Organizations have become more flexible about where and when employees work. Now they need to be more intentional about their choices and trade-offs.

Leaders and the teams they manage are experimenting with new ways of working — both in the short term during COVID-19 and longer term for a post-pandemic world. The axes of work are pivoting simultaneously in terms of both place and time, with leaders designing hybrid ways of collaborating that have few precedents. It’s tough and, not surprisingly, causing confusion. How much flexibility around where and when people do their jobs is best? What strategies are most effective? Some CEOs envision that work will happen “anywhere” going forward, while others are asking employees to return to central office spaces. Some are accommodating flexible time commitments, while others are requiring their staffs to be available 9 to 5.

To find the right way forward, leaders must understand the axes of hybrid work — the upsides and downsides of where and when people work — and align them so that they feed the energy, focus, coordination, and cooperation needed to be productive.

In this article, I’ll lay out what I’m seeing in the evolution of hybrid workplaces and describe four emerging principles: Use office space to amplify cooperation, make working from home a source of energy, take advantage of asynchronous time to boost focus, and use synchronized time for tasks that require coordination.

The Axes of Hybrid Work: Place and Time

The place of work for many people has historically been the office. Separate from personal space and outfitted with all the furniture and technology necessary for people to do their jobs efficiently, the office has been a place of congregation, where people gather for one primary goal — to work.

During COVID-19, this has changed dramatically. For many people, work is now located in their personal spaces — their homes — while others are working in coffee shops, local hubs such as smaller satellite offices or flexible shared office space, or various combinations of remote locations.

But place is not the only axis that is pivoting.

There is now much flexibility around time — the periods when people are actively engaged in work. Time is being reassigned as schedules are extending into what was “private” time, with people fitting work into personal schedules that might include caring for family and friends, taking time out to keep healthy and fit, and even doing professional upskilling. At play is chronological time (based on a specific schedule, such as 9 to 5); synchronous vs. asynchronous time (the extent to which colleagues’ schedules coincide); and control of time (the degree of autonomy that can be exercised about work hours).

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