pandemic we’ve become keenly aware of employees’ caretaking and schooling responsibilities, as well as enjoying newfound time for family or hobbies. David Rock compels us to a new reality: Employees want more autonomy over where and when they can work. Finding the right balance between the needs of the organization and the desires of employees will take time for conversations, considerations, and development of win/win options.

Involve Employees and Design for Effectiveness

Early in the pandemic, many leaders conducted listening sessions. We need to continue with this process to listen to the variety of new needs and develop integrated solutions—not just jumping back to the way we worked before the pandemic. And the answer isn’t just gluing together technology and processes to connect those who work in the office with those who work from home. It is about developing new methods that leverage the outputs of both asynchronous and synchronous work and setting new team guiding principles to enable equal influence on work products and decision-making regardless of where your employees are sitting. Involve your employees in the hybrid design. Be ready to iterate. Every team member will need to continuously listen and adjust. 

Re-imagining the way we work can be a tough thought experiment. However, we can design our way to finding the right hybrid models by listening to employees, adopting an experimentation mindset, and then testing and learning our way to the right solution. The best leaders are empathetic—building human-centric solutions—and are courageous enough to acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers when re-imagining new ways to work. Join us as we reflect upon what we’ve learned over the past 15 months, reimagine how work can get done, and experiment our way to bolder, more successful organizations fueled by more satisfied and engaged employees. 


The EMI team is energized about transforming organizations by creating the new hybrid essential to each organization’s business strategy, culture, and performance. Review our capabilities statement, and contact EMI for more information about how we can help you achieve organization effectiveness: / 770.587.9032.