A definitive new book on the madness of hybrid working goes one step beyond

Andy Lake's new book is called Beyond Hybrid Working but he could have called it “Way Before, and Way Beyond the fuss about Hybrid WorkingIn any crisis, there are people who spot an opportunity. One such opportunity, in early 2020, was to seize the term “hybrid” and apply it to the world of work and place. And for the past four years, we have seen the emergence of polarised commentators, arguing over two extremes; work from home, and ‘back to the office’ and the nominally new construct ‘hybrid working’. Mostly, entirely missing the spectrum of work and workstyles which can co-exist.

Andy Lake is not one of those opportunists. He has been writing and teaching about ‘work’ for decades. Andy has both led, and participated in, research around the world, focused on Smarter and Flexible Working. His new book is called Beyond Hybrid Working but he could have called it “Way Before, and Way Beyond the fuss about Hybrid Working”, because he has been fully immersed in new ways of working since the 1990s. And this is vital, to put the often-weak contemporary debate into context.

What Andy does so eloquently in this book is not only go “beyond hybrid working” as the title suggests, but also to trace the roots of flexible working. That starts with a five-page Glossary, explaining all the terms which we have heard over the years, and putting each into context. Including “telecommuting”, which Lake says has “a historic feel to it”. But of course, this is important history, as it takes us back to where this all started. I.e., the ability to unchain ourselves from places full of paper (early offices) and dial-in to a network from somewhere else. The personal computer and modem connected to a phone socket allowed some of us to do that in the 90s (a few, even before that).

Lake describes Smart Working succinctly: Smart Working is about transformation – actively pursuing benefits by working in smarter ways, rather than being driven by the choices of individual employees. Ideally it provides a framework in which individuals and teams can make choices about the most appropriate times and places for work, and as far as possible balance individual preferences into the mix.

One standalone reason to buy this book is Lake’s use of diagrams throughout. I find them really useful, to capture the text into a visual form which my mind remembers (like ‘mind maps’ for anyone who has used them). They all contribute towards the Smart Working Maturity Model presented in the final chapter. This model plots a progression, from isolated initiatives, to basic flexibility, and on to ‘emerging’ and later ‘mature’ smart working. In fact, I would recommend reading Chapter 1, jumping to the final Chapter 16 to understand the smart working maturity model, then go back through other chapters. It is a well-written and easy to read textbook – but it is a textbook! You will not get through it in one long read.

For those of you who read this book cover-to-cover, then dip back into sections regularly for Andy Lake’s many generous gifts of wisdom, this book will truly take you “beyond hybrid”. Beyond that chatter in the magazines and PR mailshots claiming either ‘everyone can work from home; the office is dead’ or the other camp pressing for a ‘back to the office’ future. Lake paints a far more intelligent and nuanced picture, with a spectrum of work and place possibilities, and a clear set of management and organisational competencies and tasks required to move an organisation towards a better future. I commend this book to you.

Read an extended and detailed summary and review of the book here

Image: Sedus