Rules for exactly how to create and carry out remote-work policies in a future hybrid environment may be highly complicated. Or they might be as simple as two words: Work appropriately.
That short version comes from General Motors, which settled on “work appropriately” as its hybrid work mandate after grappling with various more complicated policies and finding them wanting, according to this article from SHRM
, the human resources management association.
"Leadership decided to put the trust in the employees and their managers in terms of deciding what works best for them based on their roles and situation," SHRM quoted Cyril George, global talent acquisition director for GM, as explaining. "The flexibility allows leaders to lead and treat employees like adults who know best how to do their work."
The approach isn’t unprecedented at GM, as SHRM notes. It parallels the tactic GM CEO Mary Barra took when becoming the company’s head of HR in 2009. As a first priority
, she targeted the company’s dress code, reducing it from 10 pages to two words: “Dress appropriately.”
“If you let people own policies themselves — especially at the first level of people supervision — it helps develop them,” Barra told a Wharton conference in 2018. “It was an eye-opening experience, but I now know that these small little things changed our culture powerfully.”
It’s easy to see how “work appropriately” can be the foundation of an enterprise’s culture in the next generation of work. A workforce that trains itself to work appropriately, at a line manager and individual employee level, won’t just make sound choices about when to work remotely vs. at the office. Working appropriately, like dressing appropriately, suggests taking other people’s perspectives and needs into account, and feeling a responsibility to justify management’s trust in the individual. That seems like the basis for a healthy culture.
Even if your enterprise isn’t ready to make the leap of faith toward a two-word hybrid work policy, “work appropriately” should absolutely be the guiding principle for every organization. Fortunately, the SHRM article cited above does show that, at least among the large enterprises quoted in the piece, policies have been developed after deep and extensive consultation with employees.
In short, “work appropriately” isn’t just what the employees should do. It’s what the enterprise and its policies need to be able to do as well.