January 2024
Hybrid working and leadership authority
Nicole Chapaval and Lily Nygren
3 min read


The battle for the office

How has hybrid working post pandemic challenged old notions of ‘authority’? And what can the chief of staff do to ensure leadership effectiveness in this new world?
The news that the video communications company Zoom had ‘ordered staff back to the office’ was seen by some as an indicator that the work-from-home boom was over.
In fact, Zoom’s new policy is simply that staff who live within 50 miles (80km) of an office should spend at least two days a week there. But the amount of attention this announcement received underlines the continuing tension around working patterns and cultures.
In an article in The New York Times on 11 May 2023 (Back-to-office battles underscore a change in workplace authority) the management writer Stefan Stern describes how many leaders want to re-establish in-office working as the norm, but are facing pushback or outright rebellion from employees who have had a taste of freedom ‒ and like it.
Some organisations have responded by issuing diktats and empowering managers to employ ‘corrective action’ when employees do not put in enough time in the office. Others have merely offered guidance, and trusted teams to make their own decisions.
Meanwhile, October’s 2023 CEO Outlook report by professional services firm KPMG suggests that CEOs are now considering other tactics, such as bribery: 90% of respondents to the KPMG survey plan to reward those who work in person with attractive assignments, raises, and promotions. 
Chiefs of staff are often at the centre of facilitating the return to the office or change to hybrid working. We asked two of our members at opposite ends of the in-person/remote spectrum what decisions their organisations have made, and the impact they have had on leadership authority.
Mostly remote
We're basically all working remotely but limiting the timezones in which we hire people to join our team to ensure some level of synchronous work without affecting people's lives that much. We also encourage people not to schedule calls on Mondays and have only one mandatory call on Fridays (our all hands). I believe that remote work has not affected notions of authority as such, but rather the way in which managers work with their teams and achieve high-impact results. To achieve this, it is necessary to attain high levels of influence within the organisation, and this requires spaces and moments of serendipity where less structured conversations can take place to discuss motivations, the rationale behind certain decisions, and the managers' thought processes. This is harder to get in hybrid working environments.
I work closely with the CEO and COO to establish quarterly priorities, then I communicate those to the team. I also organise a weekly all-hands meeting to discuss the company's progress, accomplishments, challenges, and upcoming plans. This approach helps team members understand the importance of their work and enables them to track their progress within shorter timeframes.
Nicole Chapaval Chief of Staff, Platzi
Everyone on-site
Since mid-year 2021 our company stopped hybrid and work-from-home schedules. Everyone (with a few exceptions for medical reasons) is back on-site. Our company's main business doesn't allow for 100% remote work, so during COVID we established alternating shift schedules for warehouse and sales and some office staff. We kept open channels of communication between our CEO and the staff who worked non-stop and those who went home.
We do not seem to have had any issues about the return to on-site working. I think this is because we operate already with very high levels of trust, which is vital in keeping employees on board. No one should have to sign any paperwork determining their work hours or have to raise their hand to be away from their office to go to the doctor.
During COVID, I believe my role was critical to help calm nerves, communicate clearly and build rapport with several leaders. Also, we launched our first company newsletter during the first wave, and that helped distract attention from the bad news happening around the world. It was the break our people needed, and it worked!

Liliana Nygren Chief of Staff, Triple-S Steel Holdings, Inc.
Author Bio
Nicole Chapaval
Chief of Staff at Platzi
Nicole Chapaval is Chief of Staff at Platzi, the biggest EdTech in LATAM. She has a Bachelor in Social Communications and Journalism, and has completed advanced studies in Innovation and Growth at Stanford Business School, and Women in Leadership at London Business School.
Author Bio
Lily Nygren
Chief of Staff at Triple-S Steel Holdings, Inc.
Lily Nygren has over 20 years of experience as an Executive Administrative Assistant and in 2022, was promoted to Chief of Staff at Triple-S Steel Holdings, Inc. Triple-S Steel is a family-owned business with headquarters in Houston, TX. They are one of the premier steel distributors in the country. Before Triple-S, Lily’s experience was in the oil and gas industry, always assisting the C-level suite and the company’s board of directors.