Modern Mentor

Help! My company's hybrid policy isn't working for me

Episode Summary

Has your company taken an “everyone in the office on Wednesday” approach to managing a hybrid workforce? Rachel Cooke, your Modern Mentor, explains what you can do if your office’s hybrid policy isn’t working for you.

Episode Notes

Has your company taken an “everyone in the office on Wednesday” approach to managing a hybrid workforce? Rachel Cooke, your Modern Mentor, explains what you can do if your office’s hybrid policy isn’t working for you.

Modern Mentor is written and hosted by Rachel Cooke. Transcript available at Simplecast.

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Episode Transcription

Hey, it's Rachel Cooke, your Modern Mentor. And today we're going to talk about hybrid work and specifically about what you can do if your company is starting to set policies that aren't really working for you.

I have been talking to people all over the place lately who are telling me things like, “you know what, I've gotten so used to working remotely. I have rewired my life and working virtually works for me. And now suddenly my company is setting a policy where everyone needs to be in on Wednesdays or all brainstorming meetings need to be happening in person. And I get it. I get why they're doing that, but it doesn't really work for me. And I feel like I can't control that.”

And also in my consulting role, I'm talking to leaders, I'm talking to executives all day long, who are saying, “I know people really love the flexibility, but also I need to rebuild the culture. We need to reconnect with our teams and, and rebuild community. So I'm going to start bringing everybody back once a week in hopes of achieving that.”

I understand both sides of this, and maybe you do as well. But if you are sitting in a company who is starting to set policies that just aren't working for you, and you don't feel like you're in a position to influence that policy, then let's talk about some things that you can do from any altitude of an organization. These are some tips I have shared with people in my own network. And I'm hoping something here really resonates with you.

1. Understand their aim

The first one is, start by understanding what their objective is. The truth is, like I said, so many companies and leaders are really taking shots in the dark here. They don't know what the right answer is. They're just trying to try something. So bringing everybody in on Wednesdays feels like a great place to start.

So if you ask, “Hey, what's the purpose of this?” They may stare at you blankly and say, “I don't know. I just thought reconnecting people might feel nice,” or they may actually have a strategic objective. Like, “well, you know, the business is really saying it needs to feel HR presence once a week. So we're asking HR to come in” or “we've gotten feedback from people that they want to be brainstorming in person. They want to be putting post-its on the wall and really feeling the energy of people in the room.”

When you start by asking and understanding what the objective is, it can help you maybe better position your own mindset to say, okay, this is purposeful. I'm going to see what I can do to make this work. Or on the flip side, if you ask, and they really don't have a great reason, you may position yourself to push for, “well, I'm not going to come in on Wednesdays. And I hope that that's okay.”

2. Educate others on the cost to you

The next thing you can do is start to educate others on the cost to you. Like I said, leaders really are struggling right now. They're doing their best to make the best decisions they can, but it doesn't mean they're always making the best decisions. They don't have all the information, all the data. And there is no playbook for this.

So start with an assumption of positive intent. Don't assume they're just trying to be political or bureaucratic. Assume that they mean well, but make sure that they understand on the flip side that this is a pain point for you, right? You may be a working parent who doesn't have childcare at the moment, or you may be somebody who's a little bit older and dealing with eldercare of a parent. You may live two hours from the office. You may have moved to a different state, or you may be really leaning into self-care and taking yoga every day. And that's really important right now.

So without being combative, just make sure that a decision-maker understands why this may be a bit of a hardship and a challenge. You may earn yourself a little bit of empathy and a little bit of grace.

3. Imagine compromises and volunteer

Next, imagine a compromise and volunteer to take it on. So your leader is trying to achieve something, right? Like team cohesion or availability to the business. You don't like the every Wednesday policy, but can you compromise somewhere? What can you offer in return and how might you help bring it to life?

If their goal is team building? Well, maybe there are some virtual platforms or team-building exercises that they haven't explored yet. Maybe you can offer to do some research and maybe you present a monthly hybrid team-building exercise or a discussion that you'll host three Wednesdays per month. And in exchange, you only need to come in once.

If the issue is being available in person, then maybe the solution is you offer to come in if, and when there is a specific business need, rather than an arbitrary Wednesday, just because it's Wednesday. Sometimes making space for a purposeful commute feels less bad than because it's Wednesday! You may be surprised at your boss's willingness to let your creativity shine.

4. Find your limits

Next, find your limits. You're not always going to change your leader's mind. You're not always going to win. Maybe the company will make an exception for you, but maybe they won't.

I know that sounds like a harsh message, but you might need to decide whether you're in or out. So can you make it work? Are you willing to make it work? Can you make it work on a trial basis? Is searching for a new job an option for you right now?

Also keep in mind, companies are having a really hard time holding onto talent right now. So if ever there was a moment for you to step up and hold the line and say, “You know what? Every Wednesday just doesn't work for me. So I need an exception or I need to go,” that moment is now. You just need to be ready for them to possibly say, okay, bye. Wish you good luck.

Are you ready to put that out there? Are you ready to be bold? And are you ready to be looking for your next opportunity?

5. Build a coalition

And finally, think about building a coalition. Your company may be willing to watch you walk, but would they be willing to watch you take 10 colleagues with you. Hard no. So ask around a little bit. Who's having a similar challenge or experience to you. And by the way, there are definitely people having similar challenges and experiences to you. And would they be willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with you? Think broadly as you ask around. You may be the caretaker of a young child, but you may have older colleagues, like I said, dealing with eldercare issues or non-parents who have started a side hustle and they all want or need to be fully remote for their own reasons. The more voices and perspectives that you can bring to your leadership team in support of your vision of flexibility, the stronger your case will be.

I know that these points aren't perfect. And I know you still may be sitting in a place of frustration, but I hope that you take these as a means of thinking creatively about “how can I make peace with my situation” or “how can I empower myself to be part of a change.”

I hope you enjoyed today's episode and that you'll join me next week for another one. Until then, you can follow Modern Mentor on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Check out my website at or follow me on the Modern Mentor podcast page on LinkedIn. Thanks so much for listening and have a successful week. Modern Mentor is a Quick and Dirty Tips podcast. It's audio engineered by Dan Feierabend with script editing by Adam Cecil. Our podcasting and advertising operations specialist is Morgan Christenson. Our marketing and publicity assistant is Davina Tomlin. And our intern is Brendan Picha. The Quick and Dirty Tips network is a division of Macmillan Publishers.