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BACK TO THE OFFICE AND THE FUTURE OF WORK

by | May 6, 2021

How has the spontaneous experiment of remote work changed the future of work at your company? What changes from the past year or so will stick? One thing we know is that most companies will not just snap back to the office life of the past.

Tribe recently conducted a back-to-office benchmarking survey with large companies from New York to San Francisco, in industries that included technology, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, healthcare, financial services and more. (For more on the results of this survey, see this Forbes piece.) We conducted a similar survey in June of 2020, when about 1 in 5 respondents said they expected to have all office workers back on site shortly. In this April 2021 survey, however, not one respondent said their companies planned to move everyone who’d gone remote during the pandemic back to the office full-time.

This reflects the sea change we’ve seen in executive leadership’s acceptance of remote work, and also the new expectations of employees who feel they’ve proven they can be productive without commuting to the office every day. When planning the future of work, the accepted view of seems to be that offering remote work, in some format, will be a must.

As you’re planning your company’s future of work, here are four considerations to keep in mind:

1. Five days in the office will be a hard sell

Especially if you’re competing to recruit and retain talent, you’ll need to accommodate this new assumption that being in the office full-time is not necessary for productivity. Both employees and job candidates will view this as a quality-of-life issue. Although companies may require a small number of positions to work full-time in the office, most employees will balk at that. (For thoughts on the post-pandemic priorities of job candidates, you might like this Best Practices one-pager.)

2. Flexibility is the name of the game

Some people have thrived working from home and others — particularly parents of young children, single people living alone and some extroverts — have struggled. Not everyone wants to work remotely all the time. But most people do want some choice in where they work. Even when they’re working in the office, they want flexibility in how they use the space for different types of work, depending on whether they’re collaborating with others, working alone on something that requires concentration or attending a meeting with others on video. (For an interesting read on how Google is building flexibility into their office space, see this article in the New York Times.)

3. Communicate the benefits of being in the office

If your executive leadership team wants to encourage employees to show up at the office, at least some of the time, you might want to emphasize some of the advantages of being there in person. For one, there’s the ease of collaboration when you can sit across a table from colleagues, not to mention the spontaneous collaboration and innovation that can start by bumping into people in the hallway or at the coffee machine. Perhaps even more important to employees, there’s the social capital they gain simply by being visible to their fellow workers and superiors. There’s also the important career growth younger employees can gain by watching and modeling the behavior of more experienced co-workers, as well as the learning that comes from interacting on business issues.

4. Keep culture a priority

Has the past year seen a deterioration of your culture or has it bonded and aligned employees in new ways? Many of the participants in our survey expressed concerns about how to maintain their culture remotely, and how to help new hires become part of the culture without the usual transmission by osmosis that happens when everyone is in the office together all the time. The future of work may call for a new focus on culture, with particular attention to how employees see their roles contributing to the success of the company’s vision and how they use the values in their actions and decisions day-to-day — whether they’re working in the office or from home.

Interested in exploring your company’s future of work? Tribe can help.

 

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