No one would argue that work landscape has changed significantly in the last years due to covid-19.
According to a Mercer report, 71% of employers said last year they were going to adopt a hybrid model. And, an Accenture report noted that hybrid workforce models are embraced by 63% of high-revenue growth companies.
Although there is no exact definition and it can vary according to each organization, hybrid work is understood as the possibility of alternating (fixed or flex way) working from home, from a remote location and a central hub or office.
While there are many advantages for organizations and employees in adopting a hybrid model, it needs to be planned and consciously managed to offset some of the disadvantages hybrid work has revealed in the past years. Let´s look at the main drawbacks people have expressed after forcefully adopting this new way of working.

  1. It diffuses Human Connection: although technology platforms and collaboration tools have taken a quantum leap facilitating access to virtual experiences, human connection and sense of belonging have been diluted. In a virtual configuration, we tend to jump from meeting to meeting focusing on the task and results while investing little time on hanging out and mingling. Some people tend to experience weariness, loneliness, and disconnection.
  2. If not carefully planned, cross group collaboration can drop dramatically, and organizations might become more siloed: some organizations are already reporting an impact on sharing collective wisdom and innovating. Although spending face to face time is a possibility, it´s not always assigned to becoming more collaborative.
  3. Remote vs On Site Mindset: There are different shared beliefs by remote workers vs on site workers. Often people working from home can feel their career development is being impacted due to a lack of connection with their peers and/or leaders. We sometimes tend to believe we need to be “visible” to be considered by people who have decision making power in our careers. This might drive some additional tension to the implementation of the working model.

Human connection and sense of belonging are key to create a trusted environment and develop a high-performance culture.
So how can we as leaders, foster belonging in a hybrid environment?

  1. Make face-to-face time count: no virtual experience can replace the physical connection, so plan and invest purposefully your time together — it´s precious and needs to be taken care of. Building and growing your “WE” into trusting and collaborative relationships is the best use of your time. Plan for formal and informal gatherings to strengthen your bonds and get to know each other.
  2. Get to know your people — plan for 1:1s: We all come from different places, are immersed in different contexts, and have different needs. Let´s not approach our teams with a “one size fits all mindset”; ask your team what they need to feel more connected with you, the team, and the organization in this configuration. Make connection and sense of belonging part of your ongoing conversations and periodically assess with each team member their level of connection.
  3. Encourage mentoring / peer sessions: Developing a mentoring program creates a safe container for people to come together and share own experiences, wants, and needs. People feel heard while being challenged to adopt new mindsets. Mentoring has proven to be a great mechanism to help people grow in all 3 dimensions (I / WE / IT).
  4. During hybrid meetings, start with remote workers: Hybrid meetings can be messy and ineffective; it´s harder for remote workers to follow through and for onsite workers to be mindful of those who are accessing virtually. Before starting the meeting make sure you have the right technology in place so everyone can clearly hear the conversation that will take place in the room and in each virtual space. During the meeting periodically pause and check with the team how are they experiencing the meeting. Make sure you always give priority to remote workers to voice their opinion first without being overran by others. Setting clear ground rules is key for leading effective meetings.
  5. Foster vulnerability & authenticity: showing up and being seen as who we truly are with our own strengths and opportunities bring us together. Embracing others without judegment and with compassion creates an inclusive culture. As leaders, we have a key responsibility in role model an inclusive leadership inviting others to do the same.

Implementing a successful hybrid work model requires more than ever creating an inclusive environment where people feel connected and have a strong sense of belonging.
It´s not about making the model itself work, it is about consciously managing our culture and creating the right conditions to enable people develop to their full potential in any given working environment.

Survivor Syndrome: Gather Information and Act. Pile of stones going from large to small at the top.
In the first article of a series I initiated with Fran Cherny, Survivor Syndrome: Overcoming Organizational Trauma in Times of Crisis, we offered some thoughts to start helping you, and leaders in your organization, support your employees get back to their best and grow the power of adaptability and resilience we all need now more than ever. Now it is my turn to come back to this series of articles and share with you some thoughts about the last action we suggested in our first article: “Gather information and act fast.” This important aspect of crisis leadership is about interactive and empathic communication in the context of accelerated digitalization of our social connections at work due to this Covid-19 crisis.
The number one need employees and managers have in the current context is for their organization and leaders to actively listen, with empathy and compassion, to their feelings, fears, difficulties, and what support they need., This is the first step to treating any trauma.

Managing organizational trauma

As Constanza Busto said, do not be misled by a quite common Knower posture consisting of believing that we well know what our people are feeling, what needs to be done, what’s best for the other person and needs to happen. This would be a double mistake. First, this would ignore the diversity of your employees’ feelings and needs. Secondly, what really matters is for your people to have the opportunity to express themselves and for you to show empathy, care, and compassion at work in the current context.
I see 3 key steps to manage organizational trauma:
1) Encourage your people to express and discuss their vulnerability.
2) Build a shared purpose as an organization in the context of what you will choose as your new normal, or new future, post-crisis.
3) Permanent and interactive two-way communication.

Gather information

Some companies are already running initiatives to concretely gather the data and feedback they need to help their people address trauma and grief (of self and of others). These initiatives include:

  • Regular employee pulse surveys and/or focus groups: Stop waiting for the annual survey or the perfect organizational way of doing it instead of using simple tools and surveys. You could pose a question of the day or week, such as, “how do you feel this week about x topic?” There are easy and simple applications, like “Happyforce,” to measure how your people are feeling in general every day and/or how they feel about a specific topic. It is not only about asking, but also about acting on it. Quick, simple, and effective.
  • Group webinars on health & wellbeing with active participation from employees to better manage their physical and mental health, as well as practice and grow their emotional mastery.
  • Online peer to peer group coaching programs: Consider a series of regular 60 to 90 minute webinars during which small groups of leaders (5 to 6 max) and their coach practice how to bounce back and rebuild their response-abilities to the crises they face.
  • Cascading of “Reflection Dynamics:” A top-down process of monthly 1 hour in-person or online team meetings on well-structured reflections. Managers can discuss challenges with their team and ways to practice effective mindsets and behaviors that will help them, and the company, overcome concrete pain points. Then, each team member cascades it down to their own teams.
  • Create virtual spaces to connect: Organize a weekly virtual café (via Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to encourage people to reconnect personally, beyond work issues.


Take advantage of this opportunity to gather information and act

This crisis is not only about trauma and disruption, it is also a fantastic opportunity to grow for people and businesses. In the past 3 to 4 months, we have seen extraordinary demonstrations of resilience, agility, creativity, speed in decision and action, collaboration, empathy, and solidarity in our organizations, cities, communities, and families. Leveraging these bright spots in your organization is a very effective way to help your employees and managers get back to their best with inspiring examples of “what we can accomplish together.” You can do this by gathering facts and data with structured tools and processes. The same tools and processes also apply to identify and measure what did not work, what should we do differently and what we must do to fix the roots of the current organizational trauma or difficulties.
Beyond any of these examples, my number one point about managing organizational trauma is that inviting your people to express and discuss their vulnerability is the best way of making them stronger and better.

I was working with a team the other day and one of the members said, “I want to feel it’s OK to say what I am about to say; and if it is OK to say what I am about to say, then I wouldn’t need to ask for it.”
The irony of psychological safety is that you only know you need it when you don’t feel you have it.
What is it?
Psychological safety is a term that describes the phenomena of feeling that it’s OK to take a risk. In my words, I can bear the discomfort of stepping out of my comfort zone in this situation with this group of people.
Research undertaken by Edmondson et al. and Google have found it’s one of the key ingredients in high-performing teams. This research has given us language to describe it and to start thinking about how we can intentionally create it.
The other day in an organization I was working with, I heard two colleagues discussing their manager: “He doesn’t make it psychologically safe for us.” I also hear executives talk about how they need to train their managers in psychological safety.
How do we train for psychological safety? How do we help each other to create the environment for each other to tolerate the discomfort of being vulnerable, of being seen in all our glory and messiness? Depending on our past experience, that can for some of us be almost intolerable. So how do we tolerate the intolerable?
Where does psychological safety come from?
Well, as I see it, it’s partly internal and based on one’s own level of tolerance of the unknown. As to some degree, we can only know it’s safe to take a risk when we have taken one and survived, and we carry that level of internal trust in ourselves around with us wherever we go.
This internal safety level is then heightened by and impacted by the situation we find ourselves in. We have an antenna that reads faces and body language, atmosphere and energy, and makes inferences and draws conclusion. It tells us whether it’s OK or not OK to express ourselves fully.
And it’s an infinity loop as how we are received, then it impacts future decisions, making us more or less confident to take risks in this situation and situations like them. Is that complicated or what?
So how do we create it?
It requires working at the “being” level as well as the “doing” level. Psychological safety is created moment by moment. It’s a felt sense. It often arises out of not feeling safe (i.e., in the bearing of not feeling safe, we find safety — the eye of the storm). It’s not static; it’s dynamic. And it’s not evolving.
What does it require of us?
It requires a mindset of a learner, of deep curiosity, of staying in a conversation with ourselves and others to help each other bear the discomfort of being vulnerable — being in open, transparent communication with each other, in each moment. For example, I can’t make my manager make it psychologically safe, but I can find out what is important to him/her and what he/she needs to feel psychologically safe.
It requires a mindset of taking responsibility for my part in the process and not waiting for someone else to give it to me or do it for me. For example, I don’t wait for the company to organize training on psychological safety. I find out what I can do in every meeting to make it easier for people to take risks.
It involves treating myself and others with kindness and compassion. We are much more likely to take risks if we feel we will be met with kindness — for example, remembering that most people care and want the best for everyone, and if they are behaving badly, it’s because they are scared or hurt.
It involves seeing our interconnectedness and interdependence, realizing that we are all similar in our fears and hopes, yet appreciating that we all have different ways of expressing our true nature in the world.
When we say what is true for us in that moment, we feel liberated and free to do our best thinking, and we became more productive.
What can I do?

  • Not pretend to know when I don’t; I can ask for help. This is difficult, especially when I feel like I should know and I am paid to know.
  • If someone is behaving oddly and creating an atmosphere, I can ask what is important to them. Usually we get defensive and upset when something we care about is at stake, so I can check if something important to them is at risk.
  • I can have check-ins at every meeting, which is an opportunity for everyone to arrive and get present, and to say anything that is concerning them or impacting their ability to be present.
  • I can say if something is concerning me, and that gives permission for others to say the same.
  • I can find a clean way to discuss the undiscussables.
  • I can continuously remind myself that I am human and, as such, I am impacted by others.
  • I can take risks to expand my comfort zone.
  • I can learn breathing and body practices to grow my ability to tolerate the discomfort of feeling unsafe.