With the pandemic’s dramatic increase in “working from home” the reasons for this were obvious, necessity. Now with businesses well into reopening there is a continuing and unexpected reluctance to return to the office. Workers have gotten used to working remotely and like it.
They like the flexibility in getting their work done without the cost and time spent in their daily commute. Many report that it has reduced job stress and generally contributed to a better work/life balance.
Last October (2021) we wrote about this remote work popularity in an article titled “Top Ten Reasons for Reluctance to Return to Work”
What we did not cover was how strong the resistance was on the part of employers to let remote work continue after its necessity had generally ended.
Their arguments centered around a loss in worker identification with the company with an expected loss in loyalty caused by working remotely.
They claimed that to be a significant member of the company culture required spending time working together in a common area thus creating cultural bonds to the company and loyalty.
Another problem with remote work claimed by employers was the loss of an important“creative synergy” with employees working together on important company projects.
A loss in productivity is also cited by many employers via remote work, and not only because of the lack of, or reduction in,“creative synergy” generated, but also by its being unsupervised in unstructured environments.
I find all the arguments of the employers to be quite logical and persuasive and they have studies and expert opinion for evidence.
But when you look at more and more potential evidence, there are many studies showing the opposite, that is, many studies that show remote work can increase productivity
Then there is compelling evidence that the issues of loyalty, company culture, and productivity can all be successfully addressed without eliminating remote work but perhaps tweaking it some with what is being called Hybrid Work Solutions. (That is also the name of a company (and a Web address) that facilitates such solutions for companies).
The issue of collaboration and creative synergy can also be addressed with the great advances we have made in video conferencing, sharing work remotely on document creation, specialized communication software and of course, with the hybrid solution,having regular in-office meetings one or two days a week, can give a balance to remote work.
If you do a quick Google search for “Hybrid Work Solutions” you will instantly find a lot of good ideas on implementation with fully working examples. These you will want to know about to make an informed decision.
There is not much of a concern on how your employees will respond. From the worker surveys I have seem, most will welcome the idea. With such a plan in place your recruiting of core staff should be improved significantly.
There are also environmental advantages as remote work gets more established with less cars on the road, less congestion, less costs, less stress from commutes, more time in mornings and evenings for family activities etc. There are lots of individual and community benefits.
But implementation of a hybrid workforce solution can be challenging. Martine Haas is a leading professor of management at the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania and has studied virtual teamwork for 25 years. In a great article she wrote for the Harvard Business Review this past February she says that while:
“hybrid working arrangements can be daunting . . . . the good news is that we’re learning quickly where the biggest obstacles lie and how to minimize them . . . . . and manage them as they come up”.
Her 5 “c’s” are a good checklist to keep in mind: Communication, Coordination, Connection (especially Social), Creativity, and Culture. She writes a paragraph or two about each so reading just these would be helpful.
For those workers who cannot benefit from remote work, greater flexibility in working hours is advancing in many industries. hospitals have been successfully working with 12-hour shifts and 3-day work weeks. They work around problems of equity with weekend rotations and differential pay rates for nights and weekends.
With 4 days off per week there is also less commuting, less childcare, and more time with family, friends, hobbies, and rest, thus creating what so many workers want today, i.e., a greater life/work balance.
In many surveys of worker attitudes (see our 2021 article linked above) greater flexibility in scheduling work is as important as pay and benefits.
The world of work is certainly changing, and I think for the better.
So, as always, “stay safe” and continue to pray for Ukraine.