Flex is next: Is the office making a comeback?

Britta Schellenberg
Britta Schellenberg

Every other week I’ll be sharing the latest and greatest new stories in hybrid work news. Here’s the first edition of the Flex is next series.

With the number of vaccinated people continuing to rise every day, the Return-to-office (RTO) discussion has gotten serious. Every company is now thinking about how to develop a hybrid workplace and unified work culture that maintains a high level of productivity and accountability while ensuring fairness and equity for all employees, no matter where they work.

I am a big fan of yoga, but you don’t need to practice it to know that flexibility matters a great deal for hybrid work. As the VP of Marketing here at Robin, I read a lot about the hybrid workplace, and every two weeks I’d like to share my favorite articles with you.

Feel free to let me know what YOU think.

Okay, let’s get the conversation started.

The next great disruption

Microsoft recently released a report called The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work — Are We Ready? It’s a must-read for anyone considering how to develop hybrid work policies.

Its findings include:
  • Employees view hybrid work as a flexible, “best of both worlds” model.
  • 73% of surveyed employees wanted remote work options to continue post-pandemic.
  • 67% of employees also wanting more in-person work or collaboration post-pandemic.

It’s not choosing between the office or WFH but having both options as employees and employers alike seek to remain flexible at a time of unprecedented change in how and where work gets done.

  • More than 40% of employers surveyed are considering leaving their current employer, meaning (as the report notes) that “a thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent.”

You can’t compete for talent unless you provide that talent with flexibility around work. When talented employees have flexibility, they stay. When employers try to impose “my way or the highway” policies, top employees choose the highway, leaving you.

The report suggests that companies adapt to hybrid work by:
  1. Creating a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility
  2. Invest in spaces and technology to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds.
  3. Rethinking the employee experience for a hybrid world where flexibility is key to productivity.

Transcending locations

In the recent Business Insider article, How Employers Can Build a Successful Hybrid Workplace, they explore how companies can develop a work culture that transcends location at a time of hybrid work. A sustainable, impactful work culture must go beyond a company’s physical space and policies on paper. Culture is more about how people are expected to treat one another (i.e., stated values) and how people actually treat one another in practice (values in practice) when they think no one is looking. A company’s culture is what people say and what people do.

Are you getting appreciated?

Author and workplace expert Jon Levy penned a controversial piece on hybrid work in The Boston Globe, arguing that despite the pandemic and remote work, being at the office will eventually prevail again for most employees and companies. Levy notes that it’s harder to get recognition for your good work from home.

“In the hybrid office where some people are in person and others are remote, working from home has serious implications for being recognized and appreciated, getting bonuses and promotions.”

What do you think?

A recent controversy in Washington, D.C. seems to contradict Jon Levy’s premise that people want to go back to the office asap. The editorial staff at The Washingtonian revolted after its CEO Catherine Merill penned an op-ed column saying "corporate managers have a strong incentive to demote employees who don't return to their offices."

As Merill explained in her op-ed: "I am concerned about the unfortunately common office worker who wants to continue working at home and just go into the office on occasion."

The instant response from employees to Merrill’s controversial op-ed was outrage and an organized work stoppage. Washingtonian magazine staff shared a statement on Twitter: "As members of the Washingtonian editorial staff, we want our CEO to understand the risks of not valuing our labor. We are dismayed by Cathy Merrill's public threat to our livelihoods. We will not be publishing today.”

Technology — the great enabler

Two related articles in Forbes and TechRepublic spotlight the importance of technology as an enabler of hybrid work. The Forbes article offered tips for building harmonious hybrid work environments, including:

  1. Building hybrid-friendly workflows. This includes everyone in the decision-making process, whether they work from the office or at home. Everyone wants to be visible and involved.
  2. Digitizing your processes.
“In a hybrid world, processes that worked when everyone was co-located [in an office] may now cause bottlenecks. It’s on all of us to evaluate current processes and look for ways to digitize workflows to allow for flexibility and efficiency for in-person and remote employees.”

The TechRepublic article notes that “almost two-thirds of European businesses plan to invest more in technology that supports a combination of at-home and in-office working.” Clearly, Europe is quickly preparing for a flexible future of hybrid work, as we all should be doing today.

Thank you for reading, and see you again in two weeks! Do some yoga till then. We’ve all got to remain flexible.

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