The Hybrid Model Coming Our Way: What We Can and Can’t Anticipate

For the past year, we’ve lived through a worldwide experiment about work from away (WFA)—whether the away was home, a second home or vacation spot, or crashing with friends and family. As we look ahead to the hybrid model coming our way, we’ve learned some fundamental lessons:

  • Many organizations pivoted to WFA at breakneck speed successfully.
  • People can perform many types of work remotely.
  • Many types of work can, in theory, be at least as productive remotely as in-office.
  • People working remotely often worked more than if they were in the office.
  • Organizations can hire and onboard people remotely.

For employers and employees, this is great news.

NOT a True Test of Work From Away

We must also accept that WFA during a worldwide pandemic is not an actual test of “normal” WFA. Rather, for the past 12-15 months, our children have been at home. Right beside us, they’ve been learning remotely (or not learning so much). We couldn’t, or didn’t, see friends and family in person. And our usual coping strategies (e.g., going to the gym, having a drink with friends) weren’t available to us. In the end, our mental health suffered, and we discovered the ways we missed being in the office.

We missed the small micro-interactions that we didn’t realize mattered to our relationships, work, and mental health.

Specifically, many of us have missed:

  • The shared moments in the coffee area
  • Being able to read each other’s moods at a glance while walking by or looking up from our work area
  • The ability to get questions answered quickly by simply walking up to the person without having to schedule time
  • Being able to have any non-textual interaction (without scheduling it)
  • Collaborating in person (It just isn’t the same remotely.)

What Do Employees Want?

As organizations are thinking about the hybrid model coming our way when it comes to working style, many are asking employees about their preferences, as they should.

A caveat about the data: decades of research by psychologists has found that people’s attitudes, what they tell you they think or feel or prefer, don’t always align with their behavior. So, we need to take those surveys with a grain of salt. This is especially true now because we don’t know what it will be like to work remotely without COVID-19. And we also don’t know what it will be like to go back to the office.

Nonetheless, the virtues of minimal or no commutes, wearing sweat pants on weekdays, being able to sleep a bit later (for those who don’t have to get children off to school) are powerful. So undoubtedly, many people will want to work from or near home at least part-time.

Predictions About Hybrid Work

Here’s what we can predict about the hybrid model coming our way in general:

Disadvantages Based on Work Location

People who are in the office the least will likely be at a disadvantage in terms of collaboration, promotion opportunities, getting quick answers to quick questions, feeling as much a part of the team (i.e., engagement, belonging, commitment to the organization, a sense of “team-ness”).

Unconscious Bias

Managers and leaders may have an unconscious bias toward employees they “see” more often: giving them feedback (essential for professional development), inviting them to meetings (especially spontaneous ones), feeling more positively (or negatively) toward them simply because of seeing them more often in informal, casual moments that bind relationships.

Lack of Culture Clarity

Employees who were hired and onboarded during the pandemic may initially seem a bit lost when coming to the office. It may take a while for them to understand the “culture” once people are back in the office.

Disadvantage: Digital Natives

Younger employees may be at a disadvantage. Research indicates that the current cohort of younger employees, many of whom are digital natives and have spent less time interacting in person than previous cohorts, may be less skilled at navigating challenging interpersonal situations. As a result, issues such as tension with a colleague or not meeting a deadline may prove difficult.

WFA Inequity

People have made do during the pandemic, sometimes taking calls in a closet or bathroom because it was the only private or quiet space. Before we became more conscious about our video call backgrounds, we got a glimpse of our colleagues’ home lives. While work from away will likely continue in some form in the hybrid model, the inequity of WFA environments will likely persist.

For instance, have, and will, all employees have equal access to fast internet speed? To ergonomically designed workspaces and decent lighting for calls? Did they benefit from a quiet work environment? Did your organization make financial contributions to mitigate some of these inequities? If not, employees with poor WFA environments may choose to go to the office full time out of necessity.

What To Do?

If we can reliably and accurately predict some of the pitfalls of the hybrid work coming our way, we can mitigate them.

Connect Intentionally

The mere exposure effect indicates that we are more likely to prefer things—and people—we’ve become more familiar with. Thus, all other things being equal, we are more likely to prefer colleagues we see more often, which may be colleagues who are in the office more. So intentionally touch base with and even praise your remote colleagues, particularly if they are less senior.

Build Unbiased Relationships

Managers and leaders will need to work to reduce a natural bias to favor employees with whom they have more positive interactions. In this case, those micro-interactions of casual, informal contact are a glue that binds people to each other. They will need to make a conscious effort to create those virtually with remote employees. Note: For some employees, more in-person contact may not lead to more positive micro-interactions.

Create Meeting Equity

Create equity in meetings and communication. For instance, when even one person attending a meeting is remote, everyone should participate in the discussion via their computer to equalize the dynamic of the meeting.

Clearly Set Expectations

Clear communication of expectations and responsibilities is crucial. Remember that with video-chatting or phone calls, many of the non-verbal cues that we use to help us understand the “message” are not available to us with non-in-person communication.

Invest in Visibility

Consider using an always-on video portal, like Sneek, Sidekick, or Tandem. Such platforms allow coworkers to see each other onscreen during the day. They also make it quick and easy to have micro-interactions remotely.

However your organization chooses to craft its hybrid model, soon we’ll all be participating in a new experiment. Along the way, we’ll learn how best to make remote and in-office work successful for all.

3 Days, 3 ThinkPad X1s: Test-Driving the Lenovo Fold, Yoga and Nano

Editor’s Note: This post, sponsored by our friends at Lenovo, represents the authors’ views.

There’s no question that work, especially since the pandemic began, has become multifunctional. Like so many people I know, I’m continually moving between meetings and research, emails and team collaborations, running webinars, brainstorming, and so much more. In addition, my remote team members and I switch functions constantly. As a result, I now realize that while I do have an office, it’s no longer my professional hub; it isn’t the center of what I do.

Now, more than ever, the work happens wherever I am.

This reality means the quality of my work depends on the technology I’m using. So when Lenovo approached me about testing three devices from their ThinkPad X1 line, I jumped at the chance. After all, I’m a firm believer in enabling people to function at their highest level. And we can’t do that unless we provide the right equipment and platform. You can’t lead if you’re constantly dealing with tech hiccups or having to make awkward shifts between platforms.

HR’s Role in Facilitating the WFA Future of Work

I’ve also been having many conversations about how best to facilitate remote, physical, and blended workforces. Business leaders and common sense dictate that HR take on this role. Of course, while filling that role, they must be capable performers themselves. Having worked with many innovators in the HR tech space, I know the best iterations of technology respond to needs and shifts in the workplace.

Among the factors Lenovo considers when developing products for the ThinkPad line is how we work, an understanding that is gained through in-depth research and customer feedback like that which is presented in the Lenovo Future of Work study. Its findings reflect the profound transformation the workplace has gone through recently. Not just in how we’re working, but what Information Technology Decision Maker’s (ITDM’s) must focus on as a result:

  • 89 percent of large companies currently use collaboration software to enable their work.
  • 88 percent of employees prefer to continue to work from home at least some of the time.
  • Half of ITDMs say their budget for software and tools grew during the pandemic; 41 percent expect growth next year.

With all this in mind, portable devices will remain a staple in the future of work. We can’t live without them, let alone be productive and collaborative. But keeping up with how we work isn’t enough; today’s technology platforms must make work easier. Based on my experience with the ThinkPad X1 line, this alone makes Lenovo a strong HR partner.

The Power Trio: Lenovo’s Fold, Yoga, and Nano

The three ThinkPad X1 products provided by Lenovo included two Intel Evo vPros — the Nano and the Titanium — and the Intel Hybrid Core Fold. I have to say that, in general, all three devices blew me away. Each delivered an outstanding digital experience packed into a sleek, intelligent design. In the end, each device made me think even more about how we work today — and tech’s role in the future of work.

Ultimately, while exploring the three Lenovo devices, my own goal was to test all three, then pick the one that best met my requirements. In the end, my choice surprised even me. The bigger surprise? How each of these B2B options presented themselves as viable business solutions for today’s workplace.

Day 1: The ThinkPad X1 Fold   

I’ve been in the tech space for long enough that I don’t look for novelties in my hardware. Instead, I look for sturdiness and dependability. But I was certainly excited to have a day with the first foldable display PC, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. Novel, to be sure, but the unit is also remarkably — maybe even surprisingly — sturdy.

First Impressions

Upon starting my day, I immediately noticed the Fold has a work from anywhere feel. Running on Intel Core processors with hybrid technology, it seemed compact but very powerful. The Fold’s brilliant 13.3-inch 2K Flexible OLED display also caught my eye.

While this device felt like a hardcover book in my hand, it acted like a rocket, with very fast connectivity no matter where I was – best on its Wi-Fi 6 and 5G-ready support. The sound delivered from its Dolby Atmos system was far more than I’d expect from such a small package. During the series of hectic video calls that came next, the four microphones certainly helped.

As my morning progressed, I noticed both the wirelessly chargeable keyboard and the stylus pen attach to the Fold. Because I didn’t need to backtrack and figure out where I last left them, I found this very helpful.

Intelligent Design

In the afternoon, while convening with my team on some complicated projects, the split-screen functionality became a huge plus. It was easy to be on a call and look at documents on the bottom in landscape format. Apparently, I was multitasking more seamlessly than usual because a colleague asked about the tech in use during the meeting. The stylus also made it extremely easy to express ideas visually, something we too often lose when remote working. It added a level of creativity that we all found inspiring — and energizing. Within a short while, I felt like I’d picked up a new way to work. I love technology that triggers positive new behaviors — that’s the essence of intelligent design.

Thinkpad X1 Fold: A Game-Changer

After a dinner meeting, I took another research dive. Again, the machine seemed to make the work as easy as possible, intuitively. As I moved from room to room, portability was again a plus. To my pleasant surprise, so was the all-day battery — which really was all day. Hours into a day of super high use — conference calls, research, streaming and writing — the battery was still going strong.

As I entered the evening hours, I discovered an after-work bonus: Reading an e-Book on the Fold really does feel like reading a hardcover book! That’s a remarkable sense of evolution — recreating the feeling of reading to its original form, but in digital format. If it hadn’t already, the Fold completely hooked me now.

Day 2: The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga

Full disclosure: I love yoga. I’m all about flexibility in any form, and this premium convertible laptop was a joy to use. I’ll start with its 360-degree rotating hinge, which enabled me to turn the laptop into an easel, a tent, or a tablet. It just so happened that Day 2 was a very intense, stay-at-home day of reviewing documents and research, back-to-back video calls, and serious ideation sessions with my team. To get through that day, I needed equal amounts of form and function.

First Impressions

In many ways, this laptop feels familiar: It’s that dignified titanium gray that says it’s all business. But it’s also quite sleek in a way that promises versatility and power. It’s one of the thinnest laptops I’ve held yet, but its features give it substance. The 13.5” 3:2 screen is a neat feature: The taller, tablet-format height means you don’t have to scroll constantly. As I enjoyed a green tea, I took comfort in knowing the Yoga is spill-resistant and rated military grade. I set the Yoga up in tent mode — which quickly became the preferred position.

Speed and Security

For anyone looking for something powerful and fast, this fits the bill; it’s a speedy machine, to be sure. The Intel® Evo™ vPro® platform is impressive — it boots up lightning fast with superb connectivity and offers an incredible array of choices and compatibilities. The touchpad was super responsive and intuitive, a welcome alternative to using a mouse. I grabbed the pen and joined my team for a super cool brainstorming session, making the whiteboard one of my favorite features.

The security system — Lenovo ThinkShield — felt outstanding and well-thought-out. The platform has features designed right into the hardware to protect against any attacks — including a thumb-print security feature.

Overall, the Titanium also has a whole range of hardware, software, and services to keep business secure. For those of us working on sensitive materials, traveling, or working from anywhere, these are vital features.


Like the Fold, the battery life on the Titanium is fantastic. I barely stopped working and never had to worry about racing to plug it in. All in all, the Titanium felt like a turbo-charged combination of business-, IT- and creativity-oriented features. And the Dolby Atmos Speaker System and Dolby Vision were a great reward at the end of the day — with vibrant colors and sound for games and movies. We chilled out on the sofa and watched a great film. It felt like we were in a mini-movie theater.

Day 3: ThinkPad X1 Nano

By the time I switched to the Nano on the last day, the ThinkPad X1 line had me talking about these devices with friends. Then I got my hands on this sylph of a laptop (it comes in at two pounds or 907g — the lightest of the ThinkPad line) and I was even more impressed. On a day of comings and goings, I could slip it into my bag without feeling any weight. I loved the portability.

First Impressions

Like the Titanium Yoga, the Nano is phenomenally functional. In terms of the operating tools offered by the Intel® Evo™ vPro® platform, it’s a heavyweight. Lenovo engineered the 13” screen for maximum scrolling and eye space: the display has a 16:10 ratio and an attractively narrow bezel, so you can see more at one time and don’t have to scroll. This feature was perfect for a day when I had to check various materials as they came in and discern what was needed quickly.

Features Galore (Including Human Presence Detection)

On Day 3, I ran from my home office to the car to my office in town — and then made four different stops on the way back. So throughout the day, I appreciated how the Nano’s HPD (Human Presence Detection) enabled me to jump back on. With instant responsiveness that works in conjunction with its camera, HPD scans to see if people are present. When the laptop owner approaches, the Nano wakes up.

Another plus: The Nano has Rapid Charge, meaning when I did finally run down the battery after some very heavy-duty streaming, it didn’t take long to be back in business.

The most surprising aspect of this machine, though? It is so light; according to Lenovo, the most lightweight laptop ever made. In that way, the Nano felt very much like the future. There is no doubt: This would be an excellent laptop for staying agile and productive no matter where you are.

For Me: The Fold, Titanium, or Nano?

So what’s the verdict? Which Lenovo Thinkpad X1 best met my needs?

I appreciate the power and solid feel of the Nano and the Titanium. And the multifunctional ease of the Evo platform thoroughly impressed me. And yet, I found myself gravitating towards the ThinkPad X1 Fold. I loved the foldable display, which broke me out of the flat keyboard and vertical screen configuration just when I needed it the most. Granted, the day I used it was the most collaborative day of all. But when it came to brainwork, I found myself innovating and reacting faster with the split-screen. All in all, the Fold made me think of just how much I’ve conformed the work I do to the tools I’ve had at hand — not the other way around.

For me, the Fold felt right.

For HR and Recruiting Teams

If I were advising an HR or recruiting team on the best equipment for how we’re working now, though?

I’d likely recommend the entire Lenovo ThinkPad X1 line. Each has tremendous merits; each pushed the envelope on portable PCs in a new way. It was a blast to use each device. And that speaks to a new culture in which the match between people and technology is more important than ever.

During the pandemic, we saw a rise in the number of frustrated employees; disengagement caused by technical problems grew dramatically. As HR facilitates the further transition to remote, physical, and blended workforces, we must level the playing field. In many cases, that means providing — or suggesting the purchase of — the technology that best matches the needs of our WFA people.

These three days convinced me: the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 line should be at the top of the list for any company considering upgrading their devices.

Learn more about these Lenovo ThinkPad devices here.


#WorkTrends: Sexual Harassment In Virtual Workplaces

An ill-suited conversation. A moment of innuendo. Or a comment targeted at our gender, wardrobe choices, and even our hairstyles. Each, depending on context, are considered sexually harassing messages. And yet, especially in a remote working environment, identifying harassment often comes down to a feeling you get rather than something you can prove. You feel the other person’s behavior or comment was inappropriate. But was it sexual harassment?

Don’t miss a single episode of #WorkTrends… subscribe to the podcast now!

Under any circumstances, this is not an easy topic. Now, with many employees working from home, the degree of difficulty has only increased. After all, sexual harassment does not always occur face-to-face or by touch; video conferences, emails and texts, and collaboration platforms like Slack are also delivery methods.

The Uncomfortable Conversation: Sexual Harassment

I invited Sarah Beaulieu, co-founder of The Uncomfortable Conversation and author of the book Breaking the Silence Habit: A Practical Guide to Uncomfortable Conversations in the #MeToo Workplace, to join me on #WorkTrends℠. In a frank discussion, we dove into the nuances of socially distanced forms of sexual harassment. I quickly learned this is an issue Sarah deeply cares about, and has since her first discussion on the subject: “In that moment, and in the conversations that followed, I learned about the power of a single conversation.”

Sarah emphasized that work cultures are work cultures, face-to-face or not – and harassment is harassment. Regardless of our working environment, she said we need to set our own personal boundaries, and organizations must set them as well. “Individually and organizationally – collectively – we’re responsible for holding the line,” Sarah said. “When we hold that line together, and in service of our work culture, it’s less likely sexual harassment takes place.”

The Role Silence Plays

During our conversation, I was particularly struck by the role silence plays in enabling sexual harassment — and how, over time, that silence can be so damaging to workplace culture. Sarah agrees, and astutely adds: Silence is a choice – and culture is the conversations we choose to have, or not have, together.”

Yes, sexual harassment is a difficult topic. And yet I’m so glad we started this discussion. Please, listen to the entire podcast. In our time together, Sarah shares so much of herself and her work. And every word will help us start the uncomfortable – but absolutely necessary – conversations.

Find Sarah on Linkedin and Twitter.


(Editor’s note: Soon, we’re announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)