Welcome back to another This Week in Hybrid & Remote Work, where we highlight the top 5 remote & hybrid work stories that caught our attention this week. If there’s one consistent theme when it comes to press coverage about the future of work, that theme would be “constant change.” People thought very differently about the future of work at the beginning of the pandemic, shifted their thinking 6 months in, shifted again 12 months in, and now are shifting again as they consider what a post-pandemic office place will look like. And as you’ll see in this week’s articles, the ongoing evolution and adaptation will likely be our reality for quite some time to come.
Let’s dive into the news:
The first reason I think this article is worth a read is that it provides a great overview of how some of the world’s largest companies (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Salesforce) are currently approaching the hybrid work future. But before that summary, TechCrunch’s Ron Miller sums up the perpetual state of change nicely:
Finding that right balance between fully remote and however a given company defines hybrid — like Apple, some days in the office and some days at home — is never going to be easy, and there will never be a one size fits all answer. In fact, it’s probably going to be fluid moving forward.
And, as a startup that has always been remote-first (even prior to the pandemic), I took particular interest in this section of the article that cites data on how startups (vs. the large companies) are approaching remote & hybrid work:
Most startups I speak to don’t foresee an office-centric approach, with many taking a remote-first approach. Andreessen Horowitz recently surveyed 226 startups in its portfolio and found that two-thirds of portfolio companies are looking at a similar hybrid approach as their larger counterparts. In fact, 87 were thinking about 1-2 days a week, with 64 looking at no office at all, only gathering for company off-sites. By contrast, just 18 said that they wouldn’t allow any work from home.
This shouldn’t be surprising at all. Even if you remove all of the arguments about how much time remote work gives back to employees by eliminating commutes, etc., remote work presents another massive benefit to startups – the ability to conserve cash by not wasting it on extremely costly office space. Especially for venture-backed startups, this is a big benefit in terms of extending their pre-profitability runway. In fact, what I find surprising is the fact that 18 startups said they wouldn’t allow ANY working from home.
I definitely recommend giving the full article a read. Check it out here.
This article was written by a behavioral scientist, so rather than just talking about how companies are planning to handle hybrid work, it digs into the underlying psychology to shed some light on why some executives are resistant to this change. I don’t want to spoil any of that insight, so you should definitely click through to read the article – but I did want to share the article’s opener. It tees things up really well, but it’s also a treasure trove of links out to tons of great surveys, reports, and data:
Because of strong employee resistance and turnover, Google recently backtracked from its plan to make all employees return to the office and allowed many to work remotely. Apple’s plan to force its staff back to the office has caused many to leave the company and led to substantial internal opposition.
Why are these and so many other leaders of major companies compelling employees to return to the office? They must know about the extensive, in-depth surveys from early spring 2021 that asked thousands of employees about their preferences on returning to the office after the pandemic.
All of the surveys revealed strong preferences for working from home post-pandemic at least half the time for over three-quarters of all respondents. A quarter to a third of all respondents desired full-time remote work permanently. Between 40% and 55% of respondents said they’d quit without permanent remote options for at least half the workweek; of these, many would leave if not permitted fully remote work.
Again, that’s just the opener – from there the article digs into the meat of why leaders are reluctant to change, despite the evidence that it’s what their people want, and that it’s good for their business.
3) Apple and Google want to force remote workers back into cubicles. That friction could lead to a job exodus (San Francisco Chronicle)
And sticking with the theme of “workers REALLY don’t want to go back to the office full time”, this article warns of the coming employee exodus many companies will face if they’re not willing to be flexible. As referenced int he previous article, there have been a ton of studies about the employee preference for remote work, but this article references an interesting study that also highlights that people would rather work remotely than get a raise:
One questionnaire run by Blind, a company that lets employees talk about their companies anonymously, found that of more than 3,000 workers surveyed, many of them at tech companies, more than half would prefer to stay working remotely rather than see a $30,000 annual uptick in their income.
But the real gem of the article are the quotes from Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab. GitLab has been fully-remote since their inception and now have hundreds of employees all over the world who have always been remote. GitLab – and Murph in particular – have become the face of what remote work success can and should look like. And I think Murph perfectly sums up the transition that the world is currently going through:
“The friction that you feel is the transfer of power in a way that we have never seen in our lifetimes,” Murph said. GitLab has a mailing address in San Francisco but has been 100% remote since before the pandemic. Murph said workers pushing back against returning to in-person work after the pandemic largely proved offices don’t necessarily mean increased productivity.
“Layered on top of that is this universal awakening that the way we’ve always done things doesn’t necessarily have to be the way we do it going forward,” Murph said.
And the final kicker is Murph’s quote about physical office spaces:
Business leaders are “trying to go back into an incredibly costly, inanimate object that we just proved had little to no impact on productivity,” he said, referring to offices. “This is a global permission slip to do something different.”
Check out the full article here.
One thing I always think about is how quickly many companies seem to be forgetting about the lessons learned over the past 18 months. And this article stood out to me because it aims to give some context not just to the lessons of the past year or so, but how these recent lessons tie into ongoing learnings that have become more evident over the last decade.
The conclusion of this article in particular does a good job of summarizing what orgs need to succeed based on these learnings.
The bottom line is that whatever a company’s chosen operational path, from hybrid to digital by design, it’s crucial that decision makers have clarity on their core cultural priorities and needs before making tactical changes and investments. Companies with a clear mission and purpose, an invested leadership team, and a willingness to let go of parts of the past which do not serve them, will thrive and usher in the new future of work.
You can read the full article here.
And closing out with one final article that highlights a new report, this one talks about a new survey from Citrix. Notably, though, this article raises a warning flag about the challenges of hybrid work, despite the fact that 90% of employees have indicated their preference for it:
Research from Citrix Systems, Inc., shows that more than 90 percent of employees prefer flexible work, and 82 percent of companies plan to embrace hybrid models to accommodate it and capitalize on the benefits it can drive. But the transition is not without risk.
While appealing on the surface, hybrid work models have the potential to create a new digital divide that, if left unchecked, will quickly establish two classes of workers and infuse the workplace with inequity and bias. To successfully make the leap, companies will need to implement technologies and new work policies that create an equitable environment, empowering both remote and in-office employees to equally engage and collaborate in a transparent and efficient way and make meaningful contributions that fuel innovation and business growth.
Check out the complete article here.
Here’s hoping you find these articles as interesting and informative as we did – and if not, hey, there’s always next week! See you back here next Friday.