Why Some Leaders Scapegoat Hybrid Working

The narrative that remote and hybrid working models are solely responsible for corporate underperformance is gaining traction among some bosses who claim that their companies can’t innovate without full return-to-office (RTO) mandates. However, this narrow view ignores the multitude of factors influencing productivity and innovation within organisations.

To begin with, attributing underperformance solely to remote or hybrid working arrangements overlooks other crucial elements such as leadership effectiveness, organisational culture and a collective growth mindset.

The Corporate Amygdala

Firstly, it’s essential to recognise that successful innovation is not solely dependent on being in the same office but rather on creating a conducive environment for collaboration, creativity and ideas exchange. Regardless of where employees are located!

The “Corporate Amygdala” is the collective mindset within a company that instinctively prioritises safety and risk avoidance. Just like the amygdala in the brain, which plays a crucial role in processing emotions and triggering responses to potential threats, the Corporate Amygdala influences how organisations perceive and react to challenges or changes in their environment. This mentality often leads to a preference for maintaining the status quo rather than taking risks or embracing innovation.

The Decision Maker Panel Survey

Secondly, consider a recent survey conducted jointly by the Bank of England, Stanford University, King’s College London and the University of Nottingham, surveys the chief financial officers of around 2,500 UK firms each month that suggested, for every extra day an employee works outside the office, their productivity rises to the tune of about £15,000 a year.

Furthermore, pushing for a mandatory return to the office before innovating ignores the clear advantages of remote and hybrid work setups. These flexible models have shown they can boost employee happiness, balance work and personal life better and open up the talent pool to diverse locations. Embracing remote and hybrid approaches enables companies to access a wider array of viewpoints and expertise, ultimately driving innovation.

Arguing that innovation hinges on everyone being back in the office ignores how adaptable and resilient many companies have been during the pandemic. Even with remote work challenges, lots of businesses have shown incredible innovation and flexibility. They’ve used tech and virtual collaboration tools to keep moving forward and stay competitive.

The Alternative

Instead of scapegoating remote and hybrid working, leaders should focus on addressing the underlying issues contributing to underperformance, such as ineffective communication, lack of clear goals, or insufficient support for remote teams. They should also put more time and effort into working out who needs to collaborate with whom in order to innovate – and set some enablers in place.

Companies can create a culture of innovation that goes beyond physical limits by embracing a balanced approach, combining the strengths of both in-person and remote collaboration. This approach drives lasting success in the modern day workplace.

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