Navigating The New Normal Of Hybrid Work


Dean Glas is CEO of SellX, a modern sales platform connecting companies with an on-demand elite remote sales force to drive revenue.

In February, David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, declared it was time for the company’s 10,000 New York City-based employees to return to the office full time. Only half that amount showed up for work. Since then, junior bankers have been complaining publicly and have posted on anonymous forums they are looking for more flexible jobs in tech. Solomon’s rationale is that Goldman’s “special sauce” is its culture and the network of relationships that can only be built by in-person experience.

As companies around the world now deal with the new normal of hybrid and remote work, Goldman Sachs is an outlier. On the other end of the spectrum, Airbnb recently announced it was joining the ranks of companies going remote first, a list that already includes household names like 3M, SAP, Nationwide, Fujitsu and PwC.

At the extreme opposite of Goldman is a tech startup called Levels. Levels is not just fully remote, it doesn’t have an office at all—and its CEO is nomadic, living out of a backpack while moving from one location to another. In a fascinating case study, Mario Gabriele shows how CEO Sam Corcos has assembled a team of world class talent and created a high performance operating culture—not despite being fully remote—but because of it.

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With most companies planning to adopt hybrid work models, it’s important to be intentional.

Goldman and Levels are unique cases: Harvard Business Review estimated that 90% of all companies would adopt at least a hybrid work model in 2022. This is the “messy middle,” where managing hybrid workers, fully remote workers, as well as freelance workers will present complex organizational and cultural challenges. In a hybrid world, questions of why and when workers come to the office become crucial. Issues of fairness, in terms of compensation versus flexibility and other benefits, come to the fore. Should workers who are fully remote, saving the firm office costs, be given help with day care expenses? Can managers overcome biases that lead them to promote workers they see every day more than those they don’t? How can a strong culture be maintained with less in-person interaction?

To borrow a phrase from a recent report by Microsoft, business leaders will need to approach this new normal with “radical intentionality.” Communication, especially about the “why” and “how” the firm does business, needs to go from implicit to explicit. This is one of the key lessons for making hybrid models successful.

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Document everything.

For companies offering hybrid work styles, it’s important to document everything about the business, from minute workflows to core strategy briefs. For example, Levels maintains a massive repository of content in the form of documents, video recordings and blog posts. Goldman Sachs’ vaunted corporate culture is the unwritten collective know-how and expertise that gets passed down and disseminated in a multitude of shared in-person interactions. Look for ways to create a similarly powerful culture through radical transparency and a living library of information that can be accessed by anyone in the company, anywhere, at any time.

Minimize synchronous interactions.

Another key lesson is to minimize synchronous interactions. This means having fewer meetings (via video) and shifting away from a reliance on instant messages. Levels found that these constant interruptions can distract from the “deep work” of coding, writing, designing and building. By limiting meetings and forcing a discipline of asynchronous communication, you can give high performers maximum freedom to do deep work and avoid what Microsoft calls “digital exhaustion.”

Use the office to promote and deepen social ties.

Microsoft’s research supports David Solomon’s assertion about culture in one way: social capital, or the strength of workers’ personal relationships in an organization, has suffered somewhat for hybrid workers and more significantly for fully remote workers. This social capital—having friends and mentors—is crucial to employee well-being and makes them more productive and less likely to leave the firm.

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Companies with hybrid workers would do well to use the office to promote and deepen social ties. One idea would be to have managers and senior execs give open office hours where anyone can schedule one-on-one time. Building social capital with fully remote workers will take more creativity. One idea that’s gaining traction, including at my own company, SellX, are meetings in VR—an environment in which everyone is an avatar sharing the same experience.

Goldman Sachs notwithstanding, the genie is out of the bottle for most workers. Especially for Gen Z, they are demanding more flexibility as to how and where they work. Managers will have to find ways to maintain culture, use best practices for digital work and provide workers with ways to build good relationships even when working remotely. While it may not be easy, the companies already finding success with hybrid and remote workers show it can be done.


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