Vacancy: Chief Hybrid Officer – here’s what it takes

The pandemic is hybrid work’s industrial revolution – the catalyst for reimagining how we work.

By David Seinker, founder and CEO, The Business Exchange

Hybrid work models are here, hot and happening. In fact, a study conducted by Advanced Workplace Associates found that of the 10,000 people surveyed across the globe, only three percent of white-collar workers want to return to the office five days a week.

Reporting on the survey, Advanced Workplace Associates warned that many employees would resign if forced back full-time.

Seen within the context of the Great Resignation, the global phenomenon whereby skilled employees are voluntarily quitting their jobs en masse, it would be short-sighted of companies to ignore the benefits of a hybrid work model as a means of both ensuring employee retention and attracting new talent.

At the most fundamental level hybrid work models offer a best-of-both approach to where work gets done, combining the flexibility of work from home (WFH) with the creative, collaborative environment the office provides.

But the successful adoption of a hybrid work model will come to rely on the leadership and management provided by a chief hybrid officer (or head of hybrid, or people officer – the exact naming is irrelevant), who serves as the link between the workforce and the workspace.

It’s neither office manager nor HR officer, but rather a hybrid of both, with added insight into the value of hybrid work with a skillset that is cross-functional, multidisciplinary and rooted in a keen understanding of change management.

A McKinsey & Company article talked about our “once in a generation (if that)... opportunity to reimagine how we work”, citing the Industrial Revolution, World War II and the proliferation of personal computers as some of the key drivers of change in this space. The pandemic is hybrid work’s industrial revolution – the catalyst for reimagining how we work. Embracing this opportunity in a sustainable, mutually beneficial way will require effective management that starts with checking assumptions about the nature and nuances of work at the door.

Enter the chief hybrid officer, a position where the fundamental task is ensuring remote and in-office teams remain connected and working to nurture and maintain company culture. The role of chief hybrid officer will be different in every organisation, but the outcome is likely to be similar across industries. The job description may include designing and managing a consistent work experience for all teams, whether remote or in-house, maintaining engagement (to avoid an out-of-sight-out-of-mind scenario), and supporting employee wellbeing in a relevant way.

Furthermore, the hybrid officer is an exceptional communicator, tech savvy, a natural facilitator, excellent host and able to serve as the connection between the leadership and the various teams to ensure all parties are on the same page at all times. As such, it’s a role that requires an empathetic approach, because hybrid work is the manifestation of a model that acknowledges that productivity and performance have little to do with place.

As the workplace continues to evolve into a space for networking, brainstorming and connecting, the role of the hybrid officer, and indeed hybrid work itself, is going to involve a lot of experimentation. And, as Alexia Cambon, research director at Gartner, points out, “as a result of all that experimentation, it makes sense to have a dedicated source”.