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Humanizing Hybrid Workplaces

When in the year 1989, urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg was defining his theory of a “third place”, he was certainly focusing on a missing element from American society. He referred to space for individuals beyond work and home. A space where individuals could develop. For many people, this place already existed, in the form of communities, or a home study. However, from 2020 onwards, the very idea of spaces that have one purpose has been challenged. Thanks to the advent of technology, we now connect to offices in real-time. They have truly become a “hybrid workplace”. A place where your home becomes an office and co-exists which Oldenburg would call the “fourth space”.

The Third Space:

Oldenburg’s (1991) treatment of third places a strong emphasis on the social aspects, emphasizing that a third place should be warm and inviting, frequented by regulars, and a place to make new friends and reconnect with old ones. While Oldenburg emphasized that this space is a physical one, the pandemic in 2020, and the rise of the hybrid workplace have slowly transformed this space from one that was exclusively physical into one that is mostly virtualized. Third place has also changed. It has diminished to be physical and emerged to be virtual. 

The Third Place is now on Facebook (Metaverse), Youtube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms. More importantly, it is highly integral to the fourth place. The little chit-chats over office coffee machines, hallway conversation over the latest news, and before and after meeting handshakes that used to happen at offices, have now transformed into digital tittle-tattles, High-Fives, Emojis, and GIFs.

And the phrase “little grace” is equally applicable in this paradigm. “Good” companies do understand this on account of depleting physical interactions or psychological and mental wellbeing gateways. They endorse and then embrace the presence of these channels for their employees to procure. Some of their areas of focus include: 

–          Relationships

–          Personality Development

–          Social Dynamics

What Is This “Fourth Place?” 

This Fourth Space is having a significant impact on our professional lives. It is not limited to single category workers, like remote employees. It is impacting the fabric that makes up our society: including our families and allied social network systems, immersive and extensively. We are still in fact, contesting the challenges of the hybrid workplace daily.

Children are struggling to understand that their parents are at work, despite being around and visible. The buzzing sound of laundry, a dog barking, the doorbell ringing, or an elderly person on home care coughing or calling, may be annoying, but they are the new permanent interruptions to home workspaces. 

In addition to this, many questions remain.  though, that still needs to be answered about the hybrid workplace. Is it the new normal? Can we make the hybrid model work better?  What’s next? There are two realities which companies now have to accept. 

Hybrid Work is here to stay

“Remote or hybrid” work is now a permanent part of job postings around the globe, and those calling for “on-site” recruitment alone are finding it hard to get the right talent. Companies that have quickly adapted to the new work styles have emerged as the most sought-after employers. Particularly for the Millennials and Gen “Y”, as this makes them more productive and engaged. This is one fact that has so far been established.

Why Employees Prefer a Hybrid Workplace

Moreover, companies have leveraged the hybrid workplace model and transformed their cultures from physical to online. It has provided them with agility in their endeavor that has unleashed the potential of their employees, which traditional ways of work could not. They are open to making their employees understand that formal business attire is now more suited for friends’ marriages, pets chasing kids can appear in the background when you’re in zoom meetings, and the boss appreciates your spouse’s presence with a quick “Hi” and it is very much OK to have a pile of washed clothes showing on your lounge couch. 

These companies have adapted to humanizing their workplace a lot by showing just a ‘little’ grace towards what life is throwing at all of us in the name of new work ways. 

The Humanizing Elements (How part):

The biggest challenge that emerges with the hybrid workplace, is that it feels “artificial”. The in-person and virtual office experience and interactions are worlds apart after all. Humanizing these interactions and experiences remains the greatest challenge organizations have to face. 

However, research indicates that there are 4 fundamental elements that can help make the shift easier. These fundamental elements include mutual trust (confianza), respect (respect), verbal teaching and advice (Consejos), and good examples (exemplar models).  It’s intriguing how these crucial elements all contribute to the shared objective of humanizing the hybrid workplaces present in the contemporary corporate world. 

i.               Confianza: Mutual Trust, Praise and Personal Language

The first element organizations should consider adding a human element to the hybrid workplace is the trust which can only be built through effective communication and deployment of the right tools. This is because virtual meetings are missing multiple elements (non-verbal cues, eye-to-eye contact, environmental serenity having no distractions/interruptions – of voice, internet, and the ones we narrated earlier) which are present in in-person meetings. 

To accomplish this, they need to use more engagement tools allowing adequate digital room for praise and recognition (e-awards), both spontaneous and periodic (not exceeding a month or so). Businesses also need and intend to invest extensively in their channels of communication, to make them more interactive and life-like. 

ii.              Respeto: (Respect)

The second humanizing element is respect. The rise of the virtual workplace has made it more challenging for people to place value on each other’s time. For example, when in the office, responding to emails and attending meetings are easier as these are stand-alone tasks executed in a highly structured environment. To achieve the same level of effectiveness, it is necessary for individuals to prepare twice as much beforehand.  

Employees need to be on time, come prepared, have a predetermined meeting agenda on the table, clarifications sought beforehand, and keynotes made. Only then can discussions be conducted around the subject and not away from it. Virtual etiquette also needs to be established e.g when someone else is talking, others need to be attentive and listen, instead of responding to emails or replying to their messages. When these components fall in place, employees and businesses save time, effort, and energy. 

iii.             Consejos: Advice – Robust Virtual Engagements

The third element organizations need to upgrade is their virtual workplace platforms. Humans do not exist in 2D and . Virtual fatigue and digital stress are inescapable. They are no less than the seasonal flu prevalent around the year. Companies need to invest in their digital and virtual platforms in a manner that dilutes this “virtual hazard”. 

One way to accomplish this would be to design 3D virtual workplaces, intermittent videos popping on your screens to get up and do somebody stretches with your colleagues, musical interventions, gamification to challenge minds, allowing people to create their avatars and superheroes, and having “Waterminders” on home screens are some of the ways we can bring fun, wellness, engagement, and cohesiveness to our workplaces.

iv.            Buen ejemplos: Good Examples:

Finally, organizations can refine their hybrid workplace through good examples. The Great Resignation, The Great Reconfiguration, and The Great Revaluation have challenged organizations with talent scarcity.  To attract and retain the right talent, employers are being forced by the workforce to meet their expectations. While hybrid is not essentially fully remote, it requires the inclusion of some key policy elements to set good examples to attract and retain good talent.

One such organization is Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which employs over 60,000 people. Recognizing the specifications of this new way of working, the corporation has completely redesigned and refitted its offices to fulfill the demands of a hybrid workforce. This is not the only organization. 

In an internal message to his employees, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, shared his vision for the search giant’s new hybrid return-to-work plans. The plan calls for approximately 60% of Googlers to work in the office for a few days per week, while another 20% will work in new office locations and another 20% will work remotely. 

Conclusion:  

Doing some or all of the above is the need of the hour. Though the scalability and implementation of each element differ from company to company and industry to industry. Yet, companies must embrace the hybrid workplace for it will strengthen their brand equity and leverage their ROIs. Stay put, stay connected!

Citation:

The Transformative Potential of Humanizing Pedagogy: Addressing the Diverse Needs of

Chicano/Mexicano Students

Author(s): María E. Fránquiz and María del Carmen Salazar

Source:  

The High School Journal,

Vol. 87, No. 4, Chicana/o Activism in Education: Theories and

 Pedagogies of Trans/formation (Apr. – May 2004), pp. 36-53

Published by:   University of North Carolina Press

Stable URL:   http://www.jstor.org/stable/40364283

Accessed: 18-01-2016 19:11 UTC

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