When the pandemic hit early in 2020, many business owners didn’t understand the situation they were about to face. Many businesses didn’t have the technology in place to support remote work, and the ones that did likely had employees that weren’t prepared for the responsibilities that come with working from home. Now, as millions of people are getting vaccinated and governments are slowly lifting restrictions, the question becomes: What now?
A lot has been made about remote work. Business owners didn’t think it would work for them, then in a blink of an eye, they were forced to make it work for them, but the general consensus among business owners is that they would like to return to “normal” as soon as they can. “Normal” may not be possible, however. One study found that over 70 percent of workers who worked remotely during the pandemic are expecting more flexibility, even if nearly half of those same workers are looking forward to getting back into their respective offices.
How does this make sense?
Like many things that have happened during the global health crisis: it’s not supposed to. Basically, workers, like business owners, have mixed feelings about working remotely. At first, there was excitement, but as time went on, sitting for hours in video conferences, kids running around, and trying to ignore the giant pile of laundry just off the field of view of your webcam, took its toll. That’s not to say that they would trade it completely, but you may be surprised to find out that many employees who are working remotely aren’t doing as well as you’d think.
One major issue is that a majority of polled business leaders say they are thriving right now while their subordinates are largely struggling. Many workers pride themselves on their ability to be productive regardless of the situation, but some of them are overburdened with the increased digital intensity of their jobs. If someone who works in an office is having troubles in their life, especially the type of troubles that have an effect on mental health, most of the time someone will notice. Working from home, however, management tends to assume that everything is fine unless they hear otherwise.
So, while decision makers are also largely working from home, they are making more money, developing better relationships, and being able to take a lot of their vacation time, while production workers are feeling largely overworked, underappreciated, and left to fend for themselves working for organizations that tell them that developing a team (or family) atmosphere is a priority.
Remote work doesn’t just negatively affect workers, it can negatively impact the course your business takes. When people are in one location there is a tendency for them to communicate better, more ideas to get thrown around, and decisions to be made with direct input from everyone. After a year or more of video conferencing, people just resign to completing the tasks on their schedule and have a tendency to dislike video conferencing more and more.
This lack of interaction breeds complacency and a stalling of forward movement in a business. Some more company-centric administrators may disagree, but anytime an organization is resigned to groupthink, that business is in trouble.
The Hybrid Office Experience
The fact is that businesses, especially smaller businesses that find themselves completely leveraged as restrictions phase out, are going to be looking for their people to be the most productive they can be, but they are also going to ask many of them to come back to the office. Some people are looking forward to it, but others are not. Regardless, expect for many businesses to remove the need for people to report to the office everyday.
This is great, right? Not so fast.
How many days are you going to expect to have to go into the office? Well, it depends who you ask. According to one study 68 percent of polled executives would like to see their staff at work at the very least three days a week. Workers, on the other hand, said that it should be a maximum of three, but less depending on an employee’s responsibilities.
What’s strange is that 22 of U.S. executives consider bringing back their employees to be a major point of emphasis, while similar companies in Canada, Germany, Japan, and China don’t find this to be a major issue at all. In fact, less than five percent of polled executives consider this a strategy.
One thing is certain about the hybrid work model: nothing is certain. Will it help or hurt company culture, productivity, retention rates, and other metrics that aren’t just numbers to a business, but dollars and cents? Would it be better to just choose one over the other? Nobody knows, because every business is different.
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