Hybrid work is not a fad and will be continue to be the norm in the foreseeable future. For over a year, experts like McKinsey and Harvard Business Review have been trying to help companies understand and internalize this idea to prevent them from being left behind in the realm of future work.
The difficulty in adjusting to the situation is evident in companies’ lack of clear hybrid work policies and a record-breaking wave of resignations, even by employees who had no alternative jobs lined up.
For Jeff Kahn, CEO and founder of Fluenzy, this realization led to founding a company dedicated to informing, training, and individualizing the solutions and tools needed for successful hybrid work.
Jeff compares the current state of affairs to a situation in which two sides aren’t using the same language to communicate, which creates a lack of understanding, disconnection, and attrition. So what led Kahn to start a company that set its sights on being the Amazon of hybrid work? And how could we understand our new work reality most effectively?
“It dawned on me that technology can only create a connection between devices – but not between the people using it.”
When COVID-19 caused shockwaves worldwide and lockdowns made remote work a necessity, Kahn had already been in the middle of a three-year process of understanding the challenges of remote and hybrid work within Broadsoft, a global communication software and service provider. “My responsibility was to create unified communication for Broadsoft, which had 26 offices worldwide and purchased 4-5 companies each year. Unfortunately, this led to a feeling that the company had no solid and clear culture”.
Consequently, Kahn was appointed Chief Transformation Officer to create a common language between all members of the global company.
“If you’re not going to the office and drinking coffee or taking a break with your coworkers, what makes you a part of the same system?” asks Kahn.
“My challenge was much more complex because it included many different people working from various offices in different countries, with wide gaps in culture.”
One initiative Kahn took was convincing Broadsoft to have an international video conference call with hundreds of employees, to help them feel united under the single banner of Broadsoft. “It helped me understand that there’s a need to create something deeper,” said Kahn.
While at Broadsoft, Kahn started working with experts from all over the world to create an effective remote-work strategy. “Remote workers have the same social needs as employees who work in an office. They crave eye contact as much as they need air, water, and food. The overwhelming number of employees who work remotely for too long without proper training experience more burnout, disconnection, and loneliness from a lack of a human connection. While this seems incredibly sad, what makes it worse is that it’s entirely preventable through proper training and healthy work practices”.
There’s no question that COVID-19 had a massive impact on how we work, but Kahn thinks the shift was already happening long before the pandemic started. “The world started moving toward remote work years before the COVID outbreak, but the crisis led to an abnormal and forced acceleration. The challenge we now face is to help people understand that there will be changes in all areas – work, transportation, education, and more. Each one of us needs to look at these changes through a personal prism to understand how they will impact us and those closest to us in both the short and long term”.
“We are in the midst of a marathon of changes – hybrid work is here to stay and is part of a set of changes that aren’t going to stop evolving.”
The balance of power in the world of work is changing – and a new language is forming.
When asked about the current state of employment, Kahn explains the shifts all through history: “When work was based on agriculture, people worked from the farm and owned their work. During industrial times, the employee became subservient to the boss, where employees would be at the beck and call of employers. Today, there is uncertainty regarding the power dynamics since employers can define job dynamics. By contrast, employees are electing to resign en-mass and have expressed a prioritization of remote work. Either way, the quick and drastic shift in the power dynamic has caused this formation of a new language”.
“The terminology being used by both employers and employees has changed.”
“For example, when an employee is sick, the manager knows they need to rest at home. In a hybrid world, the situation is much more complex. Since hybrid employees are technically taking sick days at their home office, managers could experience cognitive dissonance where they recognize the employee needs to rest but also reach out for quick and small tasks”.
Kahn also provided some context surrounding The Great Resignation: “Employees who spent the last two years working from home are feeling burnt out, and are deciding in record numbers, to reassess their priorities between career, friends, and family.” Kahn continues, “Salaries are no longer the major enticement in considering one position over another. Of course, employees want to be compensated fairly, but the equation now also includes the need for balance between their personal and professional lives. This realignment of values has caused many employees to leave their place of employment, without having a new position lined up”.
The more significant issue, according to Kahn, is that “most companies still have not recognized that the language has changed. For example, I recently read that Apple, which has publicly faced many issues relating to hybrid work implementation, announced a return-to-office policy using the terminology ‘a date to be determined’. This terminology indicates to both current and potential employees that the company has not yet determined a hybrid work policy, and this uncertainty alone can cause resignations and hurt recruitment efforts. Being one of the biggest companies in the world, Apple admitting that they don’t know what to do should indicate to us just how complicated the shift to hybrid work is”.
Kahn adds that “most companies focus on tools and features they can provide for their employees, but not the human connection they both lack and crave. The companies that are seeing success are the ones beginning to recognize that both are needed.
The name Kahn chose for his company, Fluenzy, indicates how the founder views its goal. “We saw a shift in the language used between employees and employers. For us, if you want to succeed as employees, parents, managers, or leaders – you must be fluent in the new language of hybrid work.”
“Our goal: help people communicate fluently using the new language of hybrid work”
Kahn continues, “Fluenzy plans to give employers, employees, and enterprises the means to succeed in the hybrid world by connecting them with online tools, curated content, courses, and advisors. Using these solutions, employees will find tailored and individualized solutions to the challenges of adapting to hybrid work, and employers will be able to improve retention”.
Kahn is aware that organizations can’t crate drastic change in a short timeframe. “Learning a new language takes time, but using Fluenzy gives a company the ability to become a thought-leader in hybrid work. It shows existing and potential employees that their employer is addressing the situation holistically rather than trying to piecemeal a solution without guidance”.
“For those who want to learn a new language, the best advice is to practice it regularly,” says Kahn. “To support fluency in hybrid work, we provide online training and also connect users with consulting experts in the area of hybrid work, like a highly specialized Fiverr.”
Fluenzy also emphasizes optimizing technical solutions to ensure that they work well together. “Companies tend to purchase solutions to solve a specific problem without fully understanding how the solution integrates with their unique ecosystem. We are creating a marketplace similar to Amazon that offers every conceivable solution under one roof and makes specific recommendations based on the ability to integrate with existing systems and solutions. This ensures that solving one problem won’t result in the creation of another.”
Kahn also tells of an agreement with Humantelligence, which has partnered with Fluenzy to provide an AI system that “helps users discover and understand their hybrid work personas. The system will then use that knowledge to provide a curated and individualized selection of courses, consultants, and online tools. This ensures that every employee will receive the service that best fits their needs”.
Fluenzy chose to initiate a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to complete its marketplace platform “hybrid work is here to stay and will affect the entire world over the next few years. We’re offering investors an opportunity to be part of “The Amazon of Hybrid Work.” We are giving investors a chance to impact the future of work and to benefit from being part of the first marketplace to focus exclusively on the challenges and solutions of hybrid work”.
Find out more about Fluenzy