How do organizations handle mismatched employees in the work place after hybrid remote work style is adopted, per Dr. Vic, TEP.Global, people management expert.

What to Do with Mismatched Employees in the Hybrid Era

What to Do with Mismatched Employees in the Hybrid Era

By Dr. Vic | Mar 22nd, 2024 | Employee engagement, HR consulting, Management consulting, Organizational development, People management, Talent assessment, | 0 Comments

Human centered organizations need to find flexible solutions for employees mismatched with their working environments. A change of mindset from confrontation to collaboration will produce better results.


The pandemic changed everything.  Before then, people commuted to the office for generations.  With the lockdown,  large numbers of people began working remotely for the first time. Now as the pandemic recedes in the rear view mirror, demands for employees to return to the office have been met with resistance, and a “Great Mismatch” between the expectations of employees and employers has emerged.  This article will consider the reasons employees are mismatched and ways to address the problem.

Remote and hybrid work becomes the “new normal”

Remote and hybrid work increased substantially during and after the pandemic. According to McKinsey, workers in 2022 spent 30% less time in the office than they did before the pandemic.  Globally, that worked out to an average of 3.5 days in the office each week.  

The McKinsey study found that 87% of workers who were offered remote or hybrid working arrangements accepted them.  The highest rates of remote and hybrid work were among “knowledge workers” (technical and professional workers) and workers in high cost metro areas, such as New York and San Francisco.  

In addition, the study noted that the rate of remote work had “stabilized,” potentially marking a “new normal” for working arrangements.  It predicted that efforts to roll back remote work could expect strong resistance, particularly from senior and highly compensated workers.  

Return to office and the Great Mismatch

In 2024, the predictions seem to be coming true.  High profile companies including Tesla, Google, JPMorgan Chase, and others have issued “return to work” mandates that require up to five days per week in the office.  CEOs like Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon have said that employees can either “show up or quit.” 

But organizations are getting significant pushback, according to the Washington Post, and risk losing top performers who can look for other options.  A “critical mass” of employees is so far ignoring or evading return to office policies, despite threats from leadership.  

In short, there is a “great mismatch” between the expectations of workers and employers.  A majority of employees prefer remote work, and many would change jobs or accept lower salaries to do so.  In addition, the return to office mandates have been linked to lower levels of trust, engagement, and morale.  

Workers who are mismatched with their preferred working style are also twice as likely to report that they are “struggling” or “really struggling” at work. One survey found that 37% of employees are mismatched with their working arrangement.  Office workers are more likely to feel a mismatch than remote workers.  Mismatched employees also report higher levels of stress and lower levels of wellbeing at work.  

The challenge for organizations is to avoid or remedy the mismatch to produce an energized, productive workforce.

Overcoming the Great Mismatch

The Great Mismatch has largely been the product of a top down, command and control mindset. One way to avoid having mismatched employees is a change of mindset.   

A more productive mindset is to ask:  How can the organization expand options to accommodate the greatest number of people?   Here are some ways to look at the problem.

What do employees want?  To avoid mismatched employees, organizations should ask what they want.  Why don’t employees want to go back to the office?  The answers are likely to come down to (1) autonomy and (2) lifestyle changes.  

Autonomy refers to control over the working environment and working hours.  It can be difficult to take back once granted.  Flexibility will be needed to address this mismatch.

Lifestyle changes refer to decisions employees may have made based on a promise of remote work.  Some employees fled expensive urban areas for outlying regions. These changes will make compliance mandates difficult or, in some cases, impossible.

What do organizations want? Do organizations just need bodies in offices? The real goal should be an engaged, productive workforce that can make everyone a success.  

Here are a couple of approaches to the issue:

Determine “core” requirements.  Organizations should ask themselves what they really need from employees.  Are there certain times of the day when all or most employees should be available?   Are there times during a week, month, or quarter when in-person collaboration is required?  How can the organization help make those times more accessible for remote or hybrid workers?  

Reward or recruit for office roles.  Another approach is to provide incentives for in-office work, which might include monetary perks or extra time off.  There are non-monetary rewards that sometimes work better than perks and bonuses. If the organization still has an unmet need for in-office workers, it can consider recruiting specifically for those roles.  

Human centered organizations keep their people top-of-mind to avoid or remedy mismatches. It requires a new mindset, away from command and control and toward collaboration.  

TEP.Global is a leader in people development, workforce engagement, organizational development, and talent assessment.  Dr. Vic, the founder and chief people expert, leads a team of top global experts in HR, psychology, culture and brand, with a combined 100+ years of experience. Please contact us for more information.

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