Hybrid and the Marginalized
Remote, Not Distant is a practical book on building a post-pandemic workplace culture that defines the mindset needed to thrive in today’s hybrid environment. It suggests six approaches to collaboration and five work models that unleash employee potential.
Written by Gustavo Razetti, a consultant on corporate culture and author of four business books, Remote begins with the observation that, contrary to what many may think, people actually “don’t need an office to build culture.” Razetti also notes that this post-pandemic world is “the beginning of the end of the workplace as we know it. Normal is gone. The culture that got you here won’t get you there”. Focusing his book on the realities of life after Covid makes Razetti relevant to the everyday experience of everyone struggling with the most efficient ways to work today. A pastor within my context, who lost all his church members due to long lockdowns, told me that he is needing to start “evangelism [church planting] all over again.” Was his church culture inappropriate for the pandemic? What is culture anyway? To help us better understand this, Razetti describes culture as:
the environment that helps people do their best work. Culture evolves naturally, but the most successful companies deliberately design theirs. Culture is a “wicked problem.” It cannot be “solved” once and for all; it must be continuously worked on. Culture is an interconnected system of behaviour, mindset, and emotions; it requires more than having a set of values
Explaining this further Meyer notes that culture impacts on three things: our perceptions, cognition and ultimately, our actions. In other words, culture, really, defines our lives. In line with Razetti’s views, the culture within my context has greatly evolved due to Covid. For example, church services are now being attended by many members physically but also streamed online. And there is nothing to suggest that this will stop as the benefits are significant for interested parties within and outside our city. Plus, should there be a resurgence of Covid, we will not feel stranded as the case was when we first experienced the pandemic in 2020. It seems clear that business and social sector leaders who wish to remain relevant must quickly come to terms with how to efficiently navigate the realities of a post-pandemic world, especially the hybrid workplace. Accordingly, Razetti advises that:
A hybrid workplace is here to stay. Thriving in the environment requires revisiting (almost) everything about your company culture. Successful remote-first organizations design their culture intentionally and obsessively. Despite the concerns of some leaders, it is possible to successfully build a remote culture. Leaders must “unlearn” traditional leadership strategies and design an equal experience for both remote and on-site employees
As indicated earlier, Razetti proposes five important mindsets needed to thrive in today’s hybrid environment. These include resetting corporate culture; reimagining the organization’s future; reigniting a sense of belonging; rethinking collaboration and releasing swift decision-making.
In conclusion, Razetti cautions decision-makers to “leverage everything …learned from working remotely”, adding that “creating a strong workplace culture is not office-dependent. In my mind, there is no doubt that the consideration of a hybrid work culture is here to stay, especially if, God forbid, there is a resurgence of Covid or anything similar. The only concern is its ramifications for grassroots communities. Due to the digital divide/inadequate access to the internet, I wonder if, in the unwelcome event of another pandemic, this would mean another incidence of alienation from society. For people without phones or airtime to make calls, I guess Remote, Not Distant becomes a caution to begin/resume preparing for solutions that significantly consider marginalized communities.
 Razetti, Gustavo. Remote not Distant: Design a Company that will Help You Thrive in a Hybrid Workplace (Highland Park, Illinois: Liberationist Press, 2022), 1.
 Razetti, Remote not Distant, 22
 Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map. (New York: PublicAffairs, 2014) 19.
 Ibid, 52
 Razetti, Remote, 294
 Ibid, 295
9 responses to “Hybrid and the Marginalized”
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Henry, I so appreciate your post here. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on the digital divide. The hybrid conversation immediately encounters an issue of privilege and access. I believe it also creates a greater economic disparity because hybrid workers are often able to engage in other forms of work, networking, etc.
This book is certainly aimed at a Western audience. Do you feel the author is adequately conscious to this fact? Could you speak more to the impact of hybrid work on grassroots communities?
Thanks Michael. I think the digital divide impacts significantly on the ability of grassroots communities to participate in the new hybrid environment. For instance, when the pandemic first hit in the first half of 2020, due to hard lockdowns it became impossible to communicate with some of our project participants in poor communities because they had no phone at all. In some cases, the individuals had phones but no cash to buy airtime of data, therefore they also became cut off. I found myself wondering if they had food, had contracted covid, were okay. So “social distancing,” as important as it was for the time, also became a very disturbing reality that could be a systemic reason for the death of those who otherwise could have been helped. On the other hand, I had lots of friends in my city who had computers, phones, etc, who were not impacted in this way by covid. So yes, I agree with you that the book is aimed at a western (we can also say, non-poor) audience. I’m not sure if Razetti is aware of this fact. I guess its not easy to write efficiently for a truly global audience. The digital divide is not an easy challenge. Lord help us
Thank you for this insight Henry. I hadn’t considered how a lack of access to communication could contribute to higher death rates in peak-Covid/lockdown. Wow. I found this article which focuses on this very topic: https://ctu.ieee.org/economic-effects-of-the-digital-divide-unlocking-growth-with-equitable-access/
Theycite, “Only 40–42 percent of people in developing countries have physical access to the internet, compared to 70–98 percent in developed countries.”
Certainly the conversation around hybrid work is one for wealthier individuals and political/economic structures that have access and infrastructure.
Henry, thanks for this post as it always helps me to hear from a different cultural lens than my own. I have a question similar to Michael’s: this book comes from a Western perspective. Are there any major differences from what Razzetti shares and what you’ve experienced in your context? Also, hyrid ministry in the church is a new challenge for many. Is there resistance to “distance ministry” as opposed to in-person ministry among the churches you know?
Much thanks Roy. I think Razetti writes for the “non-poor” in both western and non-western contexts. The difference between what he suggests and my context is that majority of the poor either do not have jobs, or if they do, it is most likely not the type that lends itself to the possibility of being done remotely. It will usually be blue collar occasional jobs like painting, brick laying, etc. So, I guess, the gap that needs to be addressed would try to answer the question “how do we help individuals like this?” Or, “what would the equivalent of hybrid work for grassroot communities?” I wish I knew the answer.
For your second question, what I’m hearing from most people suggests a “resistance” to distance ministry. The term “its not the same” keeps coming up. People want the “human touch,” if possible. In some cases, people even campaigned for “social distancing” to be changed to “physical distancing,” so that the “social” dimension is protected 🙂
Henry: I appreciate your connections between Razzetti and Meyer this week and your points on how those in blue-collar/grassroots jobs do not necessarily have the ability to engage with hybrid.
Have there been any unexpected ways that the forced utilization of technology and remote/hybrid has positively impacted or propelled your ministry?
Henry: It will be interesting to watch how different companies in different parts of the world adapt remote work. Like you said, it is here to stay. But perhaps churches and ministries will not adapt to the technology as other parts of the world–like technology companies and education.
Troy I agree that different companies will respond differently. Actually even before covid, some HR departments were already considering/experimenting with remote work. Covid just heightened that or made it more “legit.” While there are benefits to both face-to-face and remote ministry, I hope the church will be more open to remote ministry, not as a license of withdrawal for backslidden believers but as a way to engage, so-called “closed countries” among unreached people groups in missions. I think technology would be a great key to reaching the unreached in these last days. Like you rightly note, education and the media are taking full advantage of this. The church must not be last to join the bus
Henry, I appreciated your connection to Meyer, “Explaining this further Meyer notes that culture impacts on three things: our perceptions, cognition and ultimately, our actions.” Razzetti describes this as the culture system. How might we keep this system in mind as we work to address the anxiety/fear of this new reality that has caused paralyzation?