Not so fast.
We’re going to just come out and say it: the office model of the pre-pandemic no longer works. We are not going back to 2019 anytime soon (if at all).
Why are we so adamant about this? Employees are making it clear that the flexible work arrangements which have emerged from the upheaval of the COVID-19 environment are important to them – in some cases, that flexibility is even a deal-breaker for new job opportunities. Employees want choices as to where they physically work. Plus, companies – both workers and management – did not find that fully remote work diminished productivity in a significant way.
So why are there some big names still talking about workers coming back to the office either full-time or more than employees really want to be back?
It might not come as a surprise that some Wall Street firms – traditional, old-school type organizations such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan – are demanding that employees come back to the office five days a week. However, there are other financial firms, such as Citigroup and many European institutions, that are introducing much more flexible work arrangements centered around a hybrid work model. What we see is a very clear divide in how banks will approach the future of work.
It is interesting, however, that some technology-driven, highly innovative companies have indicated that they want their staff back in the office as well. In particular, there has been a good deal of press about a trio of giants who are known to historically be employee-focused: Google, Apple, and Amazon.
There has been employee resistance to all of these companies’ plans.
As reported in a recent Bloomberg article, Google’s engineers explain that they are as productive working from home as they were before the pandemic (which surprised Google management). Yet despite this data, the company is planning to bring most employees back to the office this fall. And no, this news is not going over well with Googlers. It is widely reported that many Google employees are not happy about this development, which will continue to be closely monitored by many.
Apple is another player with a similar story. A company that traditionally has discouraged employees from remote work, it is now reportedly even more difficult to have requesets approved to work away from the office. , it is now reportedly even more difficult to have requests approved to work away from the office. The company is mandating workers return to the office three days a week starting in September. And new data is coming out that reveals that some employees are claiming that they will leave the company if Apple doesn’t become more flexible in its work location policy.
Amazon is an example of a company that had to do an about-face with its return-to-work plans. In March, the company announced a “return to an office-centric culture” as the baseline post-pandemic, but more recently has adjusted the policy that allows for a more flexible mix of remote and in-person work. (Similarly, Uber had to abandon its plans to bring all corporate employees back to the office following “resignations and significant backlash from employees.”)
The actions of these technology companies – as they continue to attempt to keep employees in the office – flies the face of Twitter and Facebook, which have announced a permanent work-from-home policy.
Here’s an important thing to consider as we look at these companies. It is known Google and Apple have some of the best office space in the world. So if these employees are resisting the return to the office, then it is certainly happening at other companies as well.
Looking past these specific corporate examples, other research tells a similar story and probes deeper into the answers to other important questions – including the retention of employees if they are not satisfied with their work arrangement.
Global staffing firm Robert Half has found in its research that 34% of professionals who have worked at home during COVID would quit their job if the requirement came to work full time in the office. From that same study, around half of the respondents shared that they prefer a hybrid work model.
Employees are willing to give up some of their paycheck to work remotely. A survey from Owl Labs looked at the satisfaction side of remote work:|
And productivity? Where does this factor into the mix beyond what we already learned about the productivity of Google engineers? In the same Owl Labs study:
And finally, the expectations have certainly been in place among workers that the hybrid model will remain for the foreseeable future.
There are some important implications from these anecdotes and research. OS33’s Morley Ivers is not surprised by the consistent data that validates the claim that workers want flexibility in where they work. “We see research from companies of all sizes, across a wide range of industries, and the findings are the same – employees in the post-pandemic world want to continue to enjoy the benefits of working remotely at least some of the time. There are benefits to working from home or an away-from-the-office workspace, and there are benefits to going into the office at least a day or two a week. But what corporate leaders must do is balance the needs of the employees – and their happiness – with the needs of the firm to find the right formula.
“One of the most important reasons to find this right balance – which for the vast majority of companies will be the hybrid model – is to retain the needed talent within an organization. This in turn will help drive the success of the company moving forward. It has become abundantly clear that companies who do not find a compromise with an employee-focused hybrid model of work will risk losing their workforce to competitors who do shift to hybrid.”
Ivers then explained that since the move toward a hybrid model is inevitable, it is the responsibility of companies to ensure that employees have the tools and resources needed to work from any location – and to work on any device.
“It’s now time for companies to think through the longer-term implications of remote and hybrid work, and ensure workers have the technology they need to work productively and securely. The reality is that employees do actual work on their personal devices. There is no way around this. There are so many times that the two types of tasks – professional work-related tasks and personal tasks – are intermingled. And it is often much easier for workers to complete their work on a personal device.”
And to take this a step further: research shows that forward-thinking technology directly impacts a company’s ability to both attract and retain employees. “Employees have made it very clear they want to do their jobs how and where they want, and technology is a way to empower employees to do their best work and be more successful. The right technological tools are yet another perk that talent is looking for as they make a decision where to work. They will work for companies that offer great technology. And that’s incredibly valuable in today’s wild work environment where everyone is scrambling to get the best talent,” Ivers concluded.