June 1, 2021

Professor Erin Kelly Coauthors Boston Globe Article on Effective Hybrid Workplaces

MIT Sloan Professor Erin L. Kelly (left) and University of Minnesota Professor Phyllis Moen (right)

In a new article in The Boston Globe, MIT Sloan Professor Erin L. Kelly and University of Minnesota Professor Phyllis Moen draw on their research to offer five recommendations for creating a hybrid workplace—one that mixes in-office and remote work—that will work well over the long haul.

“A hybrid workplace can be more effective than a traditional one—if it’s managed well,” Kelly and Moen write.  

Kelly is the Sloan Distinguished Professor of Work and Organization Studies at MIT Sloan and Co-Director of the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research (IWER), as well as a Faculty Director of the Good Companies, Good Jobs Initiative at MIT Sloan. Moen holds the McKnight Endowed Presidential Chair in Sociology at the University of Minnesota. They are the authors of the book “Overload: How Good Jobs Went Bad and What We Can Do About It.” (Princeton University Press, 2020).

Both the new Boston Globe column and the book “Overload” draw on research Kelly and Moen conducted over a five-year period as part of the interdisciplinary Work, Family, & Health Network.

Kelly and Moen's research involved a major work redesign experiment at the IT division of a Fortune 500 company. In that research, Kelly and Moen found that more flexible work practices that gave employees more control over when and where they worked had beneficial results all around: for employees and managers, their families, and the company.

In their new Boston Globe column, Kelly and Moen identify five principles to follow to create an effective hybrid workplace as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes:

  • Establish how people will work together. “Successful hybrid work arrangements require careful attention to how employees connect with managers, customers, and one another,” Kelly and Moen note.

  • Provide employees with greater choice than many had before the pandemic, and support people’s personal and family priorities.

  • Let work effectiveness guide individual decisions about remote work. “The nature of the work needs to drive the options that are on the table,” the authors write.

  • Encourage staff to set boundaries to avoid burnout. Burnout, Kelly and Moen point out, can be a problem when people are working remotely, thanks to “always-on” digital technologies that can make it difficult to “unplug” from work.

  • Train managers to adapt to a different role. In a hybrid workplace, managers’ roles need to change to focus on the work results, not employees’ schedules, according to the authors.

Read the new Boston Globe article here.

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