Last week I wrote about the “messy, mushy middle” of figuring out where and how we work as more people return to the office. I closed with a funny observation from Andrew Mawson, MD of AWA:
“People tried coming into the office and when they got there, they found all they were doing was being on Zoom calls.”
Figuring out the balance of hybrid work is the management question of the moment. The Corporate Research Forum found that 9 in 10 UK employers are now operating some kind of hybrid model, with two or three days in the office the most common formula.
I like how Rich Barton, Zillow CEO, describes the “messy, mushy middle”:
“The workplace itself is being reinvented right now. It’s kind of like the Big Bang. We’re trying to figure out the early physics, right after the Big Bang. We’re all inventing that together.”
This reinvention stage is awkward and filled with theories and experimentation on what work models and physical spaces may work best going forward. Some companies are nixing open plan offices of in favor of old-school private offices and cubicles. Others are remodeling offices into collaboration centers with no private workspaces at all.
Some of the experiments take the form of top-down mandates that risk amplifying the worst of both worlds — the inconvenience of in-person and the isolation of remote.
But this is uncharted territory. Ultimately, I think the most lasting solutions will come bottom-up from the teams themselves.
Here’s how Gina Sheibley, CCO at Qualtrics, put it:
“We’re learn based on what people do. Maybe we end up creating more conference space. Maybe we might need more desks. But I love the idea we have a little bit of flexibility.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: