Redesigning Work For The Hybrid Era

A year and a half (and counting) after COVID-19 lockdowns spurred one of the most significant evolutions in office work since the introduction of the internet, a geographically distributed workforce is customary, whether temporarily or indefinitely through hybrid-work models.

But in the rush to remote work, many organizations fell victim to the inertia of tradition and missed the opportunity to design work to fit specific needs of the business and remote employees themselves. As hybrid-work models emerge, leadership and team members need to partner in designing how work is defined, evaluated and compensated, starting with remote work.

This begins with mapping the outcomes needed to support business operations and how that work contributes value to the organization. This exercise can bring some stability and logic to compensation models in a remote environment. Rather than basing compensation on location, organizations need to devise structures that reward team members on their impact to the business.

While this can be a difficult exercise, employees will benefit greatly from not only knowing how their work generates revenue, serves customers or cuts costs, but also how much they’re valued because of that work.

Another aspect of redesigning work is to rethink what purpose “the office” serves in the hybrid era. Traditionally, offices have operated as the place for executing all the types of work needed in many job roles.

This includes “heads-down” work (research, analysis, customer support, coding, documentation, training and development); “heads-up” work (ideation, knowledge sharing, networking, strategic planning); capability demonstrations; and research and development. In actuality, though, heads-down work can be performed anywhere, while heads-up work has been facilitated best by the physical presence of other people.

In a world in which workers have unprecedented access to information about and alternatives to work, leaders must reimagine the basics of the working relationship to deliver on the promise of working from anywhere. Top talent, especially, will gravitate toward organizations with the widest range of work flexibility — increasingly essential in today’s highly competitive labor market.

What follows is step-by-step guidance, based on client engagements, on redesigning work for the hybrid age.

Devising a role-specific location rating

With hybrid workplaces, it will be important to redefine what types of work and work-related events are best done where. To do this, businesses should first identify the core activities that each individual role in the organization is responsible for completing.

From there, cross-hierarchy task forces can be created to evaluate the remote fitness of each of these activities by taking a look at how effectively specific job activities — not tasks — can be completed outside or inside the traditional office setting. This exercise must be completed using direct input from individual employees and their managers.

To complete this exercise, the following numerical values should be defined for each job activity:

  • Time spent: The estimated share of time that should be dedicated to each activity
  • In-office and remote ratings: Based on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing the function is best completed effectively in-office and 5 representing the function is well-facilitated remotely

Organizations can then combine these values to create a location rating (Time Spent X Rating / 5) that can be used to develop a location strategy for each role. By mapping these results, organizations can start to paint a clear picture of where roles can be located based on the work they do.

By incorporating these details into job descriptions, businesses can also help potential job candidates clearly understand what will be asked of them, what resources will be available to them, with whom they will work closely, etc. (in addition to the available compensation range). Within any job description, estimates should be included as to how much of the role can be performed successfully outside of the traditional office setting.

An interesting outcome of the heads-down/heads-up model is that senior leaders — many of whom have struggled to communicate the purpose, value, urgency and details of a return to the office order — are the very people whose jobs are most focused on the collaborative, heads-up work best supported by an in-office presence. It may be that senior leaders will be most apt to be found in the office vs. the majority of other workers who will find a balance between remote work and an in-office presence.

Mapping out a healthy workday

In addition to categorizing and evaluating the activities and outcomes for each role, businesses need to assess and map how team members should work together. This assessment should include specifics on meetings: their purpose, how they can be conducted effectively, how participants can contribute productively, and when they should be scheduled. Meeting hygiene should also be detailed, including calendar blocks to protect team members from rampant over-booking.

An ideal schedule would incorporate the following key tenets:

  • Mental health protections: Taking breaks for water, nourishment, exercise/stretching and mind clearing; schedule blocks for deep work (up to four hours per day), motion-activated thinking and logging off for the day after a reasonable contribution to the business.
  • Intentionality: When bringing team members together for meetings, be clear about the purpose, the objective and any necessary pre-work. Implement a multitasking-free zone to make space for undivided attention and engagement. No more meetings about meetings. Identify specific reasons to use video calls — not every call requires people to be on-camera.
  • Flexibility: Asynchronous work is a given with distributed teams. Identify and flag activities that require simultaneous effort to make sure team members are properly supported to complete tasks and activities according to plan. Schedule appropriate heads-up working sessions to complete synchronous work. Grant team members the autonomy to schedule all other work as they see fit.

For a more extensive look at updating corporate strategy to attract top talent by supporting employees who — for whatever reason — wish to work outside of the traditional office setting, see “A Guide to Modernizing Talent Management in the Hybrid-Work Era.”

Keahn Gary is a Senior Manager with Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. Her research with the CFoW focuses on modernizing value systems

Source: Redesigning Work For The Hybrid Era



As companies continue adjusting their structure between remote and in-person work, leaning into the hybrid model can provide the best of both worlds—but not without its own set of challenges.

Wherever your organization is during this transitional period, here are 8 key tips to help design a hybrid model that’s inclusive of your entire population and to help your employees thrive in the middle ground.

Get your copy to learn:
  • 8 keys to make your hybrid workplace successful and keep your employees engaged.
  • How to prioritize the health and wellbeing of your employees in times of transition and uncertainty.
  • How a Homebase for Health® allows your organization to communicate a clear vision and adapt to the unexpected.

More contents:

The future of work: A bright future for the world of work

The shock: Labour markets are working, but also changing

Essential workers: The biggest losers from covid-19

Home working: The rise of working from home

Automation: Robots threaten jobs less than fearmongers claim

Government policy: Changing central banks—and governments

Flexicurity: The case for Danish welfare

How to think about work: Pessimism about the labour market is overdone

The future of work

A bright future for the world of work

The shock

Labour markets are working, but also changing

Essential workers

The biggest losers from covid-19

Home working

The rise of working from home

Automation Robots threaten jobs less than fearmongers claim

Government policy

Changing central banks—and governments


The case for Danish welfare

How to think about work

Pessimism about the labour market is overdone

Sources and acknowledgments

The future of shopping: The return of one-to-one commerce

The marketplace: E-commerce profits may become harder to make

The merchants: The rise of the rebel brands

The travelling salesmen: Independent retailers may choose multiple sales channels

The food stall: The importance of “omnichannel” strategies

Mass craftsmanship: How to know what customers want

People: Shop assistants and the retail renaissance

The future: Welcome to democratised retail

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