Conflict between leaders and employees arising from hybrid working arrangements

In the post-pandemic workplace, many workplaces were forced to adopt hybrid working.

Hybrid working is great, as it combines flexibility with facetime.

However, some leaders are pushing for a permanent return to the office, or at least more regular office working. This is creating friction and throws up a number of key points of conflict, which we’ll look at in more detail below; there are clearly pros and cons to hybrid and office working and it’s difficult to strike the balance that fits the needs and wants of both leadership and staff effectively.  

Questioning the purpose behind a desired return to the office

Employees are unsure as to why they’re being asked to return to the office. Is it to feed the egos of leaders, who wish to see their staff physically working? Research by Microsoft suggested 87% of employees feel they are highly productive, whereas only 12% of leaders believe in their employees’ productivity. This is staggering and shows there is a culture of mistrust. 

People are generally happy to go into the office, but only if there’s a genuine purpose. A genuine purpose isn’t just to be seen working!

Difficulty creating culture

It’s difficult to create organisational culture when few employees are physically present. Video calls can only go so far – leaders are struggling to create a culture and set the tone for what they want to see, with such limited contact with employees.

Lack of social interaction

Many leaders wish to create a personal connection with their teams, which would have been easier done with lunches and other events within the physical workplace. However, often it’s next to impossible to get everyone in on a given day with the level of flexibility workplaces now offer. Therefore leadership is feeling somewhat impersonal currently in some organisations. 

We recommend setting up dates in the diary for when everyone should aim to be in the office, in order to really foster team spirit. For example, a monthly lunch, or speed 1-2-1s – a round robin of everyone in respective teams getting to know one-another better.

Whatever hybrid working looks like in your organisation, it’s vital that leaders are able to create the right culture, have trust in their employees and set a good example. Ultimately, adults should be trusted to get on with their work, irrespective of their working environment. Leaders need to have the maturity and the foresight to manage this and their expectations accordingly. Results-based targets are a better indicator than KPIs or hours worked.