Managing Hybrid Work Challenges through People Strategy with Felicia Shakiba

July 24th, 2023
10 mins to read
Managing Hybrid Work Challenges through People Strategy with Felicia Shakiba

With over 16 years of experience in people strategy and talent management, Felicia Shakiba talks about the importance of adaptability in the modern workplace.

Felicia Shakiba is the Founder and Principal Consultant for CPO Playbook, a global HR consultancy. She is the former Global Head of Performance Management of the $12B multinational advertising and PR technology giant, WPP. Felicia has led several international HR teams as the VP of People & Culture for clients in industries such as fintech, biotech, ad tech, and more. 

Implementing a hybrid work model is easy. Any company leader can simply announce “Alright folks, today teams A and B will work offline, and everyone else will be in the office.” Implementing a hybrid work model that actually works, is a completely different story. The goal is to boost productivity, improve performance, and increase job satisfaction. In this blog, Felicia Shakiba shares with Litespace her viewpoint and professional experience in hybrid work as a leader in people strategy. 

Interview Questions

What work model do your clients currently use, and how are they being implemented?

Our clients have adopted various work models based on their specific needs and organizational culture. The majority have transitioned to a hybrid work model, which combines remote and in-person elements to optimize productivity and flexibility. This policy allows employees to work remotely for a designated number of days per week while maintaining in-person collaboration on specific days. 

The hybrid approach aims to strike a balance between the benefits of remote work, such as autonomy and reduced commuting, and the advantages of in-person interaction, such as creativity and teamwork.

“We advocate for open communication channels where employees can express their aspirations, concerns, and ideas, fostering a culture of inclusion and equality.”

Our clients have found the hybrid work model to be highly effective when properly implemented, and that is sometimes difficult to execute well. However, it has facilitated increased employee satisfaction, engagement, and work-life integration. By providing flexibility and reducing the constraints of a traditional office environment, this model has enabled organizations to attract and retain top talent while accommodating individual needs. 

What are some major challenges your clients experience with a hybrid work model? Specifically, how has it hindered productivity and collaboration?

One of the significant challenges our clients face is when the policy insinuates that some employees come on-site on different days, or there is a mix of remote and on-site employees. With this model, there is a potential disparity in access to executive leadership based on employees' work arrangements. There is a risk of creating unequal relationships and interactions with executive leaders which can hinder productivity and collaboration by inadvertently favoring certain individuals or teams over others.

How should company leaders tackle these hybrid work challenges? Is there an ideal way to approach the hybrid work model?

Physical presence often fosters spontaneous interactions, camaraderie, and a sense of shared purpose. In a hybrid setting, intentional efforts must be made to replicate these aspects virtually. Leveraging digital collaboration tools, establishing clear communication guidelines, and providing dedicated time for team-building activities are crucial.  Additionally, nurturing a culture of inclusivity, where all team members are encouraged to contribute and engage, regardless of their physical location, further strengthens team cohesion and fosters a sense of belonging.

The “ideal approach” involves striking a balance between in-person and virtual interactions, ensuring all team members have equal opportunities to contribute, share ideas, and cultivate meaningful connections, regardless of their location.

“It is crucial for organizations to implement strategies that ensure equal access to leadership regardless of the work arrangement.”

Encouraging executive leaders to proactively reach out to remote or hybrid team members, seeking their input, and fostering inclusive communication practices can help bridge the gap and promote equitable relationships and collaboration across the entire workforce. For example: scheduling virtual town halls, video conferences, or dedicated communication channels that facilitate direct engagement with executives.

Do you think there are equal benefits as there are challenges in hybrid work? Do the pros outweigh the cons, or vice-versa?

I think in general, the hybrid work model requires a multi-faceted approach and there is a dual impact. For example, team cohesion and communication. On one hand, it can present challenges as team members are physically separated, potentially leading to a sense of disconnection. However, on the other hand, it offers unique opportunities for increased collaboration and connection among team members who may not have interacted in a traditional on-site environment.

In a hybrid or remote environment, the physical barriers that exist within a physical workspace are eliminated. For instance, in a traditional office setting, employees on the first floor may rarely interact with those on the second floor. However, in a hybrid or remote setup, these walls are completely removed, creating more opportunities for individuals from different teams or departments to come together and collaborate. This enhanced connectivity can foster cross-functional relationships, knowledge-sharing, and the exploration of diverse perspectives.

How do you help your clients manage their hybrid workforce? 

We work closely with our clients to establish clear performance metrics and outcomes, focusing on results rather than solely on hours worked. This has helped with maintaining productivity and the shift in emphasis promotes accountability and empowers employees to manage their time effectively. 

Additionally, we assist in implementing productivity tools and digital platforms that facilitate seamless remote collaboration, task management, and communication. These include project management software, video conferencing platforms, team collaboration tools, and digital communication platforms. 

Could you tell us a little more about these tools and what kind of advantages they bring to the table? 

These tools facilitate seamless virtual collaboration, information sharing, and real-time communication. Clients leverage performance management systems to track and evaluate employee progress and ensure accountability. 

Alongside the digital collaboration tools and communication platforms mentioned earlier, our clients have found value in incorporating innovative tools and approaches to enhance employee engagement and connectivity in a hybrid work environment. One example is the implementation of random virtual coffee chats.

Random virtual coffee chats are scheduled meetings between employees from different teams or departments who may not typically interact on a regular basis. These informal gatherings provide an opportunity for individuals to engage in casual conversations, exchange ideas, and foster connections. By simulating the spontaneous encounters that occur naturally in an office setting, these coffee chats help bridge the gap created by physical distance and promote a sense of belonging and community among team members.

What do you think the future of hybrid work will look like? What can be expected, and how should managers prepare for these changes?

The future of hybrid work will likely see further advancements in technology, enabling more seamless virtual collaboration and enhanced connectivity. Managers should anticipate a continued emphasis on flexibility and work-life integration, as employees increasingly seek a balance between professional and personal responsibilities. 

To prepare for these changes, managers must prioritize ongoing learning and adaptation, staying informed about emerging trends, best practices, and technology solutions. Additionally, promoting a culture of agility, resilience, and continuous improvement will be key to successfully navigating the evolving landscape of hybrid work.

“As the business landscape evolves, we continually assess the effectiveness of the hybrid model and remain open to exploring alternative approaches that align with our clients' evolving requirements and industry dynamics.”

Litespace had the pleasure of interviewing Felicia Shakiba to share her professional experience and knowledge in people strategy and the hybrid work model. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Erica Lim
Erica Lim

Erica is a Marketing Content Analyst at Litespace with a passion to help companies foster stronger corporate culture and better employee engagement in the hybrid work environment. Specializing in marketing and communications, Erica is eager to share her knowledge and research on hybrid work. 

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