Hybrid Working? That is the Question. 

12th February 2024

Special Boardroom contributor Dr Ole Petter Anfinsen explores the controversy and sustainability of hybrid and flexible working.

Quoting William Shakespeare: “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” The pandemic ushered in a sink-or-swim scenario, compelling society to don a technological “safety” vest for survival. Consequently, the first year proved to be a genuine struggle, with everyone simply attempting to stay afloat while providing support to those around them.

Loneliness & decreasing psychological wellbeing

And now, what lies ahead? Despite the long-past disappearance of the danger, we find ourselves still wearing the safety vest. Rather than securely stowing it away, people persist in wearing it, having embraced it as the new norm. It appears that we are hesitant to part with it, justifying its continued use with the perceived necessity for flexibility and remote work. 

However, this shift has led to increased loneliness and a notable decline in psychological well-being within society. Unhappiness is becoming a prevalent sentiment among us.

Stockholm Syndrome

I have been pondering on this for quite a while, and I always seem to be circling back to the basic notion of human nature. If we do not have anything to complain about, we will find something, and we are never happy! It boils down to this: those with straight hair would love curls, those with curls would like straight hair… the list can go on and on.

Before the pandemic people voiced their dissatisfaction and complained about not being able to work from home or about the lack of flexibly. During the pandemic those same people complained about isolation, loneliness and not being able to meet up with colleagues. Now, post pandemic, they do not want to go back to the office.

What is wrong? Where did we go wrong? The best way to elucidate this is through the concept of Stockholm Syndrome, as I believe people might not fully grasp the consequences of this new work adaptation. Over the past five years, I have closely observed societal changes and how individuals react to different work transformations. It seems people are currently adrift, pursuing what they think they want rather than recognizing what they truly need.

We cannot underestimate the social interactions, the informal conversations, the friendly behaviours and the smile or laughter from a colleague. We are social beings, in need of recognition. We learn from each other and from our surroundings, and we rely on support to move forward. 

How do we change? 
Will we change? Given the ongoing dilemma and continuous debate surrounding the issue, I don’t foresee an immediate solution. Nevertheless, as individuals, we can strive to cope and embrace new strategies for thriving, all the while developing new skill sets.

Looking back at my series of articles published in Boardroom last year, I would like to mention a short survival guide which encompasses the crucial skills of self-discipline, resilience, self-management, and adaptability. 

Starting with self-discipline we could say it aligns with “The Pain Paradox of Decision-Making” (Vaden, 2012, p. 9), which “is the idea that short-term easy leads to long-term difficulty, while the short-term difficulty leads to long-term easy” (Vaden, 2012, p. 9). Resilience feeds into this as “the capacity to cope with stress and avoid catastrophe” (Jawad & Kakabadse, 2019), followed by self-management which consists of “self-assessment, goal setting, time management, and self-regulation” (Gerhardt, 2007), with the fundamentals of “time management, interpersonal communication, organizational skills, basic problem solving” (Tulgan, 2017).

It all boils down to adaptability, defined as our ability to navigate new situations, environments, circumstances, and how we evolve to fulfill new purposes or address challenges. Considering the present challenges, mastering this skill becomes almost existential, serving as our survival kit in this intricate era of hybrid working.

We can no longer rely on immediate motivation or support from our close work circle, as we find ourselves being separated by technological boundaries – where body language and context becomes secondary. 

In many ways we find ourselves in conflict with human nature, attempting to compel an unnatural inclination that contradicts the instinctive behavior of us as humans. A parallel to what we see nowadays can be made with the use of social media and how psychological well-being has decreased with the increased use of social platforms. We are apart, but still so close – living through the screen of our phones or computers, trying to stay connected to our own constructed reality. 

Undoubtedly, this is delusional, as we repeatedly encounter individuals who aren’t authentically living their truth, especially in terms of what they choose to share. It’s all a facade, where as humans, we only reveal what we want others to see. This evolves into a counterproductive self-deception, permeating the real world and now infiltrating the workforce.

In conclusion, you will have guessed I am not a firm believer in hybrid working. I believe in flexibility, but as merely to have an option to work off site when needed. Not as a set of predetermined workdays from home, each week. If this trend continues, we will be in danger of losing the sharing of knowledge, learning and diversity of thoughts that inspire and motivate others to perform, privately and at work. 

We are social beings who require social interactions. We end exactly where we began:“To be, or not to be, that is the question”.


Anfinsen, O. P. (2023). Burnout – The Executive Burnover (Part I). Boardroom

Anfinsen, O. P. (2023). Burnout – The Executive Burnover (Part II). Boardroom

Anfinsen, O. P. (2023). Driving Success Through Self-Management. Boardroom

Anfinsen, O. P. (2023). Navigating the 21st Century: Building Resilience for Success. Boardroom.

Anfinsen, O. P. (2023). The Importance of Adaptability in Fortifying Performance. Boardroom

Gerhardt, M. (2007). Teaching Self-Management: The Design and Implementation of Self-Management Tutorials. Journal of Education for Business, 83(1), 11-17.

Jawad, A. Q. & Kakabadse, A. (2019). Leadership Intelligence. 1 ed. London: Bloomsbury Business.

Tulgan, B. (2017). Teaching the Fundamentals of Self-Management. Talent Development, September, 48-52.

Vaden, R. (2012). Self-Discipline. Personal Excellence Essentials, June, 9-9.

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