Ep 7: Engineering Hybrid Work Success: Maja Paleka's Design Principles for Flexibility

Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Maja Paleka, the visionary behind Juggle Strategies, blends engineering prowess with hybrid work insights. In this episode, we delve into:

  • Design meets hybrid: Leveraging engineering principles for workplace solutions.
  • Tailored decisions: How a global insurance giant championed team-level hybrid choices.
  • Onsite essentials: The underestimated value of unstructured time.
  • The hybrid trifecta: Clarity, autonomy, and accountability as the pillars of success.

Leveraging Engineering Principles for Workplace Solutions

Maja Paleka, co-founder and director at Juggle Strategies, joins me in episode 7 of Heroes of Hybrid Work to share how she applies her engineering mindset to designing and building hybrid workplaces. She believes hybrid work design needs to be intentional and starts with understanding the organization’s mission, culture, and type of work to be done. Simply telling people to be in the office a certain number of days is not enough. 

“Hybrid has to be something that’s intentionally designed. It’s not going to happen just because you told people to be in the office two days a week.” - Maja Paleka, co-founder and director at Juggle Strategies

Paleka shared that organizations should take a design and build approach, where organizations purposely consider what they are designing for and then spend time building it. She acknowledged that while the design process is important, the implementation and following through on strategies and processes are often overlooked but just as important. 

How a Global Insurance Giant Championed Team-Level Hybrid Choices

Maja Paleka used a multinational insurance organization that she worked with during the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of a company that strategically designed and built their hybrid work model using the two principles in the design and build process: co-creation and experimentation

The organization made an effort to engage their people, leaders, and all their staff, and then took the time to understand that the process is going to be different depending on the culture, geography, and type of work to be done. After that, the organization adapted and learned from the process. It shifted from an individual-led approach to a team-led approach after learning the benefits of team-based design, which is now also supported by Gallup’s recent research.

Paleka explained that she continued to work with the organization to gather feedback and make further adjustments. Together, they followed agile principles, including testing and iterating, to achieve the desired outcomes.

Understanding Corporate Culture Through Company Values

Maja Paleka shared Carolyn Taylor’s book “Walking the Talk” to describe a practical model for operationalizing culture. In the book, Taylor defined culture as “company values brought to life through behaviors, systems and processes, and symbols.”  

Paleka used this definition to explain the importance for companies to tie their values to work options and create tools to support them. She emphasized that every organization should strive to bring their values to life through these aspects of culture and ensure that they are aligned with the work environment. When it comes to designing hybrid work models, flexibility should be prioritized over rigid processes to adapt to the changing needs of the workforce and promote agility.

Furthermore, Paleka shared that organizations need to create clarity for employees about what “good” looks like in order to implement hybrid work successfully. This clarity should be based on a set of principles that align with the organization’s values. For example, if prioritizing customer services is a value, then one of the principles to consider is how work can be done in a way that benefits both the employee and the customer.

Using the Office as a Tool to Operationalize Culture and Values in a Hybrid Work Environment

Maja Paleka advised organizations to reconsider the purpose of meetings in the office and create a balance between structured and unstructured time. It may make sense to group meetings all on in-office days, but it’s important to provide unstructured time for casual interactions and chats in the office that don’t happen when working remotely. These moments are what helps employee engagement and builds a sense of belonging. 

“The meetings are just as sort of operational as they were when they were online. We get in, we get out, and all that stuff around connection actually is not playing itself out at all.” - Maja Paleka, co-founder and director at Juggle Strategies

As the purpose of the office changes, Paleka explained that offices should be designed to support human connections, collaboration, and creativity. In that way, the office plays a symbolic role in representing the organization’s culture and can be a tool to operationalize company culture and values.

To do that, organizations need to first envision what they want to achieve through the office and how it can support their culture and values. Paleka highlighted the importance of considering individual behavioral styles and preferences as well. Office design should support effective communication, connection, and relatedness among team members, and to spark creativity and facilitate spontaneous conversations. 

Two Mistakes That Companies Make When Transitioning to Hybrid Work

Maja Paleka pointed out that a mistake organizations make is not providing enough clarity and guidance when implementing a hybrid work model. Another mistake is believing that simply having a mandate for a certain number of days in the office is enough.

Without proper context and guidance, Paleka said that employees will do what works best for them individually, leading to disconnection and disengagement. Coming into the office without a clear reason or plan can result in employees feeling unproductive and disengaged.

“We're humans—we're going to do what works for us. It's completely fair and completely logical. People almost take it kind of personally that people didn't think about the organization when they've given them no context.” - Maja Paleka, co-founder and director at Juggle Strategies

Paleka explained that instead of mandating a certain number of office days, organizations should provide a guide on how to approach those days while taking into account the needs and preferences of employees. It’s important to design the office days in a way that encourages collaboration, connection, and a positive work experience. 

Organizations should set clear expectations, communicate the purpose and principles of the hybrid model, and encourage team conversations to ensure alignment. At the same time, they should also be flexible and recognize that the hybrid work model isn’t black and white.

The Hybrid Trifecta: Clarity, Autonomy, and Accountability As the Pillars of Success

Maja Paleka shared that leaders need to focus on three key areas when it comes to remote work: clarity, autonomy, and accountability. 

  • Clarity involves setting clear expectations and goals, as well as fostering communication and transparency. 
  • Autonomy is about giving employees the flexibility and freedom to work in a way that suits them best, while still meeting the organization’s objectives. 
  • Accountability is important to ensure that remote employees are still performing at their best and delivering results. 

Organizations should provide clarity on expectations, teams should design ways of working together, and individuals should have conversations on how to best leverage behavioral styles and protect time for deep work. Contrary to many best practices out there, remote work may not always be the best option for deep work. Paleka encouraged organizations to consider alternative spaces like co-working spaces or conference rooms. 

Paleka believes organizations need to create a culture of experimentation and learning when it comes to remote work. Remote work has the potential to increase diversity and inclusion by providing opportunities for individuals who may not have been able to work in a traditional office setting. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s important to try different approaches and learn from them.




Jenny Moebius

SVP @ Skedda | Angel Investor

Jenny is a top Go-To-Market (GTM) leader in the Greater Boston area, where she has a track record of building powerful brands and categories, generating demand (for both sales- and product-led orgs), and creating energizing mission-driven cultures of belonging in the B2B tech space.


Maja Paleka

Coach, advisor, speaker and facilitator.

When Maja left the corporate world in 2013, she was on a mission to change the way Australia works. This followed various leadership roles in engineering, sales and operations across three continents. In the years since, Maja has combined her commitment to change the landscape of work with a deep interest in human behaviour. As an advisor, coach, facilitator and speaker, she’s supported hundreds of leaders and executives in navigating the future of work.

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