me I think we can all agree that, for the most part, and fortunately, the worst of the Covid pandemic is over. People are going back to their normal lives. But does a “normal life” mean going back to the office? That is up for debate. And what a discussion it is.
AT&T workers say they are forced to return to the office early and have started a Change.org petition to make their company’s pandemic work-from-home policies permanent. Apple employees, upset with their company’s back-to-office orders, have launched a petition saying the company has risked stifling staff diversity and well-being by restricting their ability to work remotely.
Meanwhile, some big-name corporate leaders are backing down. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has publicly complained about remote work and Zoom, which he refers to as “managing Hollywood Squares.” And unlike Apple employees, Dimon believes that returning to the office “will help diversity.” Elon Musk jumped into the debate and told his employees that he is happy for them to work from home, as long as they have worked 40 hours in the office.
A Stanford economist says working from home is driving growth at companies around the world and other studies back up his claim, with one finding that 77% of workers reported higher productivity when operating remotely. However, there are other reports that conclude that those who work full time at home are 70% less productive than those who do not work from home.
And mental health? Many experts believe that working from home has the potential to reduce stress levels because “you don’t have to commute every day, you get to sleep a little longer, family commitments are easier to manage, and you’ll probably achieve a better level of concentration without the distraction from the office. talks and phones. But a study by the American Psychiatric Association found that the majority of employees who work from home “say they experienced negative mental health impacts, including isolation, loneliness and difficulty leaving work at the end of the day.”
“Working from home is slowly killing me,” writes a software engineer at Amazon. “I have become lazy and antisocial. It feels like I wake up, go to the next room, work, unplug, go back to the next room, rinse and repeat,” he adds. “I don’t feel like myself and I feel very emotionless.”
It is still difficult to analyze the real benefits and costs of this extraordinary experiment in which many of us have participated. But there is one answer we will soon agree on: All companies should allow their employees to work from home, just maybe not. As much as some would like. I see that there is already a commitment among my clients, and that commitment boils down to one word: hybrid.
Many younger workers were begging their bosses to let them work from home long before the pandemic hit. And many larger employers resisted them. Then came Covid. And what happened? We as small business owners were forced to send our employees home and it was fine. They were right. We should have listened. Now we have no choice.
That doesn’t mean we allow people to work from home all the time. Or that we force them to come to our offices all the time. Even the most vocal supporters of remote work I know admit that spending some face-to-face time with colleagues is beneficial, especially for young people who need mentors around them. Or for people who want to be close to other people. Or for those who are easily distracted, prone to loneliness or who suffer from certain anxieties. It’s also beneficial for groups that need to collaborate, for people to share their ideas, and for workplaces where the culture depends on social activities, camaraderie, and teamwork.
That’s why the end of the work-from-home debate is on the horizon. Workers and business owners know that a compromise is inevitable. My clients already agree with their employees that some days at the office are good. And a few days at home are also good. Hybrid.
They are allowing their managers to decide which work arrangements are best for their teams. They are supporting employees who work from home with good technology and security. They are requiring workers to be available during the workday and to come to the office when required. Some employees I know prefer to go to the office every day. Others not at all. The choice is theirs, as long as they meet the company’s minimum requirements and their managers are satisfied.
Will we still be discussing work from home a year from now? I do not think. Because unlike some of the other problems created by the pandemic, a hybrid work environment is already fixing this problem. I just hope my older clients recognize this. Because if they continue to resist, they will lose great talent.