January 13, 2022

Learning And The Hybrid Work Paradox

4 min read
By Peter Fotheringham

As we enter a new year, the trend of people renegotiating their relationship with work is continuing along many vectors, including purpose, fairness, learning and development, and inclusivity. As a result, people leaders across the globe are reconsidering their company culture, values and working models.

The list is of how the working world is changing is long, but the shift to hybrid working remains very near the top. Hybrid working can take multiple forms: all people work on-site part of the week and remotely part of the week; some people work full-time remotely and others full-time on-site; or a mix of these two.

Whichever hybrid model companies might use, the concept of hybrid working is a significant change in not only how we work, but how we connect with each other through work. In January 2020, the percentage of monthly LinkedIn posts advertising remote roles was a mere 2%. This has since skyrocketed to 13.7% in just over a year. Between 2019 and 2020, the amount of UK employees working from home at least one day a week has more than doubled, with roughly 87% of people hoping to continue working remotely at least half of the time in the future. Despite this, could it be time to admit that Hybrid isn’t working?


The Hybrid Working Paradox

Hybrid working is unique due to the contradiction it presents: Microsoft and LinkedIn data shows us that employees value the work-life balance, reduced commute and enhanced ability to focus when working from home. Simultaneously, they lack the collaboration, social interaction and connectivity with co-workers when remote.

The annual Work Trend Index found that 70% of employees want flexible remote work options to continue. And yet 65% of the same employees are craving more in-person time with their colleagues.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella deems this complexity and mixture of needs the Hybrid Work Paradox.

Organisations are still trying to figure out how to get employee experience and well-being right. 66% of leaders are hoping to redesign their office for hybrid work, and 41% of UK companies are adjusting their workplace policies to accommodate the hybrid model,

However, their people are often struggling due to the Hybrid Work Paradox. Gen Z have been hit particularly hard. 60% of employees aged 18 to 25 confess they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling with the current work climate.

This brings to mind famed sociologist Arthur Stinchcombe’s words: humans can live on a stew of paradox for a long time, before getting indigestion. We might well be nearing that point.


Hybrid Working = Hybrid Learning?

Learning is supercharged when it’s collaborative, socially engaged and connected to a rich sensory experience. Great learning uses community and shared experience to create sticky behavioural change.

Community is a powerful tool for unlocking, changing and re-locking the way we feel, our actions and thought processes. When we’re together in a room, working collectively to solve a common problem or address an issue, we can be a strong force for change.

Think back to a time when you asked a colleague for help in understanding something or with a piece of work you were struggling with. In these organic, in-person moments, dialogue offered the opportunity to grow. Educational psychologists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky call this The Zone of Proximal Development – the advanced level a learner can reach with the collaboration and guidance of those around them. A recent study found that students learning in passive, non-collaborative courses are 1.5 times more likely to fail, compared to students participating in collaborative and active learning courses.

So, how can we really learn effectively in a hybrid environment?

Use your learning spaces to build an equal community, with equally shared experiences. The person calling in remotely and the person working on-site should both feel like they are collaborating, socially engaging, and connecting with their peers in the same way.

90% of remote respondents from hybrid events where some participants attended in person and others remotely, felt separate from the ‘in-crowd’.

When it comes to hybrid learning, the only way to create an equally shared experience (with the technology we currently have) is to provide an experience where either everyone participates in the learning experience remotely (virtually) or in-person. A “two-tiered” learning experience with varied forms of participants risks leaving some people excluded, and it can fray social connection in your organisation at a time when 37% of people already feel disconnected from their colleagues.

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