In the wake of the pandemic, companies around the world have had to adapt to a new way of working, with employees shifting from the traditional office setup to hybrid and remote work. However, some bosses have been slow to embrace the new reality and want to turn back the clock to the old way of working.
As a highly experienced expert in the field of hybrid and remote work, I have consulted for 21 companies on the impact of the pandemic on their work processes. I’ve had to deal with much stubbornness and blindness to the disruption caused by the pandemic to flexible work. In fact, many bosses want to turn back the clock to 2019, even now in 2023. New research and public statements by leaders reinforce what I’ve seen within companies.
Researcher Ross Cameron interviewed many leaders on this topic, who shared with him their frustration with hybrid work. One industry source told him that “people would walk” if companies forced their employees to come to the office full-time. Thus, employers are crunching their teeth and adopting hybrid work, but aren’t happy about it: “I don’t like it in the slightest. I think it’s a great con, a complete con,” according to what one business owner told Mr Cameron. And another said “If you’re working from home two days a week it really means you’re only working a three-day week.”
Tony Danker, director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, the U.K.’s biggest business group representing 190,000 companies, says that most bosses secretly want everyone to come back into the office. “You ask most bosses, everybody secretly wants everyone to come back into the office,” he told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast. Thus, he predicts that bosses will be pushing their workers to come to the office more and more over time, with the end being full-time work for all. However, according to him, “I just don’t think that’s going to happen overnight… I think we are all coping with this…but we’re going to be talking about this for a few years.”
However, the persistence of this attitude among bosses is not just due to resistance to change. It is also due to a number of cognitive biases that prevent them from fully embracing hybrid work and its benefits.
The Impact of Cognitive Biases on Hybrid Work Adoption
Cognitive biases are mental errors that can impact our decision-making, particularly when we are under stress or experiencing rapid change.
Confirmation bias refers to the tendency for individuals to favor information that supports their existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them. This cognitive bias can make it difficult for bosses who have always operated in the traditional office setup to understand the benefits of hybrid work and accept the changes brought about by the pandemic.
For example, a large financial services company was resistant to the idea of remote work, feeling that it was necessary for employees to be physically present in the office to ensure productivity. Despite me providing evidence to the contrary when I started consulting for them, they stuck to their beliefs. It was only when we did a thorough internal survey and measurement of productivity did the leaders there eventually realize that their employees were more productive when working from home. They could have saved themselves a lot of drama and stress – with valuable talent leaving – if they believed the extensive external research on higher employee productivity when working remotely.
Status quo bias refers to the tendency to prefer things to stay the same, even in the face of changing circumstances. This bias can make it difficult for bosses to accept the changes brought about by the pandemic and to embrace the new way of working.
A mid-sized IT company was a perfect example of this. The company’s leaders were uncomfortable with the idea of remote work, feeling that it was not the way things were done in the industry. However, after realizing the benefits of hybrid work, such as reduced overheads and improved employee morale, they eventually adapted to the new reality.
The examples above illustrate how cognitive biases can impact a boss’s perception of hybrid work and their willingness to embrace the changes brought about by the pandemic. By recognizing and overcoming these biases, bosses can make informed decisions about the best way to manage their employees, whether it be through remote work, hybrid work, or a return to the traditional office setup.
In order to overcome the stubbornness of bosses who want to turn back the clock on hybrid work, it is important to educate them on the benefits of this new way of working. Hybrid work can lead to improved employee morale, reduced overheads, and increased productivity, among other benefits. By embracing hybrid work, companies can remain competitive in a rapidly changing job market and ensure that they are not left behind.
The stubbornness of bosses who want to turn back the clock on hybrid work is rooted in cognitive biases such as confirmation bias and status quo bias. By recognizing and overcoming these biases, bosses can make informed decisions about the best way to manage their employees and remain competitive in a rapidly changing job market. Embracing hybrid work can bring about numerous benefits, such as improved employee morale, reduced overheads, and increased productivity, and is a necessary step for companies looking to thrive in the post-pandemic world.
Bosses resisting hybrid work due to biases like confirmation and status quo. Educating them on benefits can help remain competitive in changing job market. Click To Tweet
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Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.