The future of work: Redefining “hybrid”

Adam Schorr
Rule No. 1
Published in
6 min readJul 18, 2022


As companies continue to make choices about whether to require workers to come back into the office and, if so, how often, a robust discussion is unfolding at dinner tables, in social media, and in the executive suite about the merits — if any — of in-person work.

There are those who strongly believe that people must be together in an office. Elon Musk famously said in a memo to workers at Tesla: “Remote work is no longer acceptable.”

And yet other companies, such as Lyft, Reddit, and Spotify, have declared they will be remote forever.

Many people who appreciated the flexibility of a work-from-home arrangement are resisting giving it up for the long commutes and difficulties it creates in managing their personal lives.

Essentially, we’re in the midst of a giant tug of war between those who believe work must be in-person and those who believe in-person office work adds nothing to quality or productivity and is a needless imposition on people.

And so we’re hearing a lot about “hybrid work” — which seems to be a sort of compromise, one where people spend part of the week in the office and part working at home. Some companies are requiring 4 days in the office and allowing 1 day at home. Some require 3 days in the office and 2 at home. Some have added “floater days” — we have no idea what the hell that is.

As this debate rages on, we find it all a little absurd. Not the topic. The topic is critically important and will have massive impact on how people live their lives. What we find absurd is the discussion itself. The way people are thinking about work, the assumptions they’re making, and the terms they’re using.

The discussion has gone straight to tactics without establishing the principles by which people and organizations should make these choices. The discussion is about number of days in the office, camera on or off, what working hours should be, etc. These are all important choices to be made. But all the more reason they should be made thoughtfully — and by thoughtfully we don’t mean a tug of war based on people’s perceived interests.

These issues cut quickly to the kind of society we want to have; how we want to parent; how we define a good life; the kinds of neighborhoods and communities we want to build and nurture; even the environmental impact we’ll have. We shouldn’t be making these choices through a power struggle; we should be making them guided by principles.

Without these principles we are left in a state of absurdity where companies are declaring requirements on the number of days workers must be in the office without any rationale for how they picked that number. And they can’t provide the rationale because there isn’t any. Does anyone really want to defend the case that it’s precisely 3 days in the office that optimizes work? Not 2.83 or 4.12 days per week. Three. Exactly three.


We understand why the discussion jumped to tactics. When the pandemic was first declared there was no time to do anything but put one foot in front of the other. Leaders very quickly had to find the tools and tactics they would use to keep businesses running. Not for the long-term but for the next hour.

Fair enough. It was an emergency and people adapted. But we’ve all had plenty of time since to truly reconsider work and establish the foundational principles that can guide us toward better work and lives in the future. We don’t see very much of that happening.

People are asking the wrong questions and making bad assumptions.

The discussion is primarily about where people should work and when they should work as if all we need to know about work is place and time. This line of questioning is based entirely on industrial-era models of work — in which work could be disaggregated into simple, discrete tasks, and managers had complete mistrust for workers. You need to be in the office because only when I see you can I know that you’re actually working. And I need to know when you’re working to make sure I’m getting the hours I’m paying you for. By the by, the idea that we pay people for their time is another industrial-era assumption that ought to be re-considered.

As far as we can tell, in discussions about the future of work, people have implicitly accepted industrial assumptions and models and all they’re doing is debating the extent to which we will implement these old assumptions. Instead, we should be challenging the assumptions — accepting or rejecting them as makes sense for the type of work we do today and will do tomorrow versus the assembly-line work these old ideas were meant to facilitate.

“Hybrid work” is nothing more than a new concoction of decisions about the place and time of work — it still assumes that where and when, time and place are all we need to know.

But work has changed; we have to be thinking not just about where and when but also about how — which means recognizing that knowledge work is very different from industrial-era manufacturing. Today, our work often doesn’t require interacting with physical objects. It is more creative and exploratory, more cerebral. As the types of tasks change and evolve, so must the way we work. Rather than relying on a place or time-centric approach, we should move toward an outcome and task-centric approach.

A place and time-centric approach asks “How often should people be in the office”. An outcome and task-centric approach asks “What outcome are we trying to achieve and what is the nature of the work that will get us there?” The former leads to absurdities such as people coming to the office 2 days a week and spending their time on Zoom calls which could just have effectively been done at home. The latter leads us to really think about the nature of work and what is best done where.

For example, if the outcome is keeping stakeholders informed and the task is communicating, that can likely be handled by email or Zoom. But if the outcome is the creation of something new and the work is prototyping, that is likely best done in person with a whiteboard. Only when we’re clear on the desired outcome and the nature of the work required to achieve it, can we meaningfully consider the behaviors, norms, rituals, locations, and times of work.

And beyond that, there are bigger questions people need to be asking. We should be asking what kind of society we want to have, what impact we want to have through our work, what we will create to have that impact, and what role work ought to play in our lives. Then, and only then, should we get to the questions of where and when we work.

In asking these questions let’s not mindlessly accept industrial-era beliefs. Let’s interrogate our choices about the place and time of work and be honest about whether those choices are driven by a lack of trust or by a thoughtful consideration of the requirements of the work.

And let’s also challenge post-industrial assumptions we’re making. For example, it has become an article of faith in the knowledge economy that we should work globally — that is, in global teams. We now simply accept that having to work across multiple time zones is the best way to work. Or the only way.

This, too, is a false assumption. Many of the choices to globalize work were nothing more than cost-cutting measures. It was all about efficiency. (So actually, these too were industrial-era assumptions. They were just made possible by post-industrial digital technology.)

We have a real opportunity to, as became the phrase, build back better. Surely that’s about something more than whether we’re in the office 2.5 or 3.4 days per week.

This article was co-authored by Adam Schorr, Jonathan Jeter, and Chad Hendricks.



Adam Schorr
Rule No. 1

Passionately in search of people who are themselves