Throughout the Covid pandemic there was a constant debate in the media and on business platforms, such as LinkedIn, around when workers would return to the office.
It was an ongoing debate around how much has changed or will change with workplace culture and traditional practices – such as commuting.
McKinsey said that companies would need to embrace the ‘next normal.’ They believe that working practices have fundamentally changed.
Many analysts starting calling the post-covid work environment a new normal, but I think that McKinsey were more insightful by declaring that there will be a change, but this will then lead to further change.
When McKinsey asked employees all over the world if they wanted to return to a traditional 9-5 shift from Monday to Friday in a corporate office almost 9 in 10 people said no (87%).
All these people insisted that their experience throughout the pandemic has led them to believe that working from home is viable and preferable.
Naturally, many leaders have tried to opt for a third way – the hybrid. This is when the company retains their offices, but mandates that employees must attend the office occasionally.
The guidelines on this differ from company to company, but it is becoming clear that a large number of companies are now allowing home working on Mondays and Fridays with an expectation that employees will commute to the office for 2-3 days a week.
But arranging this hybrid option also creates new difficulties. If the purpose of spending some time in the office is to meet with colleagues then the office and home days need to be aligned.
It takes away the flexibility of a hybrid option if the company starts mandating the days when workers must attend the office, but what is the alternative?
The reality is that many workers are now returning to the office only to find that their office day does not match with colleagues so they are commuting just to spend all day on video calls they could have done at home.
It feels like companies embracing this hybrid model are fearful of a completely remote model. They talk about ‘water-cooler moments’ in the office that can ‘spark innovation’ and yet even before the pandemic most business experts were advising leaders that the office environment kills productivity through constant interruptions.
The review company Yelp has faced this challenge. They used to have mostly office-based employees and went entirely remote throughout the pandemic.
They tried to move into a hybrid post-pandemic model, but the CEO has called it ‘hell.’ Yelp doesn’t believe that hybrid work really functions and is led mostly by executives that want to keep using the office they paid for.
Yelp is closing down offices and doubling-down on an entirely remote work culture. The CEO indicated that employees can work for the company from anywhere indefinitely.
Yelp believes that there will be considerable savings from their office closures and this is being reinvested into new staff perks.
The company does plan to organise in-person events that will allow teams to meet and socialise, but there is a complete focus on remote work being the future of the company.
The kind of flexibility this will give to Yelp is impressive. It’s something that more British companies may want to embrace.
The UK is a smaller country than the US and it has a comprehensive rail network so employees based anywhere can get together for events fairly easily.
But speaking of the UK rail network, look at the recent headlines focused on a national strike affecting service for over a week. Commuters facing misery. Employees told to work from home. More strikes may follow just imagine if your entire team was not relying on the rail network because they were already working from home.
There are many different situations where a remote work from home strategy can help a company to remain agile and productive.
Why would any business leader want to return to the days of a long commute and dependence on transport networks and office landlords? There is another way, the next normal.