There are many reasons to continue working remotely. For employees, the elimination of a commute, not having to dress for work, overall cost and time-savings, as well as reducing the exposure to COVID-19 top the list of advantages.
According to a recent EBN survey, over 60 percent of employees said that they would quit their job if forced to return to the office full-time. Additionally, more than a third of employees shared that they don’t want to go back to the office at all. They want to work from home, permanently. As per a Flexjobs survey, only two percent of employees indicated they wanted to return to the office on a full-time basis.
Some employers have different views and want to see their workforce return to the office as soon as practicably possible. Fulfilling this goal may prove more challenging than they imagined.
CEOs like David Solomon of Goldman Sachs and Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix believe that working remotely is an aberration they want to correct as soon as possible. Their reasons for a return to the workplace include better collaboration, greater innovation, more synergy, and increased spontaneous sharing of key information.
The challenge for remote work suggests diminished daily interactions, less opportunity for mentorship, learning, and a greater feeling of disconnection from others.
On the other side of the equation, there are CEOs like Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square who shared with employees that they can work remotely, forever. Similarly, Spotify recently announced “Work from Anywhere”.
Ray Choudhury, a Harvard Business School professor believes the decision regarding work from home (WFH) and office schedules should not be made by CEOs alone. The new normal, go-forward work arrangements should involve employees and leaders at all levels. Choudhury believes that this decision should not be a top-down mandate.
Some early adopters to WFH reverted to an office-centric approach. The challenge is complex in nature and there is no one perfect approach. It really depends on the organization, its goals, values, as well as employee and customer needs.
Based on the findings of a Citrix Systems employee survey of 7,200 employees in 12 countries, the results demonstrate that 52 percent of respondents want a hybrid model that gives them the choice of whether to work remotely or from the office. Additionally, 45 percent shared that if they were to change employers, they would only look for a role that provided flexible and remote work options.
Whatever the organizational stance on WFH or return to the office, there will be winners and losers in the race to secure top talent, maintain company culture, and lead innovation.
If adopting a hybrid remote work arrangement for employees, there are some risks to consider.
Leaders will need to keep track of who is working remotely and who is in the office. There will need to be policies and procedures for communicating work arrangements and to ensure that there is not an imbalance in WFH time. For example, employees who WFH regularly on Mondays and Fridays may be seen as taking advantage of the flexible arrangement. Their actions may trigger employee discontent and resentment from employees who work from the office.
Hybrid work arrangements do not easily allow for spontaneous meetings. Additionally, it can promote an “us versus them” environment where employees who work primarily from the office create closer connections to other employees who have chosen the same work arrangement.
Misunderstandings can mount when one camp feels they are working harder than the other. This mindset does not promote team collaboration, trust, or respect.
There is also concern about the concept of being out of sight when working remotely. Statistics show that those who work remotely are not promoted as readily as employees who work in the office. The lack of face time could be linked to a lack of promotability. Researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business conducted a study that revealed people who WFH are 13 percent more productive, but were not rewarded with promotions at nearly the same rate as colleagues who worked in the office.
Another challenge WFH employees or those hired during the pandemic and who have yet to meet face-to-face with their leader and colleagues involves their onboarding, training, and integration. It was quite different and likely less than optimal for building key relationships during those early, impression-building, days.
The debate about WFH versus in the office both have their merits. The hybrid model attempts to provide the best of both worlds. Time will tell where the majority of employers land. In the meantime, we will continue to pay attention to workplace trends in this area.
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