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Hybrid Work: Getting It Right and Making It Stick

Offering hybrid work options is becoming a vital part of workforce strategy for state and local government agencies. This article explores how agencies can address hybrid work challenges such as onboarding remote employees, securing the new working environment and maintaining organizational culture.

Hybrid workplaces give people a better way to get their work done, as millions of Americans learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, few people want to spend their working lives in an office. They want hybrid work experiences — and they may abandon employers that cannot provide them.

The popularity of hybrid work raises questions employers cannot ignore. How do leaders implement workforce models that help them retain their best workers? How should they address day-to-day issues like security and onboarding? How can they strengthen workplace culture when conversations include remote employees?

“It’s not just government that struggles with creating and maintaining this new culture,” said Nicolette Stepakoff, a Google Workspace specialist with Google Cloud. Speaking at Government Technology’s Los Angeles IT Leadership Forum in a session called "Resetting the Workforce and Workplace," Stepakoff said the onus is on today’s leaders to make hybrid work productive and effective. “I definitely believe that it is top-down, not bottom-up, in this specific use case.”


Offering hybrid work options is becoming a vital part of talent strategy for all organizations, including state and local government agencies. Research firm Gallup says its surveys suggest half the U.S. full-time workforce, some 60 million people, believe they can do some of their duties remotely. Few Americans seek a return to the pre-pandemic employment model. A scant 9 percent want to work in an office full time, compared to 32 percent who prefer working remotely and 59 percent who want a hybrid work structure, according to Gallup surveys of more than 140,000 U.S. employees since the pandemic began in early 2020.

As of February 2022, about 42 percent of U.S. workers were on hybrid schedules, while 39 percent worked exclusively remote, according to the firm. Requiring these employees to return to the office full time might compel them to update resumes and look elsewhere. About 54 percent of fully remote workers and 38 percent of hybrid workers say they would probably seek another job if the remote option went away.


The Government Technology session explored key sticking points government leaders must resolve in the transition to permanently hybrid workplaces.

Onboarding. Strengthening hybrid work culture starts on day one. When Stepakoff joined Google Cloud in the middle of the pandemic, shadowing a veteran colleague in person wasn’t practical because they were working remotely. The solution: assigning work buddies — one from Stepakoff’s team and one from outside her team — for 90 days. The buddies checked in virtually every few days to make sure she knew what her team was up to and share advice on the best ways to get things done.

Stepakoff noted that leaders must make an extra effort to do things like virtual coffee breaks that require stepping away from the computer and talking to remote workers on the phone. “You don’t need to see the person to have a conversation with them,” she advised.

Security. Remote and hybrid employees must be able to work without anxiety over phishing, ransomware and other cybersecurity threats. Moreover, remote workers want to be productive, creative and collaborative on a device of their choosing.

“Your people want a platform where they can collaborate and communicate, but also feel secure that they’re not going to click the wrong link and have a data breach,” Stepakoff said. Look for applications that don’t force remote workers to remember complex passwords, she added.

Read more about security and compliance capabilities that are built into Google Workspace.

Culture. Leaders need to set expectations around working in a hybrid environment, Stepakoff said. This means acknowledging that people communicate differently in virtual meetings. Remote workers can feel reluctant to join a conversation because they must unmute their microphone. Some may prefer to react to a statement with an emoji rather than speak. Others may want to break into separate meetings to talk things over.

“I think giving folks the tools to do things like that is going to be key,” Stepakoff said.

Change management. Stepakoff’s professional specialty is convincing people to move beyond the status quo. Typically, this means getting them to adopt new technologies or business processes. Similar change management principles apply to the shift to hybrid workplaces.

She told leaders to focus on explaining to employees how they’ll benefit from new workforce models and processes. She also advised officials not to waiver as they forge new directions. “As soon as you veer from that path because someone says, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ they know they have control over you,” Stepakoff said.

Access change management resources for Google Workspace.


Stepakoff said adapting to the new world of hybrid work ultimately comes down to the basics.

“We are humans,” she said. “We are meant to talk. We’re meant to engage socially.”

Building these social aspects into hybrid work cultures is critical to success.

“We’re meant to have fun with each other,” she said. “Do that and make it part of your job and your everyday life.”

Learn more about Google Workspace for Government and find out why hybrid is about more than just where you work with the Google Workspace hybrid work handbook. See how admins and end users can benefit from secure collaboration tools in the Google Workspace for Government Demo Series.

Google is a trusted technology partner who understands how to help agencies transition from legacy architectures and utilize their data to fuel true mission success. Google Cloud Platform provides cloud-native infrastructure with layered security, machine learning and analytics at web-scale to rapidly innovate and advance agency goals.