Nearly two years after the great pandemic of 2020, the world will never again return to the old normal. Remote work is here to stay and your options are either to offer fully remote, or risk losing valuable talent.
Most people are of the opinion that hybrid doesn’t work. But most people also said cars would never become a thing while horses and carts were the norm. Yet, the undeniable value of the improved mode of transport replaced horse and cart completely.
Free to choose
I believe that remote work, or at least hybrid, will become the norm — pandemic or no pandemic. It’s no longer about staying safe. It is about freedom of choice. Freedom to choose talent across geographic regions previously restricted, and freedom to choose where and when to work regardless of where you physically are. It’s about coming together, inclusion, breaking down borders and barriers.
Hybrid alternatives to work is the next step to embrace this freedom of choice.
Sure, it is challenging, just as going fully remote was challenging at first. But it’s not an insurmountable problem. I actually think it’s a much easier problem to solve than going fully remote.
Pro’s and Con’s of hybrid
You don’t use a hammer for everything, so why would you choose one communication preference for everything?
Like anything in life, there’s benefits and disadvantages to all options. The disadvantage of a fully co-located team is that the commute to the location can take up a lot of time and add unnecessary stress to an already stressed resource which negatively affects the productivity.
The advantage is that face-to-face communication is by far the most effective form of communication. It allows for clearer communication and a more nuanced interpretation of a message and it makes it much easier for groups to have a natural conversation.
But you don’t always need face-to-face communication. Sometimes it’s more effective to send an email or a text message. Other times a voice note is more than enough. And hybrid is offering the best of both worlds, which makes it (in my opinion) an even better alternative than 100% face-to-face.
For some of the benefits of hybrids, read Embracing Hybrid | The Speed Buddy warmer, where I drill into a hybrid game design and list some of the benefits of this approach and why it is engaging.
Fishing for gold
A common technique in workshop facilitation is called the fishbowl technique. A larger group is broken into two smaller parts, one actively participating, while the other observes.
This technique is also common in design thinking where the empathy map is used to help designers become more objective by focusing on the actual behaviors they observe rather than their interpretation filtered by personal biases.
A hybrid environment naturally supports this technique, breaking the group into two smaller sections already. Consciously using this technique could be an easy entry into hybrid meetings.
The key to engagement
Whether a meeting is in person, remote or hybrid has nothing to do how engaging the session is. Engagement requires active participation. Any meeting where one person takes up all the airtime to simply convey their ideas are boring. A meeting becomes engaging when each participant has a role.
The only thing you as facilitator should focus on is to ensure that everyone is given a role explicitly. There are of course a lot of other things that can enhance the level of engagement, but the most essential ingredient for engagement is participation.
This was one of the key success factors in a recent (successful) experiment we co-created in a hybrid environment, which resulted in something I call the Speed Buddy Warmer.
Speed Buddy Warmer — A Hybrid Design
The speed buddy warmer is a very simple tool to include everyone, give everyone an opportunity to connect, and give each participant responsibility.
Based on the scuba dive buddy concept, the speed buddy warmer matches online and in-person participants as buddies for the duration of the meeting. These buddies share a unique hand sign to ensure that everyone is included at all times.
It often happens (especially in a remote setting) that the facilitator can only see a handful of the participants on their screen, making it hard to notice disengagement, questions or other issues. I know I for one have sat in remote meetings what felt like forever with my hand raised waiting for the facilitator to notice me and allow me time to ask my question.
The Speed Buddy Warmer links the two environments and dedicate people in pairs to ensure their buddy is always looked after during the session and never overlooked.
Without any preparation, this game can be used for new teams and teams familiar with each other. For more details on how to play it, as well as a deeper dive into it’s design, read my post called Embracing Hybrid | The Speed Buddy warmer.
We designed the game in a few minutes, and it proved to be easy enough and effective to engage both remote and in-person people.
So next time someone says hybrid doesn’t work, think again. Maybe you’re just doing it wrong.