The hybrid workplace – a blend of in-office and remote workers – allows people the flexibility to choose where they want to work. However, for leaders this means new power dynamics in the workplace.
It is almost inevitable that there will be power imbalances, and it will not take care of itself, says William Elliot, founding director of ActionCo, executive coach and registered psychologist.
“It is not about whether you are a fair leader or whether there is a good company culture, it is important to deal with the new power dynamics in split teams since it can very quickly develop into real or perceived unfairness or bias if not dealt with.”
People who prefer working from home because of fear or specific circumstances may quickly feel “judged”. There is also the potential perception that those who do go into the office are more committed to the organisation.
People who must travel to the office may see it as a burden and it could even create resentment towards those who are working from home. At the same token it could be a relief for others who need some “me time”.
People who are working in the office can resent those working from home if they feel their workload has increased because they are more visible to the boss. Others may consider it a privilege.
People working from home may feel they have less of an opportunity to contribute and add value. They may even feel their jobs are at risk because they are not feeling as integral to the organisation.
New dynamics can shift very quickly. Sometimes those working at the office may be seen as the privileged, having access to the best technology and information. At other times it may be those working from home, having more time and flexibility to organise their day.
The virtual experience
Virtual meetings have quickly become the norm but continue to pose some real challenges. A recent survey by Cisco, a multinational technology company, shows that 98% of participants experienced frustration with video conferencing while working from home (see sidebar).
Elliot says virtual meetings are like having a conversation over a walkie-talkie: Good morning, John. How are you? Over. Hi Sam, well thank you. And you? Over …
“There is no real free flow of conversation. In a virtual meeting it is mute, unmute, camera on, camera off. Micro-expressions such as reassuring noises, a nod of approval or thumbs-up at someone specific, or hearing people laugh at your joke, are absent,” he says.
People may feel shut out because they do not want to simply jump in. There are no natural pauses because of the “walkie-talkie effect”.
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