Given the extensive headlines about Amazon, Disney, and Starbucks ordering employees back to the office, you might think that the back-to-office return is inevitable. Yet do such headlines represent the reality of a new wave, or are they just clickbait for anxious workers who want to avoid the threat of a forced office return?
Recent survey data from The Conference Board provides a surprising insight into how companies are approaching the hybrid workplace policy. After surveying 1,100 corporate executives across several industries around the globe, including 24% from the US, The Conference Board revealed that Amazon, Disney, and Starbucks represent the exception, not the rule. In fact, of the CEOs from the US, a tiny proportion – 3% – indicated they would decrease the availability of remote work in their companies. Amazon, Disney, and Starbucks belong to that 3%.
By contrast, 5% said they would expand it. For example, consider Elon Musk at Twitter. After initially ordering all Twitter staff back to the office, he now reversed course. He embraced remote work by closing Twitter’s Seattle and Singapore offices, telling all staff to work remotely.
Moreover, many employees are pushing back strongly on the return to office mandates, leading to a rise of worker power and even unionization as a response to these top-down dictates. Such trends show that the forced return to office may reverse in the next few months.
In short, it’s likely that 2023 will see a slight expansion of employees working remotely. These findings suggest that the majority of companies are finding their hybrid workplace policy to be a successful solution for their organization.
Case Study: Hybrid Workplace Policy Success
One example of a company that has successfully implemented a hybrid workplace policy is a large financial services company. Prior to the pandemic, this company had a traditional in-office work model. However, as the pandemic hit, the company quickly shifted to remote work in order to keep employees safe.
As the pandemic progressed, the company realized that remote work was not only effective, but also improved employee satisfaction. They therefore decided to adopt a hybrid workplace policy that allowed employees to work both remotely and in-office. This approach has allowed the company to continue operating effectively, while also supporting the unique needs of their employees.
Case Study: Hybrid Workplace Policy Challenges
Another example is a mid-size IT services company. They initially struggled with the transition to remote work and the hybrid workplace policy, as their industry requires face-to-face interactions with clients. They soon realized that the lack of collaboration and communication between employees working remotely and in-office resulted in a decline in productivity and employee satisfaction.
To address this, the company brought me in to advise them on improving their approach. With my advice, they implemented a number of measures to improve collaboration and communication, such as weekly one-on-ones between supervisors and supervisees, and setting clear expectations for communication and collaboration. These measures have helped to stabilize the company’s performance, and the hybrid workplace policy is now working well for them.
Benefits of Hybrid Workplace Policy
One of the key benefits of the hybrid workplace policy is the increased flexibility it provides for employees and the lack of a commute, which helps boost productivity. For example, a survey by Mercer of 800 HR leaders reported that 94% found that the staff at their companies were more or equally productive working remotely compared to working in the office. A two-year survey by Great Place to Work of more than 800,000 employees showed that the shift to working remotely in the pandemic boosted worker productivity by 6% on average.
What about less productive employees? As Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup, said of hybrid workers during a panel hosted by Bloomberg News during the World Economic Forum in Davos, “we do measure productivity very carefully.” By measuring productivity, companies can identify which employees are struggling with remote work and provide them with the coaching and support they need to be more productive. This might include returning to the office, as Fraser has done with some of her employees at Citi, in order to provide them with a more structured and collaborative environment.
Remote work can offer a better work-life balance, as well as the ability to work from locations that may be more convenient for employees. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and employee retention, which can be especially important in a competitive job market. Consider a survey by Cisco of 28,000 full-time employees. 78% of respondents say that remote and hybrid work improved their overall well-being: that applies to 83% of Millennials, 82% of Gen Z, 76% of Gen Z, and 66.3% of Baby Boomers.
Additionally, the hybrid workplace policy can also lead to cost savings for companies, as Musk discovered at Twitter. By reducing the need for office space, companies can lower their overhead costs, and potentially save on costs such as electricity, internet, and office supplies.
Cognitive Biases and Hybrid Workplace Policy
However, it’s important to note that implementing a hybrid workplace policy is not without its challenges. One potential issue is the impact of cognitive biases on decision-making. For example, the availability heuristic, which refers to the tendency for people to base their judgments on information that is most easily available to them, may lead leaders to rely too heavily on their personal experiences with remote work rather than considering the unique needs and circumstances of their organization.
Another cognitive bias that may come into play is the sunk cost fallacy, which refers to the tendency for people to continue investing in a decision or strategy because they have already invested resources into it, even if it’s not the most effective solution. This can lead leaders to persist with their initial hybrid workplace policy even if it’s not working well for their organization, instead of getting advice and training on how to improve their approach to hybrid work.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to rethink their approach to work. The hybrid workplace policy has emerged as a popular solution for many organizations, as it allows for a more flexible and adaptable approach to work. However, it’s important for leaders to be aware of the potential impact of cognitive biases on decision-making when implementing a hybrid workplace policy. Through careful planning and regular reviews, companies can successfully navigate the challenges of the hybrid workplace policy and stabilize their business.
Key Take-AwayAccording to a new survey from The Conference Board, hybrid work policy has stabilized. Despite the headlines about Disney and Starbucks forcing employees to return to the office, we should expect most companies to not change their policies. Click To Tweet
Image credit: Vlada Karpovich
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps 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. He is the best-selling author of 7 books, including the global best-sellers Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships. His newest book is Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. 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, andelsewhere. 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, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio.