Will We Ever Go Back: Offices or WFH?
While going from the office to WFH (work from home) may have been a turbulent shift initially for much of the workforce, many have changed their viewpoints on the ideal work model. Employees have voiced their opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of remote work, as well as the call to return to offices. Now, it appears that companies are struggling to find the ideal work model that can retain and recruit new employees, all while maximizing productivity.
The preference for remote work has been felt across all industries, with only 10% stating that WFH has made it more difficult to reach deadlines (Parker, Horowitz, and Minkin 2022). WFH has allowed people to work in spaces that are more comfortable than an office cubicle, balance their work and personal life better, reduce transportation costs, and have more autonomy over what their work schedule looks like.
But like anything with many advantages, workers have reported several disadvantages to WFH, including more difficulty in communication and feeling disconnected from their coworkers. Those living alone can find WFH to amplify feelings of loneliness and a yearning for direct contact with people. Companies have largely been using platforms like Slack or Zoom to communicate, but misunderstanding cues can often occur when all communication is conducted electronically.
Seeing the shift in employees’ preferences, many companies have chosen to permanently go fully remote; 3M, Airbnb, and Dropbox being just a few. Only a few (4%) companies have demanded that all workers return full-time to the office (McGregor 2022). The most popular settlement appears to be the hybrid model, which 90% of surveyed employers stated they would allow (McGregor 2022). The hybrid model does not come as a surprise, given that it gives employees the most flexibility and autonomy over their work lives. Employees can visit the office when necessary and then work remotely for the rest of the week. Providing this flexibility will remain necessary for companies in order to prevent employees from quitting and to encourage candidates to apply.
Since the pandemic’s effects are still very prominent, Robin Erickson (VP of human capital at the Conference Board) states that employees currently have the upper hand, issuing an ultimatum: more work flexibility or resignation. However, Erickson predicts that once the job market is less turbulent, work models will slowly move back to resemble pre-pandemic models for the sake of increased collaboration and reinforcing company culture (McGregor 2022). Whether companies eventually go back to pre-pandemic work models or not, one thing is clear: one of the pandemic’s largest legacies will be how it affected the way people view their ideal way of working.
McGregor, Jena. “Just 4% of Employers Are Making Everyone Return to the Office Full-Time, Survey Finds.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, May 6, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenamcgregor/2022/05/05/just-4-of-employers-are-making- everyone-return-to-the-office-full-time-survey-finds/?sh=168c5b01e1a2.
Parker, Kim, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, and Rachel Minkin. “Covid-19 Pandemic Continues to Reshape Work in America.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. Pew Research Center, March 23, 2022. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2022/02/16/covid-19-pandemic-continues-to-r eshape-work-in-america/.