“Hybrid working must be aimed at those who need the group the most”

“Hybrid working must be aimed at those who need the group the most”

Event on hybrid working and leadership

25-05-2022

MAASTRICHT. Working from home – the one detested it, the other flourished. Now that Maastricht University wants to go hybrid, the organisation will have to look at those who did not enjoy it, says organisational psychologist Kilian Wawoe during the Hybrid Leadership Event, organised by the Leadership Academy, last Thursday in the MECC.

Wawoe starts off with a photograph of a herd of elephants. How would the leader of the herd feel if these elephants were to work at home for a week? ‘Lonely’, ‘a sense of losing control,’ the audience suggests. Wawoe nods. The same applies to the older elephants in the herd. But what about the baby elephant? “This is not a story with a happy end,” says Wawoe. “After a week by itself, the baby elephant will most likely be dead.”

It is not as extreme as that in the organisations with people, but the psychologist says that it is the same here: it is the task of the group to look after its weakest members. Who are they? “Three things are important for someone to enjoy his or her work: progress, the feeling that you belong somewhere, and autonomy. There were people who had just started a new job and now sat at the kitchen table, all by themselves. A student who had done a work placement with Heineken said: ‘I have no idea what kind of company Heineken is, I wasn’t able to get any kind of feeling about the atmosphere.’ Younger employees with less experience did not receive the opportunity to ask their older colleagues questions, so they made less progress. And autonomy is not nice for those who are not good at determining their own tasks because of a lack of experience (in that position).”

In the meantime, the experienced senior employees, especially those who have a partner, a large house and older children, felt it was great to work from home. No commuting, the ability to determine your own agenda, and being able to work without distraction. This is where the danger lurks, says Wawoe: “Your distraction is someone else’s learning curve. If I eat a McDonalds along the motorway this evening, I am being very efficient. The meal takes less time than when I eat with my family. But I am denying myself and my children a moment of interaction.” 

If everyone in a hybrid working situation could choose for themselves where they work, things would go “horribly wrong”, according to Wawoe. “People my age are at home enjoying their good balance between work and private life, while youths in the office are looking for knowledge.” So, everyone back to the office? That is not the solution either. “Certainly not if people then become irritated and put on their noise-cancelling headphones. We need to ask ourselves what we are going to do in the office, instead of asking when are we going there? Make sure that people come and keep in contact with each other, so that you create a system that also works for the younger generation.”

Author: Cleo Freriks

Photo: Pexels

Tags: hybrid working,working from home, future of working at um,leadership,leadership academy,team,group,organisation

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