Return-to-Work, Virtual or Hybrid: A Millennial Wonders If It Matters!

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A consulting colleague stared at me with disbelief that I had spent time during the #pandemic writing a book The New Workforce: Productivity Through Virtual and Hybrid Teams https://amzn.to/3zvtzyv on navigating these new environments.  She explained that she has always operated in #in-person and #online environments, seamlessly switching between the two.

I am an “elder” consultant with decades of experience.  My colleague is a millennial new to the game. This gap in perspective is playing out every day in organizations across the globe. This is especially true as many businesses are now asking employees to #return-to-work during 2022, along with remaining virtual for part of the time.

This transition is creating some angst for professionals not acquainted with fluidly moving between work settings.  However, should this type of ongoing transition lead to drama?  Is focusing time and energy on work settings taking valuable energy away from asking more important questions about how to resolve critical organizational issues of the day? 

I believe the below comments of my millennial colleague featured in my book suggest that she would answer these critical questions in the affirmative:

“I’ve spent most, if not all, of my professional career operating in hybrid virtual/in-person work environments on global teams. I was 24 when I joined one of the largest business consulting firms in the world, where I was expected to travel 100% for work, which in my case meant I was getting on a plane each Monday at 6 a.m., coming home each Thursday by 11 p.m., and working from home on Fridays.

Across all industries I worked in, from manufacturing, to consumer-packaged goods, to retail, my clients expected consultants to be onsite physically each week. This was even the case when I was put on a project based in Budapest, Hungary, where I was able to finagle a “2 weeks onsite, 2 weeks working from home” schedule for a year.

I’ve worked on deliverables and carried out entire meetings and workshops on planes, busses, and trains, in coffee shops, lobbies, my parents’ kitchen, the client’s onsite cafeteria—you name it. The idea of “going into work to get things done” is an interesting one in my experience, because I have had to constantly learn how to work with others in whatever context was presented to me. …

If nothing else, this pandemic has tested our assumptions, truths, and rules that we may have held close. By allowing ourselves the space and possibility to hold multiple truths together, we can continue to stay agile and continue operating in whatever environment or context is presented to us next—whether it be a plane, a coffee house, or my parents’ kitchen. I look forward to it.”

In my book I conclude that the virtual approaches I share, such as online polling and whiteboards, can be easily leveraged in hybrid and in-person environments.  The key is to become adept at tools and techniques that will help your teams succeed regardless of where they are delivered. 

As a fellow “elder” consultant said to me last week: “We have a lot to learn from the millennials about how we approach work.”

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

Published by Kevin Anderson, Dr. Organizational Design (OD)

Kevin Anderson is a leading expert in organizational design and performance, leadership, large scale change projects, business process engineering and talent and culture initiatives. Kevin has over twenty five years of experience in designing and delivering high impact, global organizational solutions. He is a Senior Organizational Development Consultant at Cargill where he leads efforts around team effectiveness, organizational design, culture and change management. Kevin diagnoses, proposes and delivers solutions in the Talent Performance domain. He has also created and rolled out Leadership Development and Organizational Development for the City of Minneapolis. Before that Kevin successfully worked with Accelare consulting health care, retail and university clients to create actionable strategic plans. In addition, he has served as an organizational development leader at Thomson Reuters working with legal, financial and scientific products. Kevin has a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development and a Masters of Arts in Public Policy and Management from the University of Minnesota. His Bachelors Degree in Speech Communications and Political Science is from Macalester College.

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