To succeed at hybrid work, adopt a designer’s iterative mindset.

A successful hybrid work strategy demands constant listening, regular iteration, and technology agility. Learn how embracing a designer’s iterative mindset can help you in all these areas.

ARTICLE | 4m read
September 14, 2021

Every designer knows the first sketch is never the final product, and every agile developer knows iteration is vital to great software. Whether it’s creating an architectural blueprint or a web app, a “try attitude” is crucial to effective design and successful outcomes. With each iteration of an idea, designers refine key concepts, eliminate inconsistencies and distractions, and continually learn how to best execute on their original vision. In short, to be a great designer is to embrace experimentation.

As we transition into a world centered on hybrid work, there’s much we can learn from this designer’s iteration mindset. No matter how well we plan, fund, and support our new hybrid work model, our company’s first try at hybrid work will never be as successful as future iterations can be. This makes it vital for us to learn from design thinking as we implement hybrid work models: becoming better listeners, constantly learning from what is and isn’t working, and adopting flexible technology to maximize our agility.

Why hybrid work depends on effective listening

One of the most important elements driving hybrid work is centering the work experience on employee choice. In a hybrid work model, we are empowering each employee to choose where, how, and when they get their best work done. And just as we trust employees with this agency, we also need to trust their opinions about how to design hybrid work that most empowers and supports them. This means everyone in our organizations needs to become more effective at listening—which is also a crucial part of the designer mindset.

We must provide a safe place for all employees to have a voice. When it comes to employees deciding how they work best, we are leading with flexibility and choice, and rather than defaulting to old mindsets, we are leading with yes and how, rather than no and why.

Traci Palmer
VP, People and
Organization Capability

Effective listening requires more than casual questions at a group meeting. Instead, we want to train managers to empathize with employees both personally (with one on one conversations) and at scale (with in-depth surveys). The goal is removing the fluff in our ears that prevents us from truly hearing each other. By providing a safe place for every worker to share their hybrid work preferences, we enable a free flow of listening-based insights inside our organization. These insights are powerful—but only if we put them to use by letting them guide the design of our hybrid work model.

How managers can continually learn from hybrid work performance

So how do we put our listening-based insights to use in designing our hybrid work plan? By encouraging managers to embrace a designer’s love of experimentation—trying out different plans to see what works best for both employees and the company. Paying attention to what did and didn’t work in their hybrid work model helped Quartz learn insights like which days of the week were most popular for shared office work, the ideal hybrid work dress code, the best work perks for their shared office, and more.

The key element for company leaders to understand is that hybrid work demands a different approach to management. Hybrid working models always mean less managerial oversight, but that doesn’t mean managers shouldn’t pay attention to employee morale and performance. Instead, managers need to be more intentional about how they communicate with employees, nurturing their professional curiosity and career development in a company culture that loves to try new ways of working—and always learns from them.

The key role of flexible technology in hybrid work models

Because agility is essential to the experimentation that animates a designer mindset, we want to adopt the right flexible technology for our hybrid work models. Tools like single sign-on (SSO) access to business apps and simplified content collaboration can streamline the employee experience for a distributed workforce. An improved employee experience can help hybrid workers make smarter decisions faster, while performance analytics enable IT managers to quickly identify and resolve issues before they disrupt productivity.

As this report from the Modern Computing Alliance puts it, “The winners of tomorrow will be those who invest in their tech agility today.” And the data bears this statement out: Digital leaders who adopt technology architectures that actively enable and drive their business strategy are outgrowing their competition by 2–3X. In the same way, workers who are satisfied with their digital tools are two times more likely to stay with their current employer than those who are dissatisfied with their digital tools. So as we adopt a designer’s mindset and continually experiment and refine our approaches to effective hybrid work, flexible technology gives us the agility to learn faster and better enable a truly exceptional employee experience.

Learn how to design a hybrid work experience that avoids the constraints of the past and puts technology to its best use. Get the 2021 Smarter Workplace Report.