Work-from-home (WFH), or Work-from-anywhere (WFA), was a game changer and business saver during the pandemic. However, we can’t help but notice that, of late, some firms are starting to pull back on the work remote trend and forcing, or at least talking about forcing, a return to work. Sure, many more firms are still embracing WFH, or what is quickly being called “hybrid work,” which is a mix of remote and in-office work, but the game plan for those firms is much less clear to the average worker.
Will this continue? Will the firm you lead ultimately swing back to working from the office all the time? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to the future policies of most firms, but I would opine that the choice to work in the office, hybrid, or remote is really in the hands of our workers. After all, the Great Resignation has shown us that workers walk when their situation isn’t right for them, so overprescribing in either direction of this debate may be the wrong approach here.
Is Hybrid Work Really Working?
The real question I think we must answer is this: Is hybrid work, as it is designed today, working? Or do we need to reconsider how we use technology to provide an ever-improving situation for our workers? Spoiler alert, this analyst believes that we need to continue to improve our use of technology but more critically change our corporate culture to better enable workers regardless of location. It might not be a remote versus in-the-office debate, but rather a what works for each employee’s situation debate that really wins the day.
Changing the Work-From-Home Conversation
We see some trends here at JS Group that might surprise you as to how the discussion among remote workers is also changing regarding the real and imagined flexibility from WFH as well as how many times being in an office may lessen the personal stress on our teams.
Women, in particular, have shared that while they appreciate the ability to work from home, they now have some concerning stresses in their lives as a result of this trend. In many cases, it has become a trap that makes women not only responsible for their work but also for the majority of the at-home tasks that need to be done, such as child pickup, laundry, food prep, and home management — all while working increasingly long hours because their company doesn’t see WFH as a job that has a daily “clock out” time.
Now, while that is not the job of the corporation to manage personal lives, it does bear some thought as to how corporations can better support this new blended lifestyle many of us find ourselves living in and how technology may help.
What Technology Supports Work From Home?
Let’s start with the simple technology that helps all of us who work from home — remote meeting tools. Of course, we all adopted Zoom, Teams, or Webex when the pandemic first hit. These tools have added many enhancements that helped us meet remotely which was a business saver.
Overall, collaboration tools of any kind require something that is sadly lacking in many instances: actual collaboration practices in our businesses. Sure, we can meet remotely but that doesn’t do much more than an old-school conference call used to do unless we are truly redefining how we collaborate. This shows in the appalling statistics of late that more remote workers make their way on to layoff lists, don’t get as many promotions, and are more “at risk” than others who are in the office because they aren’t afforded the natural collaboration opportunities that those in the office experience.
From a technology standpoint, most firms now offer the following tools all designed to ensure remote, on-prem, and hybrid teams can share critical information:
- Calendar sharing tools
- File sharing tools
- Instant messaging
- Document synchronization
- Cloud storage
Challenges of Remote Work
That’s a long list of tools for our teams to use but guess what — the issue with remote working as we see it today isn’t a technology issue it’s a business issue. If the only way your remote workers can fully collaborate is to come to the corporate offices, your firm hasn’t truly embraced the new way of working. And yes, there is a new way of working and it’s not the way most companies have defined it.
The reality is that your teams will define how well your work policies actually deliver for your firm. The employees are now truly in charge of how well our firm does, in this regard. But many firms haven’t yet understood this phenomenon and are still stuck in the “I will decide who works remotely or if they work remotely” world. That is just not our world any longer. We need to create an environment where our team members can design their own work journey, using the technology tools we provide, to ensure they get their job done well and build their careers with our firms.
Defining the New Normal
This is where many companies need the most help defining this new normal, as well as finding a way to empower collaboration and worker choice without breaking the bank or the business. Finding a partner who can help your business change how they think about work, how they work together, and how they achieve results is critical.
One example of such a partner is Achieve Institute, which is redefining work and success with its clients. As a result, it’s creating high-performance environments regardless of the remote-or-not-remote debate that is raging across the industry.
Don’t you owe it to your firm to have these types of discussions? It’s important to consider that your goal may not be deciding who can work remotely, but rather how you work in an entirely new way that lets you achieve your goals faster while offering true flexibility to your teams.
This to me is the trillion-dollar question that will define the next big firms and winners in all industries. Those who embrace this new normal and find a way to work across multiple layers will win. Those who continue to debate old-school policies will not.
As always, a partner can help you consider your plan forward and develop your path to success. Something to consider before you brush off those meeting rooms and start focusing on a return to the office!
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