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And How Your Hybrid Approach Can Help Your Blue-Collar Workforce

The past few years have torpedoed the old 9-to-5 commute to sit under your boss’ thumb, and some executives still cannot get over the paradigm shift.

Steven Covey, author of The Speed of Trust and Trust & Inspire, struck a chord with me when he noted that companies are struggling with the biggest change necessary for insightful leadership in the new world of hybrid work: They must let go of command-and-control leadership and move toward “trust and inspire.”

Still, from Amazon to BlackRock to Apple to Disney to JPMorgan to Twitter (excuse me, X), CEOs are requiring, asking and ordering their charges back to the office. And those that allow remote or hybrid schedules are having trouble with the trust part.

“If you implement a hybrid approach to work, but you still don’t trust your people – and you fill it with things like productivity software that looks and feels to the employees like surveillance software – that screams distrust,” Covey told a recent Chief Executive magazine conference. “The new way of working will be undermined by that lack of trust.”

That software also undermines the benefits of working from home. This surveillance chains employees to their “home” desk from 9-to-5. Workers still cannot see their daughter’s soccer game, their son’s piano recital, have lunch with their spouse, take care of their children when they’re sick.

Family-Friendly Policies Must Benefit Entire Workforce

You’re going to have to try a new way of leadership. Covey has some good advice on that front. Model the openness and understanding you want to see, clarify expectations and establish accountability up front. Such behaviors will inspire your workers.

Covey, of course, is really talking about white-collar workers. The shift from command and control to trust and inspire must go beyond the laptop set.

Elon Musk, for all his bombast, makes a valid point when he says: “You’re gonna work from home and you’re gonna make everyone else who made your car come work in the factory? You’re gonna make people who make your food that gets delivered – they can’t work from home? The people that come fix your house? They can’t work from home, but you can? Does that seem morally right? That’s messed up.”

Musk fails to understand an important point. He actually makes the case for developing family-friendly policies that provide optionality for your entire employee base. Family-friendly policies and optionality are two buckets in my three-bucket approach to reinventing work.

The laptop class deserves “trust and inspire” consideration. But so do your employees on the factory line, in the warehouse and on the stock floor.