Putting the Human in Hybrid: Humans At Work

Hybrid Workforce

The many challenges we’ve faced in recent years have forced us to examine the way we work, and allowed us to consider new work models, models that might allow for higher productivity, more innovation, improved employee wellness and ultimately, greater success. In today’s episode, we’ll be focusing on the idea of achieving these goals by advocating for the adoption of human-centric practices in the workplace. Project HR host Jennifer Orechwa's guests this week are Anna Tavis and Stela Lupushor, the authors of Humans at Work: The Art and Practice of Creating The Hybrid Workplace. Here, they explain:

  • The four critical factors that have driven the dramatic changes in our workplaces today;
  • Why expanding the term "employees" to "workforce" is so important;
  • How the 4 Ws Framework can help create a more human-centric workplace; and
  • Why hybrid workplaces are inherently more human!

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Changes in the Workforce

Four critical factors drove dramatic changes we are seeing in our workplaces

  • Demographic Changes
  • Digitization
  • Datafication
  • Disintermediation


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Changes in the Workforce

Four critical factors that drove dramatic changes we are seeing in our workplaces:

Demographic changes 

  • Seeing a different pattern with fertility rate, longevity, multigenerational workplaces, and working in a hybrid workforce which has also been accelerated by technology


  • Bringing more work centered technology into the workplace
  • This has rapidly developed a hybrid work environment where people can work from anywhere


  • Using analytics to make decisions in the workplace and influence behaviors 


  • Elimination of intermediaries between traditional industry incumbents and new businesses
  • Amazon, for example, does not have one single industry they operate in, and they are moving into new industries and transforming them
  • This creates new relationships that require a very different way of finding new talent.

Establishing New Norms

  • “No relationship has been changed by the pandemic more than the relationship between employers and employees” - Larry Fink
    • We are seeing a paradigm shift from a shareholder based economy to a stakeholder based economy.

Creating a Human-Centered Workplace

  • “Employee” is traditionally defined as a small portion of the privileged segment of the labor force, which has stability.
    • Anna and Stela aim to expand the definition of the term “employee” to “workforce” to encapsulate what helps a business deliver on its promise.
    • More organizations value their employees as long as they deliver on their business outcome.
  • Workplaces are traditionally designed to deliver business results, developing a human-centered workplace is designed to maximize the workplace experience.
  • Empathy is a new development in the workplace, but we need to be breaking the traditional workplace culture of a bottom line focused culture
    • Empathetic work cultures prove to be successful, and leaders who lead with empathy have been able to create a more compassionate workplace
    • The pandemic was an accelerator to the empathetic workplace, across businesses and eventually across industries 
    • There is a huge opportunity in creating empathetic cultures in businesses 

Is a Hybrid Workplace a Human Workplace?

  • We have a fundamental bias when examining the history of the workforce, looking exclusively at the Industrial Revolution.
  • The human relationship with work has very deep roots, and places where work was focused within artisan homes and guilds, connecting with work at a personal level, in other words, a hybrid work environment, was seen prior to the Industrial Revolution.
  • The new ‘work from home’ and hybrid workplace model is coming full circle to an early-age relationship with work. 
  • A hybrid work environment is engrained deeply into the DNA of human communities, and can better integrate a work-life balance.
  • The work-from-home technology is new, but organizing a hybrid workforce is not new.

Humans at Work Revolution

  • We are already involved in a work revolution
  • We need to examine the potential scale and adoption of integrating and restructuring these new forms of work
  • It is important to readjust our mindsets and the structure of work to accommodate this seemingly new hybrid work environment

W's Framework

This organizing principle deconstructs the components of work that need to be deconstructed and put back together in a different way. There are a total of 7 W's in this framework, and they are:

  • Work
  • Workforce
  • Workplace
  • Worth
  • Worker Journey
  • Worker Experience Design
  • WorkTech
  • The first 4 W's form the structure of the Humans at Work book, explaining: 
    • How the work is defined;
      • We use this word generically, but it is important to look at how the word is perceived
    • How the workforce is identified, and matched;
      • Traditionally when looking for talent, it is a binary decision process, but this no longer addresses the complexity of finding the right kind of worker
      • The more we can broaden our aperture, and consider alternative kinds of works, including a hybrid workforce, it will be easier to find the right match
      • Think about what is the most optimal match of worker to activity, and how can the workplace be conducive to that. 
      • A hybrid workforce can tap into an underserved group of people who may not always be granted the same opportunities if they cannot physically come to work due to mobility, transportation, or personal issues
      • It is important to design a positive workplace, both physical and digital
    • How the workplace is designed to create an optimal work expectation;
      • We are looking at the workplace from the designer/employer perspective as a reflection of what we need to do to accommodate the workforce
      • Creating a field of innovation in the workplace, and breaking the binary of the traditional workplace
      • Creating a workplace that breaks the binary of a traditional place of work, and accommodating to the diversity of needs of the workforce through a hybrid work environment, liquid workspaces, and a variety of working locations.
      • There are advantages and disadvantages of working from home, but it is about creating flexible options for the workplace
    •  The worth, or value exchange of work, by identifying the motivations of work.
      • We need to start thinking about why individuals come to work, and what are their motivating factors, and adversely, what is the organization expecting from their workforce?
      • The more we can think creatively about the range of expectations, the better a business can accommodate to create a positive workplace experience 
    • To enable these, you need to understand the worker, and see through their lens
    • We should strive to make our design thinking human-centered.
    • This is not the same as designing a business from a customer or technology perspective 
  • The appendix of their book, Humans at Work expands upon the framework, and develops a series of tools to help businesses on their decision journey.
    • This is not a linear path, but looking through this framework can guide businesses to develop a more human focused approach that leaders can apply 

The Need for Empathy

  • Empathy is a relatively new development in the workplace - previously, the emphasis was to be very lean, very productivity-focused, and empathy was seen as a distraction from the delivery of results to shareholders.
  • This move towards more empathetic work cultures had begun just prior to the pandemic, but the pandemic accelerated its growth and acceptance, as the crisis proved that companies with a more empathy-focused culture could be more successful.
  • The coming technology shows empathy built into the design of products and services.
  • Empathy is to be scaled across all sections of the business:
    • In the relationship between the employer and employees; and
    • In the way companies approach their clients, and which products or services they provide.

New York University’s Human Management Capital Department

  • Ms. Tavis currently serves as Clinical Professor and Academic Director of the Human Capital Management Department SPS at New York University, and Ms. Lupushor is an Adjunct Faculty member at NYU.
  • The department has recently pivoted from a more SHRM-comptency HR program to a more analytics and technology-based framework.
  • They offer an accellerated analytics and technology Master’s program.
  • Courses taught include:
    • Intelligent Automation
    • Algorithmic Responsibility
    • Workforce Transformation
    • Foundational Principles of HR (psychology, financial practices, organizational understanding, etc.)

Anna Tavis Background

  • Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Princeton University;
  • MA in Comparative Literature from Princeton University;
  • Ex. MBA, International Business from the University of South Carolina;
  • Bachelor of Applied Science, BASc, Linguistics from Herzen State Pedogogical University of Russia; 
  • She’s served as Senior Editor for People+Strategy Journal. HRPS. Executive Arm of SHRM;
  • Currently, she’s an Academic in Residence at Executive Networks, and a Senior Fellow with The Conference Board;
  • Ms. Tavis currently serves as Clinical Professor and Academic Director of the Human Capital Management Department SPS at New York University.

Stela Lupushor Background

  • Diploma (Master equivalent), Mathematics and Computer Science from Universitatea de Stat din Moldova;
  • Began her career as a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, amd moved on to multiple roles with IBM Corporate HR;
  • Ms. Lupushor became an Adjunct Faculty member at New York University in 2019;
  • She currently serves as the Chief Reframer at Reframe.work Inc.


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