The New Hybrid Workplace Game – It’s Beyond Productivity

Vertex Inc.

Hybrid workplaces are here to stay. How will you plan to manage your team in this new paradigm?

It’s an increasingly pressing question that’s unlikely to go away after the pandemic recedes. Research on organizational structures and cultures indicates that work’s “new normal” will consist of a blend of in-person and remote employees. This model is similar to what many teachers have grappled with at various points during the pandemic – figuring out how to tailor lesson plans and their classroom management approaches to two different groups of students: one sitting in front of them in the physical classroom and the other beaming in via video apps from their homes . Teachers and business professionals quickly realized that it’s easier to hold the attention of students and colleagues in a shared physical space as opposed to online.

Ask teachers how that experience went, and you’re likely to get answers ranging from “extremely challenging” to “impossible.” That’s why an Economist special report on the future of work asserts that “the blurring of home and office will have huge consequences. It will force managers to raise their game…”

I agree. My newly acquired experience guiding a combination of in-person and virtual teams tells me that all managers need to get start adapting their leadership styles to the new normal of hybrid workplaces.

An effective way to start is accepting that the hybrid workplace is here for the long term. Citing several academic research and workplace surveys, the Economist reports that remote-only companies will remain a small minority once most social-distancing measures are lifted. Instead, most employees will spend a larger (but not too large) portion of their time working from home (probably closer to one-two days a week in many, but certainly not all cases). Plus, the percentage of full-time telecommuters within a workforce also seems likely to increase — again, probably moderately rather than drastically.

What will be dramatic, however, are the leadership and talent management adjustments required for the newly hybrid workforce to thrive.

In our software development work at Vertex, we’ve discovered that it is more effective to assign discrete projects, or what we consider “product value streams” (each team is focused on a product portfolio) to in-person teams and remote teams – as opposed to assembling teams with a blend of in-person and remote developers . To minimize the risk of hybrid miscommunication, we have employees choose work schedules that align with their needs and provide individual flexibility while ensuring the cohesion of the work group.

Communications and collaboration are crucial to software development (as they are to most other organizational activities), and we’ve also found that our teams are better able to sustain their focus on addressing customer pain points when interacting across a shared communications channel as opposed to toggling back and forth between in-person interactions and video streams . We recognize that anything we try is not going to be perfect, and also trust that we will adapt to new modes of working. We have to be flexible, open to change and be willing to give it time. It “takes a minute” to adjust to behavioral changes (think back to our collective shift from handshakes to fist bumps last year).

Those are just some of many learnings we’ve gleaned during our ongoing experimentations in our newly hybrid workplace. So far, we’ve proven to ourselves that we can thrive in a virtual environment, even without the face-to-face interactions that we took so much for granted. I’ll continue to share other insights as we combine Agile methodology and the hybrid workplaces while scaling our software engineering practices as the pandemic continues.

Blog Author

Venkatesh Jayaraman: Vice President of Commercial Software Engineering at Vertex Inc. Vertex delivers the world’s most valued tax solutions for companies to connect, transact, and comply while growing their business.

Venkatesh Jayaraman

Vice President, Commercial Software Engineering

See All Resources by Venkatesh

Venkatesh Jayaraman is the Vice President of Commercial Software Engineering responsible for providing strategic direction and technical leadership for the entire software engineering organization including user experience (UX). He is also responsible for the Agile product management organization (PMO), Cloud Operations, and Systems Automation areas of the company.

Venkatesh is a senior technology and software development executive with over two decades of industry experience and an extraordinary record of success in technical leadership, cross-functional product development, and software architecture. Prior to joining Vertex, Venkatesh was in various leadership roles at Citrix Systems and Motorola where he led Agile and cloud transformation across the core engineering and product development organizations. He is experienced in Lean-Agile practices and has a proven record of building business agility while managing large scale enterprise organizations across multiple geographies.

Venkatesh holds a Master's degree in Engineering Management from University of Florida, Gainesville, and a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from India’s National Institute of Technology.

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