The conversation about hybrid work models is a complex one — and more essential than ever before. As the world navigates a way forward, leaders are trying to figure out how to build sustainable hybrid systems, how in-person time is best used, and what tools people need to succeed. To answer these questions, they need to understand their team’s individual motivational factors and evolve their management practices accordingly.
A recent global survey with Economist Impact, sponsored by Google Workspace, found that 77% of hybrid workers agree that their managers need more specific training on managing hybrid teams. The study also found that preferences for – or against – hybrid work are often determined by personal factors like childcare requirements, commute times, and individual work styles. From this information, the researchers were able to sort employees into four categories based on their relationship to hybrid work: evangelists, pragmatists, fair-minded, and undecided.
Here are the four types of hybrid workers identified by Economist Impact, coupled with tips for managing each one:
The evangelist: Happy with hybrid
The evangelists are the most optimistic about hybrid work and are typically very satisfied with the policies, technology, and social dynamics already in place. How do we make sure that our most satisfied employees stay that way, and how can we tap into their enthusiasm to help their colleagues see the benefits of a hybrid structure?
• Empower them to keep working in a way that supports their natural productivity, using centralized tools for easy collaboration and shared calendars so coworkers can clearly see their schedules.
• Invite them to share their best practices company-wide.
• Keep them engaged through short check-ins.
• Offer continuing support by making sure they have the right technology, especially if they work fully off-site. Ask: “Is technology helping them stay in the mix across all the ways and places that hybrid work happens?”
The pragmatists: Optimistic but facing challenges
The largest segment identified by Economist Impact is made up of pragmatists, a group that is optimistic about hybrid work but experiencing significant challenges with it. Pragmatists feel that their organization’s new policies don’t incorporate enough employee input and are more likely to feel these policies are unfair. They are also concerned with blurred work-life boundaries. This demographic includes workers who have less location and/or time flexibility, so they may not be experiencing significant benefits of a “flexible” workplace.
Here are some ways to support pragmatists:
• Regularly gather input by creating an anonymous survey. Ask what’s working or not about hybrid schedules, team processes, technology tools and training, work-life balance, etc.
• To improve flexibility while ensuring collective teamwork, agree on “core work hours” in which teams determine daily hours when they will typically be online and meetings will take place. Offer flexibility around the “non-core” hours for focused individual work or personal needs such as medical appointments or taking children to school.
• Enable teams to communicate and collaborate across locations and time zones through shared platforms.
The fair-minded: Feeling good, hoping for continued cultural change
Most concerned about employee well-being, fairness, and inclusion, the fair-minded report an overall positive impact of hybrid work on their lives. They like where this is going, and they want more. They believe that better communication and collaboration will strengthen the culture of trust in the workplace and benefit everyone.
Here are strategies for managing the fair-minded:
• Foster social connection by adopting platforms specifically built for inclusivity and get creative in using them — choose thematic backgrounds or break into small groups for a quick icebreaker before a meeting.
• Build an inclusive environment by providing opportunities to bond at in-person events devoted to mentoring, discussion, and socializing.
• Strengthen the culture of trust by shifting toward impact-oriented performance evaluations.
The undecided: Craving connection, direction, and better technology
At 13%, the undecided may represent the smallest number of respondents, but they’re a group that need significant support. Why are they undecided? Overall, it’s because they’ve yet to experience significant benefits from flexible work. They’re more likely to be at organizations that have not issued formal hybrid policies, so they’re working in uncertain environments. This group also reports higher rates of technology challenges, suggesting that they haven’t been equipped with the right tools to connect, collaborate, and communicate remotely.
Strategies for meeting the needs of the undecided include:
• Clarify your hybrid policies through active communication.
• Strengthen their sense of belonging with clear, inclusive updates on company-wide projects and achievements.
• Help teams communicate and collaborate better with instant communication tools, which keeps conversations about scheduling, shared tasks, and files together.
As leaders, it’s important to understand and acknowledge your team members’ different experiences of hybrid work. Taking the time to engage with them and learn their preferences allows you to shape policies while also making decisions that help the organization get work done. A thoughtfully planned hybrid work structure can adapt to individual needs, connect distributed workforces, and, ultimately, strengthen your organization. With the right tools and guidance, hybrid teams can be successful and drive impact together, no matter where teammates work.