Successful hybrid models are human-centric

Increasing employee performance and well-being in a hybrid model –
a digest of research & insights from Gartner’s HR practice


2020 catapulted the workforce into the new reality of working and performing in a virtual setting. Organizations created virtual office practices, which included adding monitoring systems and increasing virtual meetings in response to the large-scale shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gartner’s 2021 Hybrid Work Employee Survey of more than 2,400 knowledge workers in January 2021 revealed that employers’ attempts to recreate serendipity by adding more meetings has led to virtual overload and employees feeling emotionally drained from their work. “Force-fitting a design created for a different environment exacerbates fatigue, and fatigue impacts many talent outcomes,” said Alexia Cambon, director in the Gartner HR practice. “When employees experience high levels of fatigue, employee performance decreases by up to 33%, feelings of inclusion decrease by up to 44% and employees are up to 54% less likely to remain with their employer.”

No surprise we started experiencing a mass exodus of employees starting in early 2021, which Anthony Klotz coined as “The Great Resignation”. Long-lasting job dissatisfaction and the desire to work for purpose-led companies with better remote-working policies are deemed possible causes. Indeed the 2021 Gartner survey revealed that only 4% of then current hybrid or remote employees would have chosen to return fully on-site as their preferred option.

In 2022 most companies offer a hybrid model. But hybrid is more than allowing people to work a few days from home and otherwise continue with the same mindset and set-up, “organizations need to unlearn old habits and fundamentally rethink work design,” as per Jérôme Mackowiak, director, advisory, in the Gartner HR practice. In order to succeed in a hybrid future, organizations must stop duplicating office-centric practices and shift to a human-centric model.

A hybrid model that increases employee retention and employee performance and combats the Great Resignation offers the following according to the Gartner report:

Providing employee-driven flexibility

Employee-driven flexibility enables individuals to integrate personal and professional obligations to achieve work-life harmonization. In fact, the Gartner survey found that organizations with high levels of flexibility are almost three times more likely to see high employee performance. Employers should adopt an employee-driven approach to flexible working that empowers employees to choose where, when and how they work.

Enabling intentional collaboration

Office-centric design relies on the serendipitous “water-cooler” moments to drive innovation. In fact, organizations still reference this as the primary reason to return employees to the office. The Gartner survey showed that HR leaders believe synchronous work – individuals working together whether in-person or virtually – is most critical to drive innovation. But Gartner data shows that asynchronous work is just as important to achieving team innovation.

“Intentional collaboration democratizes access to all modes of working – focused not just on location, but time-spend – and is inclusive of both business and employee needs,” said Ms. Cambon. “Progressive organizations are relying less on innovation by chance, and more on innovation by design. Among employees whose organizations have high levels of intentional collaboration, 75% also report having high levels of team innovation.”

Driving empathy-based management

Managing with empathy requires a shift away from performance by inputs toward performance by outcomes. However, many managers are already overwhelmed by the demands of their role.

According to the Gartner study, 89% of HR leaders agree managers must lead with empathy in the hybrid environment, and 68% of HR leaders agree that many managers are overwhelmed by their responsibilities in the hybrid work model. However, at the same time Gartner research revealed that organizational investments in managers to enable empathy-based management are falling short: only 14% of organizations have changed manager role design to reduce their responsibilities.

Gartner clients can read more in the report “Redesigning Work for the Hybrid World.”