Two years ago, the world briefly came to a standstill. Students were sent home from school. Workers were forced out of the office. The doors of education, government, private industry and other spaces were slammed shut by the pandemic. Remote work was in full force. Even though in the months since, these doors have gradually swung open again, we have yet to fully come to grips with how public life has changed – and how we should approach it moving forward.
The current hot topic at the top of newscasts: Corporate America’s return to the office. While some workers have eagerly awaited the return to a traditional, in-office work environment, others are resistant. More time with family, schedule flexibility and high gas prices are among a variety of factors that play into their hesitancy to dive head-first back into cubicle life. Meanwhile, employers have found themselves caught in the middle, challenged to meet the needs of production and spur innovation while appeasing a labor force with significant leverage in the current job economy.
Many companies have approached the dilemma with a compromise – hybrid work. Allowing employees to split their week between working from home and heading into the office, the hybrid-work model offers some of the flexibility and perks of remote work while accounting for the meetings, brainstorming sessions and other informal interactions that tend to be most productive when employees congregate under one roof.
Many creative exchanges happen in a collaborative work environment, often spontaneously. And if workers aren’t bumping into each other in the cafeteria, at the water cooler and in the hallways, isn’t it more difficult to get the collective creative juices flowing? If employees aren’t talking about how to make this project more efficient or that campaign more visually appealing in the same room, are employers really getting the most out of their staff?
In any case, the impasse between employees and employers is currently playing out before our eyes. Take Goldman-Sachs, the financial firm where CEO David Solomon recently instructed all employees to return to office work. Half the company’s workers declined to show up, while others opted to return for less than a full work week in the office. Solomon and Goldman-Sachs soon realized that a hybrid work environment made the investment giant even more appealing to top talent.
The genie is out of the bottle. It seems the hybrid model – at least some version of it, in some settings – is here to stay. Even as fears around the pandemic subside, the convenience, perceived safety and other advantages of remote work have been fully revealed to the labor force. Yet plenty of workers acknowledge, and even embrace, the social and creative benefits that can be had in an office setting.
Don’t expect live chat applications and impromptu Zoom meetings to completely disappear from our work lives. But neither are the scheduled and serendipitous interactions associated with office work going away. By mingling the two, however, companies are more likely to foster an environment that attracts productive employees and keeps them happy.
PeopleCaddie’s talent cloud features contractor workers capable of operating remotely and willing to return to office. Let us know how we can help your business negotiate the current labor environment.