Navigating the hybrid return to work (feat. Robert Glazer)

Sep 8, 2021

Though adopting a hybrid model sounds like a natural solution for this period of uncertainty, it’s more complex than it seems. 

Without knowing how COVID-19 will progress in 2021, leaders are scrambling to decide whether to reopen offices or to allow employees to continue to work from home. Many have landed somewhere in the middle with a hybrid model, neither 100% remote nor 100% in-person.

According to Robert Glazer, the hybrid model is both the most common choice and the riskiest. The risk lies in the temptation to adopt a hybrid model without outlining clear details. As he puts it, “Hybrid needs to be a strategy, not the absence of a strategy.”

He cites a recent McKinsey study that found 40% of companies have not made a decision for their go-back-to-work strategy and 30% have been so vague that their employees don’t understand what the strategy means for them. Indeed, we’ve heard from many employees who feel “in limbo” and don’t know how and when to move their families back to major cities if they’ve left town.

As the CEO of Acceleration Partners, Robert has successfully led a hybrid remote team for 14 years. His leadership has earned the company numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards two years in a row.


How to manage a remote or hybrid-remote workforce 


Robert has a key piece of advice for leaders of remote or hybrid workforces: Establish strong boundaries. Strong boundaries begin with clarity about the parameters of a remote or hybrid work model. What hours are expected? Where can employees live?

Robert explains that the hybrid work model he has used for 14 years is so strong due to his boundaries around “hubs.” He’s set up hubs for his company in several different cities. Rather than work from “anywhere,” employees can choose to live near the hub city of their choice. This flexible but clear boundary means that Robert avoids the legal pitfalls that can come with remote employees living abroad and fosters stronger connections with in-person gatherings as needed in each hub city.


We might never “go back to normal.” Here’s how leaders can move forward. 


Many leaders may still be clinging to the idea that everything will return to the way it was in 2019 before the pandemic. But, according to Robert, this is a costly mistake. 

Leaders who are waiting for the pandemic to end so that they can comfortably shift back to how things used to be … may be waiting forever. In the meantime, they postpone making crucial decisions (like whether to reopen offices or not) and fail to communicate clearly to their team.

Robert notes that one common reason leaders prefer to “wait out” the pandemic is that they don’t want to lose investments they made years ago, such as office leases or buying or renovating buildings.

However, he suggests leaders stop making decisions based on this “sunk cost fallacy” and instead move forward with plans for the future, assuming the pandemic may be here to stay.


Robert also shares…

  • His exact hybrid work model that he’s been using for 14 years (to great success)
  • How to build capacity in your organization by helping people identify their core personal values
  • Watchouts when promoting from within in rapid scale mode


Robert’s new book, How to Thrive in the Virtual Workplace: Simple and Effective Tips For Successful, Productive and Empowered Remote Work, is out now.


If you found value in this episode, we think you will also enjoy my recent interview with Dr. Amir Kfir, where he explains his three-phase process for resolving conflict in your organization. He also teaches you how to resolve conflicts from the root instead of applying surface-level tactics.

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