In the discussion about whether or not to get everyone back to the office, the key focal point ought to be people’s engagement.  Having meaningful conversations is more important to people’s sense of engagement than whether they are virtual or face-to-face.

Obviously the kind of work you do matters, perhaps the most; some work just can’t be done remotely (although that list seems to shrink daily).  Some people just don’t want to work remote, while others do. Such preferences matter.

That’s why dictums to ban remote work and get everyone back into the office – even with the incentive of beautiful work spaces – seem self-limiting.  What organisations want is high performance, and engaged workers is a significant contributor to that.

There’s a sweet spot emerging for hybrid work, and the recent Gallup article How important is time in the office? provides a relatively clear view of it, based on a study of 16,000 workers.


Gallup graph of remote work engagement


The piece of data that organisations requiring five days in the office ought to ponder more closely is that engagement is lower for those working five days in the office versus those working five days remotely (and everywhere in between).  For the best of both worlds, two to three days in the office creates the highest levels of engagement.

As Gallup says, an unexpected bonus of the great remote work experiment is improved collaboration practices.  This makes sense, as most knowledge work involves a mix of individual and group work, and so a hybrid working arrangement can actually help to support a more productive working rhythm.

What makes the most difference to engagement is the relationship with the line manager, and this is the one area that needs more thought, practice and time with routine hybrid work.

Gallup’s recommendation for making hybrid work work  – which I heartily endorse – hold one 15 to 30 minute meaningful conversation with each employee each week to talk about goals, wellbeing, customers, recognition.

That’s how they put it.  My recommendation is to hold one meaningful conversation with each employee every week that is about them, and what they need from you.  Whether or not the conversation is virtual or face-to-face is much less important than how you seek to engage with them.

For more on how to make hybrid work, check out my earlier articles here, here and here. For more on how to engage your team, check out my Whitepaper: Why care and compassion need to be prioritised to truly engage your workforce.


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