How to start the hybrid workplace conversation

The recent pandemic has changed the workplace in a major way. How employees will use the office and what they expect from it—as well as what the business expects from you—have fundamentally changed. The proverbial writing is on the wall: The move to hybrid workplaces is inevitable.

What’s the best way to navigate the complexities of implanting a hybrid workplace? And who should be involved in the conversation? More people than you might think, as it turns out.

The future of work and the workplace is at this intersection of technology, workforce, and workplace.

John Means

Partner, McKinsey

Going hybrid requires deep collaboration with other teams across the enterprise—and your company may look to you to jumpstart the process. Launching a company-wide initiative might be a new concept for many corporate real estate (CRE) professionals, but this cross-collaboration is essential to achieving your goals as well as the company’s. If there was ever a time for CRE teams to step up, it’s now.

“If the conversation isn’t already happening, be the one to spark those discussions to get the ball rolling,” said Susan Lund, partner at the McKinsey Global Institute.

Bring the right people to the table

Going hybrid is an effort that impacts most if not all areas of the business, and there is no one-size-fits-all template for mapping it all out. Take the time to plan what your hybrid workplace will look like. Ask tough questions of the stakeholders and teams, and ensure that potential solutions are achievable and will meet the employee and business needs. Because at the center of the hybrid workplace isn’t the office or leadership: It’s the people and their ability to achieve business goals.

Workforce preferences have changed, and employers will lean into them to “win back” office workers in 2021 and beyond. It’s a worker-centric world now, and your hybrid transition team has to put employees at the center of the conversation. The hybrid transition team should ensure that no employee is unfairly impacted—positively or negatively—by the new workplace or by where and how they choose to work. All employees must feel connected to what’s happening within the company.

In fact, a recent JLLT poll revealed that 70% of respondents said HR/people should be first in the cross-team collaboration.

Poll: What groups are represented on your hybrid workplace team?

Hybrid workplace team members
We recommended that you include representatives from the following teams, at a minimum, in your organization’s hybrid conversation:

  • Human resources to understand their vision for the workforce, to plan for the future of work and an effective workplace experience, and to ensure an inclusive company culture—regardless of where and how employees choose to work
  • Executive leadership to understand their plans and how they need the company to operate and meet its goals
  • Real estate to plan new collaboration and meeting spaces and deliver facilities management, space management, and portfolio management
  • Information technology to assess how current technologies can be used and to evaluate the new technologies to fill in gaps
  • Operations to weigh in on how the hybrid workplace will impact company operations
  • Finance to ensure there is budget to cover the team’s plan and understand the nuances of how costs are covered
  • Procurement to determine which supplies and equipment the new workplace will require

In the past, working with all of those departments might have unproductive and slow-moving but how business decisions get made in this new world of work is changing drastically.

“We are seeing a flattening of hierarchies and an incredible acceleration of decision-making,” said Lund. “One CEO said we’re going to be a company’s of deciders and doers—no one in between.”

One thing is certain: This is a great opportunity to elevate your role as a CRE professional. As you move to a hybrid workplace, start the conversation across teams, and listen to industry experts.

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