Solving the Hybrid Disconnect

The return to work needs to be a dialogue, not a decision.

It looks as if the hybrid workplace is here to stay—however, there are disconnects among management and employees as leaders navigate this new reality. In order to better understand the situation, I interviewed Christopher Littlefield, author of “75+ Team-Building Activities for Remote Teams.”

Based on his experience, Littlefield told me many alternatives are being considered simultaneously about designing the future of organizations. He said the real challenge could be post-pandemic PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Here are a few of his insights:

Ask—Don’t Tell

Employees want directions, yet many leaders are operating based only on assumptions—not data—of what employees want. Too many leaders are deciding what the answers should be without asking the most important questions. What does a hybrid organization look like for a particular company? One size does not fit all. Employees should have input:

  • Do you want to come back in person part time? Full time? Not at all?
  • What are your feelings behind your response?

According to Littlefield, “employee experience is the soil in which employee engagement grows.” The workplace sends signals about how valued employees are and how much value they receive from their employer. In a hybrid situation, there is a lack of interaction. This post-pandemic time is being called “The Great Resignation” because people are reevaluating their lives—asking what they want to be doing and where they want to do it.

The return to work needs to be a dialogue, not a decision. Littlefield advocated providing time and space for the mental transition back to work. Talk about the past year and the impact it has had. How did we grow? Acknowledge what was learned and the difficulty of managing conflicting responsibilities at home and work. Celebrate the small wins during the last year.

L&D’s RoleThe return to work needs to be a dialogue, not a decision.

To minimize the trauma and retain employees, leaders need to make the time to understand the challenges. Learning and Development (L&D) staff can provide tools to assist in the transitions taking place.

Littlefield suggested discussion guides to provide thought-provoking questions. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Ask people what they need now. Ask how you can support them. And remember how critical it is, “as leaders, coworkers, family members, and friends, to remember to keep checking in with the people around you to see how they are doing—to both celebrate the progress and to make space for people to express when they are not OK.”

Jann E. Freed
Jann E. Freed, PhD, is an author, speaker, coach, and leadership development consultant. Her forthcoming book is “Breadcrumb Legacy: How Great Leaders Live a Life Worth Remembering” (Routledge Publishing, 2023). For more information, visit