Why hybrid work is a matter of trust

Communications  Week board member Tulani André on the trust embedded in hybrid work, focusing on individual needs and considerations for workers from diverse backgrounds.

While Communications Week is now underway, Ragan’s Comms Week advisory board has convened for the past several months to share how they are implementing AI, what new models of work they are embracing, and more.

When asked on a past call how they are handling remote, hybrid and in-office work, Tulani André, vice president of social media at National Geographic, opened up. This is what we learned.

Focusing on the matter of trust

André began by framing any work arrangement, be it in-office, remote or a mixture of the two, as a matter of earning trust.

“A lot of times before, managers or bosses thought, ‘They’re not in the office, I don’t know what they’re doing, I don’t know that this is happening,’” she said.

“Now that we’ve basically gained that trust and started to change some ways of thinking, it’s a bit difficult to go back to not understanding that trust and not giving that trust to the people that work for us.”

An easy-to-follow RTO approach

Concerns over employees not wanting to be in the office are often misunderstood by leaders through the wrong lens.

“It’s so much less about being in the office as it is about having time at home or with your family, or the things that people are able to get done during the day that didn’t happen when they were sitting in office and maybe had downtime,” André said. “Even the work that you’re able to get done when you didn’t have to talk to someone next to you every 10 minutes.

“It’s less about the actual place and more about the actual person.”

Of course, some RTO requests make sense for various organizations. depending on their needs and org chart. When this is the case, André stressed that employees should be able to easily understand and follow the logic, procedures and protocols of RTO requests.

“It makes it easier to be flexible where needed and know that, if they’re working in a hybrid space, there will still be a high level of productivity on non-in-office days,” she said.

A different in-office experience

For diverse workers, Black people especially, a different relationship with being in office also meant a legitimate decline in experiencing racism or a lack of belonging. André cited a recent L.A. Times piece and the specific example of a software engineer who took a $5k decrease in pay to work remotely all the time.

“Part of it was a comfort level and part of it was a family level,” she said. “People that are in manager positions are really thinking about the big picture… from the 30,000-foot view, what does the ecosystem of reasons look like? And then how do I make it so we’re saying, ‘Here’s how we can be helpful and here’s how we can be flexible.’”

Check out the full conversation here:


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