But in the past 15 months, we’ve lived through a pandemic and a global recession, which led to mass burnout and a spike in voluntary resignations. This new normal means hybrid offices and awkward first encounters with coworkers.
One of the many changes 2021 has brought to the US job market – 9.2 million job openings. Job seekers have the advantage while on the hunt, but they need to know how to use it.
Navigating all the changes in our “work life” over the last year would make anyone’s head spin.
Here are five things any worker who feels they are struggling with should know when trying to excel in their career.
Remote work eliminated work-life balance, but some companies are looking to compensate
The pandemic transformed our living rooms into our office spaces – not the healthiest change for those who already struggled with taking their work home with them.
Burnout has left 61% of Americans feeling at least somewhat burnout and more than 80% have reported that COVID-19 has been a source of change in their lives. With the pandemic causing undue stress on everyone, an unhealthy office culture only adds to the pressure.
Employers need to lead the way in implementing wellness techniques that teach their employees how to care for themselves, take their PTO, and take advantage of flexible work environments.
Low pay and unreasonable working conditions across the retail, hospitality, and fast food businesses have created a crisis of, “rage quitting.” While it may feel good to walk out without notice, sometimes it is better to salvage professional connections.
Telling an employer you’re leaving is never easy, but it’s important to be candid.
Whether it be because of recession or resignation, a lot of candidates are on the job hunt.
Searching for a new role can be intimidating, but job seekers should always start by identifying which industries are hiring and what connections they have within them. After finding the job posting of your dreams it’s all about perfecting your résumé, cover letter, and interview techniques.
Never underestimate the need to customize your application for every job posting – learn from the experts about how to stand out as the pool of job seekers grows.
Tips and tricks to help you land a coveted remote job
As lockdown dragged on, people were eager to return to in-person socialization, but the same can’t be said for in-person work.
Freelancers and remote workers were quick to open their inboxes to provide their years of expertise to “conventional workers” who had to quickly set up home offices and adjust to Zoom meetings. And some vacation hotspots welcomed remote workers to bring their laptops and soak up the sun and WiFi.
For those who have been sold on remote work, staying at a company that is committed to providing flexibility is a priority. While many companies – such as Apple, Indeed, and Airbnb – have extended their work from home policies through much of 2021, finding a company that is committed to the practice permanently can be difficult. And the demand is high.
To set yourself up for success, learn what companies are hiring remote workers, how to talk to your boss about working from home, and what can make you stand out when applying for a remote job.
As the US opens up, more and more employees are telling their bosses they want flexible and hybrid working arrangements.
“Three-quarters of our individuals around the world said flexibility is what they want,” Devika Bulchandani, North America CEO of Ogilvy, said.
Bulchandani said that Ogilvy, like many other firms, is also looking at a 3/2 working model and considering other positive changes it can introduce.
“We also shrunk our real-estate footprint because that allows us to reinvest into different areas of the business and reinvest into our people and what they need going forward,” she said.
She added that they’re instituting three compulsory days off per quarter for each employee to manage burnout.
“Just because we did it doesn’t mean we’re going to do it again,” she said. “Things like, do people need to travel to a meeting? Let’s ask ourselves why.”
Bulchandani said that she’s telling her staff to question whether there’s a perspective missing from the room in terms of gender, race, or disability, as well as capability.
“I have a different skillset, would this team do better? And then my question is, ‘Am I just thinking about New York, or should I be thinking about somebody from our Minneapolis office?'” she said.
In a similar vein, Heimann said that the “democratic” and inclusive nature of the virtual world is something her firm is trying to maintain as employees return to work.
Office space, she said, “will be a creative nexus, it will be a collaboration nexus, it will be a team nexus.” As for remote offices, Heimann said that they’re looking at a broad range of technologies that do more than simply combat “Zoom fatigue.”
“I think that the new age is going to be a little more immersive, more gaming-like, and those are the ones we’re testing,” she said. Weber Shandwick also hired a chief workforce innovation officer and a chief impact officer to push leadership toward “transformation that puts inclusion at the heart.”
“We talked to client after client about the need to solve at the intersections and therefore put together agile, cross-functional teams to bring that ability to clients again,” she said.
The email from your boss that you’ve been dreading has finally landed in your inbox. It’s the message announcing the date everyone in your company is expected to be back in the office full time. So, what’s the problem? You don’t want to go. The past year has shown you that work-from-home life is the life for you. You’ve come to love the freedom and flexibility and you’re convinced you’re now a better employee, too. The question is: How do you convince your boss?
You may be tempted to drop an ultimatum and say, “If you make me go back to the office full time, I’ll quit.” But your company could call your bluff, and if you enjoy your job and you’re paid well, walking away may not be the answer.
So how do you ask your boss for a flexible work schedule without looking like you’re asking for special treatment?
First, remember that you’re not asking for something outlandish.
“I think a lot of leaders know we don’t want to go back, and many corporations have had flexible or hybrid work environments for a long time,” said Kimberly Cummings, founder of the professional development company Manifest Yourself. “So don’t feel like you’re being a diva or asking for too much.”
You must lead the conversation about a flexible work schedule with a discussion of what you bring to the table, not just what you want and why you want it.
“The biggest thing that people forget is that you’re negotiating based upon value, not overall desire,” Cummings said. “Think about what you’ve accomplished over the past year. Think about how you’ve proven that you’re able to work remotely.”
Approach the conversation armed with evidence, too.
“Show examples of how your productivity increased and how having a flexible work schedule made you a better worker,” said Martha Underwood, founder of ExecutivEstrogen, a mentorship program for women in corporate America.
Maybe you work in customer service and your flexible schedule allows you more time to research complex issues and give customers a more thorough response to their questions.
The goal is to show your employer how a flexible work schedule would benefit them as much as it helps you.
Underwood says it won’t hurt to present findings like these to your boss, too.
“And so many women have dropped out of the workplace that it benefits employers to allow the flexibility to keep strong women talent in the ranks,” Underwood said.
When asking your boss for a flexible work schedule, clarity is key.
“Give a full proposal about what your schedule will look like,” Cummings said. “Are you looking to never come back or are you looking to only come back when there are important meetings?”
If you’re open to coming back into the office for some meetings, say so.
“Bosses want to have a sense of a team,” Cummings said.
Is working from home the best option for you?
Before talking to your boss about keeping your work-from-home life alive, do some soul searching to be sure it’s the best fit for you.
“Were you OK working remotely? A lot of people were not,” Cummings said. “As a people leader myself, I 100% agree why some leaders want their team to come back. A lot of workers like flexibility, but they took advantage.”
If you were at the bar with your friends before the workday was done – and before your work was complete – you may want to start by proposing a hybrid schedule of working from home just a couple of days per week.
“Offer to do a trial of this for 90 days and then reassess if it works,” Cummings said.
Superstar employees need to also weigh the pros and cons of remote work.
If you have your sights on promotion opportunities or if your job has a relationship-driven company culture, being out of the office all the time could hinder your advancement.
“You have to know the culture of your organization and if it would be beneficial for you to pop your head in sometimes just to make sure they see your face and you have some of that in-person connection,” Cummings said.
There are ways to stand out even when working from home. Ask great questions in virtual meetings. When a meeting is cancelled or ends early, use that time to hop on a call with a leader at your company.
“You have to be proactive and build those relationships,” Cummings said.
Take some time to consider why you truly want to work from home, too. Do you simply enjoy the freedom and flexibility or were you miserable at work?
“Make sure you’re not just trying to escape,” Cummings said. Does your job allow you to work according to your strengths, passions, and skills? If not, it may be time to dust off the resume.
“Innovation isn’t always a planned activity,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Amazon previously said it prizes having an “office-centric culture,” but has since softened that stance.
But there’s scant evidence to support the idea that having offices help companies where it matters most: innovation and productivity. In fact, prior research found that offices – namely open-concept ones – can even have a negative effect on the very sort of interactions that executives hope to foster.
A 2019 study by Harvard’s Ethan Bernstein and Ben Waber (then at MIT), found workers at companies that switched from cubicles to open-floor-plan offices had 70% fewer face-to-face interactions.
Office workers may talk, but “there is almost no data whatsoever” to suggest it helps the organization, Bernstein recently told the New York Times.
“All of this suggests to me that the idea of random serendipity being productive is more fairy tale than reality,” he said.
Meanwhile, the tools and practices of remote work, became a lot more powerful as a result of the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, tech VC Marc Andreessen wrote in a recent blog.
“It turns out many of the best jobs really can be performed from anywhere, through screens and the internet,” he wrote. “It is perhaps the most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime, a consequence of the internet that’s maybe even more important *than* the internet.“
Indeed, the claimed benefits of offices are in many cases offset or inaccessible for some workers, namely caregivers, people from underrepresented groups, others with physical or intellectual disabilities, or those who can afford to live within commuting distance.
A record 707,000 white-collar workers quit their jobs in April, according to government data, and a recent report from the flexible marketing talent network We Are Rosie found that two-thirds of marketers are planning a major career change this year – and that all of them want the option to work remotely.
To be sure, face-to-face interactions are still useful in building trust and relationships among teammates, but the Times report highlighted the fact that companies like Zillow, Salesforce, and Ford are experimenting with ways to get the best of both worlds.
“We believe humans want to connect and collaborate,” said Dan Spaulding, chief people officer at Zillow. “But do you need to do that five days a week, or can you do that once every three months?”
As the worst days of the pandemic seem to be subsiding in the US, there’s one question on everyone’s mind: What does the return to work actually look like?
On Wall Street, the itch has been mounting since the start of the pandemic for people to find a way to safely get back to their desks.
At some firms, the return to work has gradually begun. But, for many others, the timeline has yet to kick off to move thousands of people back into New York City skyscrapers and offices across the country.
Insider Finance reporter Reed Alexander will moderate a live webinar event on Thursday, June 24, at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PST, in which three top financial-services execs will break down what the return to work looks like for Wall Street.
Melissa Fridman, global head of human resources for the investment bank at Deutsche Bank, will explain how her firm is implementing a hybrid model.
Kate Burke, chief operating officer at AllianceBernstein, will provide details on how the asset manager, which handles some $697 billion in assets, set up an internal Pandemic Response Team to shape the firm’s return-to-office plans, and what their tiered return to work will look like.
Michael Cheek, managing director in capital markets at the consulting firm Accenture, will take us inside the regulatory and compliance considerations that financial services firms like banks and asset managers are facing as they migrate big global teams back to work.
In some form or another, remote work is here to stay.
While some US workers are adamant that they’ll never return to an office, others just want flexibility – the option to stay at home when they want to and come into work when they need to. In corporate America, this has been dubbed a hybrid model of working, and everyone from Google CEO Sundar Pichai to JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon have decreed that their companies will adopt a new, flexible way of working.
On the surface, this type of flexibility will be crucial for workers whose lives no longer revolve around commuting five days per week, or for working parents who need to adjust their schedules to support childcare duties.
But experts warn that there could be a hidden downside to hybrid models of working if employers don’t handle it properly – one that could harm the careers of working mothers, and hamper diversity efforts for years to come.
A two-class system
Zillow CEO Rich Barton was one of the first executives to publicly question what flexible working arrangements could mean for workers. While Zillow has fully embraced the hybrid model of work, Barton has voiced concerns about the challenges his team could face.
Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, told Insider that he’s worried about a hybrid future because of the impacts it could have on employee morale, diversity, and company culture.
“Frankly, I think it’s unsustainable to have a gigantic headquarters and then a whole bunch of people dispersed around the country, around the world, and expecting that the dispersed community is going to feel equal to the ones who are at the headquarters,” he said.
Unless companies make substantive changes now to hire more women and people of color and to support people who require flexibility, he said, company culture, particularly in tech, could easily become a sea of homogeneity: mainly white, unattached males who are willing and able to commute into an office every day.
Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economist who’s an expert on remote work, took it one step further. In an interview with Bloomberg’s Olivia Rockeman published this week, Bloom warned that this system could lead to at-home workers missing out on promotions to their peers who show up to the office, which could eventually lead to a diversity crisis in six to seven years and “a legal minefield of quite justifiable lawsuits.”
According to a survey of over 1,000 US workers from employee analytics firm Perceptyx, four out of 10 employees who work remotely at least part of the time said they felt impacted by a “perceived absence” from the office compared to their peers who reported to work every day. They reported feeling like their work was evaluated less often, they received less recognition, and they were less likely to receive a raise or promotion than their peers.
And according to Bloom, the population that chooses to stay home most of the time will not be random going forward.
“For people with children under the age of 12, you find almost 50% more women than men choose to work from home five days a week,” Bloom told Bloomberg.
Women have already been beaten down by the pandemic, economically speaking
A survey by McKinsey and Co. from last fall found that that one out of every four working women was considering scaling back their hours or leaving the workforce altogether, citing the challenge of juggling their work with childcare and other household tasks.
Now that life is slowly returning to normal, women – who are more likely to shoulder the childcare burden – will require the flexibility to stay home a few days per week or adjust their hours to handle pick-up from school or daycare. This flexible future should be a blessing. But over time, inequity could rear its head, said Raafi Alidina, a consultant for diversity and inclusion consultancy Frost Included.
Alidina said he’s worried the hybrid model could also change the behavior of the employees who feel they need to keep up with their colleagues.
“You’ll end up having the people at home, noticing that they’re being treated as second-class and they’ll either leave [their job] or they’ll try to come back to work like they used to, they’ll try to go to the office,” he said. “And when they do go to the office, they won’t be at their best because they’ll be thinking, ‘Oh, I wish I could be at home with my kid,’ or they just won’t be able to work the way that works for their lives best.”
He added: “You’re not going to get the best version of them as a worker, you’re not gonna get the most productive version of them.”
Make remote work the norm, not the exception
So what’s the solution?
Alidina said there are a few ways to curb the rise of a two-class system. One way is to be proactive about helping employees feel connected to their workplace by driving home the value and importance of their work – and explaining how all employees are connected to their workplace, regardless of where they are.
He said companies also need to make employee recognition a priority, and ensure that that recognition is inclusive of every role.
“The accomplishments that you’ll feel are worth touting are going to be based on your own biases,” he said. “Credit isn’t always given as often or as easily to people of color, people with disabilities, and other members of marginalized groups.”
And finally, it’s all about how a company messages the work arrangement to employees. Rather than asking workers to request remote work, make remote work the default – and make managers justify why an employee needs to report to the office.
“It’s the same kind of thing that needs to happen for any kind of inclusion: If you’re the person who has more power and privilege in society, it’s your job to adapt to to help that other person feel like they can be their entire selves,” he said. “It’s the same way with managers the people who report them.”
Commercial real estate firm WeWork is going the extra mile with its hybrid work model as it plans to bring staff back to the office.
From June 21, WeWork staff in the UK will work three days in the main company headquarters, one day from a WeWork location, and one day from home, Mathieu Proust, the company’s UK general manager told Insider.
“Working at home is really efficient when you have a specific task to do,” he said. “Working in the office is more about having impromptu conversations and meeting one another.”
Proust said that a company-wide survey showed that WeWork staff who have returned the office have seen a 54% jump in morale. “They’re happier to see colleagues,” he said, adding that “it’s good for morale.”
WeWork, which plans to go public via a SPAC, have introduced a “hub-and-spoke” model for their employees, where there’s one main “hub” office and smaller ‘spokes’ throughout London.
WeWork’s main hub in the UK is located in Waterloo, central London, and the company has a further 50 spokes spread across the city which employees and members can access whenever they like.
One day a week, WeWork staff will be working in one of the spokes which are closer to their home. Within these office buildings, there are separate workspaces for WeWork employees.
WeWork offices remained open during lockdown as essential businesses, such as law firms, used its facilities, Proust said. Small to medium businesses then returned to its offices in between the lockdowns.
Proust said the company has seen a need for flexibility in its workforce, which has led to an improvement in wellbeing. During the pandemic, WeWork organised meditation, yoga, and other activities online – it’s now going to carry these on face-to-face as “we’ve seen how important they were,” he said.
Payments firm Klarna, which has recently chosen a WeWork location for a new office hub in London, is also opting for a more hybrid working culture whereby employees work two days in the office and choose where they want to work for the rest of the week.
“The notion of hybrid working is a notion of flexibility,” said Proust, adding that the hybrid model trend is accelerating. “That’s what the future is about.”
Are you a WeWork employee? What do you think of this new hybrid working model? Get in touch with this reporter via Twitter or email email@example.com.
Stephanie Davis is Google’s Vice President for Southeast Asia, making her the company’s top-ranking executive in the region.
Davis, who’s in her 40s, has worked for Google for 15 years. Originally from a small town in Georgia in the US, she spent stints working in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dublin, and New Zealand before moving to Singapore in 2017 as the company’s Country Director.
Now, she’s Google’s highest-ranking executive in Southeast Asia, overseeing about 2,000 employees at Google’s Southeast Asia headquarters in Singapore, as well as teams in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Before the pandemic, Davis said she was typically traveling in the region for work eight to 10 days out of the month.
Whenever possible, she would tack on a personal day to a work trip and her husband would join her for a mini-vacation.
“I think it’s one of the beauties about this region,” Davis told Insider. “You have the organization, the safety, and the beauty of Singapore, a professional place to be in terms of career. But then you step on a boat, step on a plane, and you can just be in some of the most adventurous, amazing spots in the world.”
Now, like many office workers, Davis has been working from home for over a year. In April, however, Singapore’s loosened restrictions allowed Davis to start going into the office two days per week and to work from home the other three.
Davis, who lives in Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar neighborhood with her husband, Jack, said she thought she had a sufficient home office setup before the pandemic.
“But I soon realized my desk and my small chair may have worked for weekend work and a few hours at night, but it certainly wasn’t cut out for working full days at home,” she said. “So I’ve certainly had to adapt a more ergonomic setup.”
Davis got a better chair, a desk that raises and lowers so she can alternate between sitting and standing, and a keyboard and monitor.
7 to 7:30 a.m: As often as her schedule allows, Davis starts her day with a yoga session.
“I have found yoga to be so helpful to my well-being during this time that I sometimes manage to squeeze in two sessions a day, with a second one that’s a nice wind-down before bed,” Davis said.
One of her favorite channels is Boho Beautiful with Juliana Spicoluk, she said. The morning yoga is a new addition to Davis’ routine since she started working from home.
“Singapore is an easy city to get around so it’s not that I have a really long commute, but that saving of time in the morning has allowed me to do yoga most mornings,” she said.
7:30 to 8 a.m: After yoga, it’s time for Davis’ morning coffee made with Malaysian-grown coffee beans from the local Tiong Bahru market and brewed by her “kind husband,” she said.
“No fancy coffee machines in our home — we lived on a boat for many years, and it’s still a stovetop espresso maker for us,” Davis said. “We love the simplicity and low waste.”
With her coffee in hand, Davis starts getting ready for her day.
“Another pandemic-driven change: I get ready for WFH much faster than I get ready to work from the office,” she said.
8 to 9 a.m: Davis typically spends the first hour of her workday clearing her inbox.
Davis said she gets “hundreds” of emails per day and tries to “carve out time each day to read and respond to top priorities.”
9 to 10 a.m: Davis’ first meeting of the day is with the Southeast Asia Search Product and Marketing team. It’s one of about 40 hours of meetings in a typical week.
They discuss how to make Google Search more useful for consumers in the region.
“We know that people in Southeast Asia are increasingly using voice search to discover a wide range of information — from song lyrics to recipes to store hours, restaurants nearby and items to buy,” Davis said. “The number of people across SEA who used their voice to interact with Google on their phone grew 49% compared to the previous year.”
10 to 11 a.m: Her next virtual meeting of the day is with Southeast Asia’s YouTube team.
Google sees YouTube (which Google owns) as an “integral partner” to the growth of the internet economy in Southeast Asia, Davis said.
Five of YouTube’s biggest markets globally, based on watch time, are in Asia: India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, she said.
After the meeting ends at 11:00 a.m., Davis takes a 15-minute break to stretch and refill her water bottle.
11:15 a.m. to noon: Davis meets virtually with Farhan Quresh, Google’s country director in Pakistan, for South Asian frontier markets.
Davis typically meets with her direct reports for 45 minutes every two weeks.
She and Quresh discuss how Google can help start-ups and developers in Pakistan.
Noon to 12:30 p.m: Davis sits in on an in-person meeting at Google’s office in Singapore, where the company’s Incident Response Team is discussing their continuing efforts to make the offices safe for Googlers to return.
The meeting is typically virtual, but some members of the team were able to meet in-person at the end of last year.
12:45 to 1:45 p.m: Davis has lunch at a local café with a founder who has decided to start a new business that aims to fight climate change.
“I look forward to when we can once again host guests at our offices, but I’m also thankful for the many local cafes in Singapore, where we can easily meet up and have productive business discussions,” Davis said.
2 to 4 p.m: After lunch, Davis has more virtual meetings, including one with Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, to get an update on its recent projects.
Google.org announced on April 26 that it was contributing $18 million to the COVID-19 crisis in India. The philanthropic arm also works with local organizations in the Southeast Asia region to support education for underprivileged children, Davis said.
Then she has a 30-minute call with a large e-commerce company in the region about how the two companies can work together to get more small businesses online.
At 3 p.m, Davis takes part in a regional Google town hall to celebrate diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
“Town halls like these are an integral part of Google’s culture, and at this one, we hear personal stories from Googlers across the region,” she said.
4:15 to 6 p.m: Davis is a few minutes late to the monthly meeting of the Singapore Computer Society, where she’s an Executive Council Member.
The Singapore Computer Society is an infocomm and digital media society with 42,000 members — including industry professionals, students, and tech enthusiasts — that helps grow the tech industry in Singapore, she said.
The meeting is in-person, with masks and social distancing, Davis said.
6:15 to 6:30 p.m: Just as she gets back home, Davis gets a video call from her brother in North Carolina so she can say good morning to her 1.5 year-old niece, Vivian Cora.
“It’s been more than a year since I last saw my family in the US,” Davis said. “I come from a close-knit family, and it’s been difficult to not see them, but I’m grateful that we’re healthy and well connected via video calls.”
6:30 to 8 p.m: Davis and her husband go for a hike at Singapore’s Mount Faber, a 138-acre park with scenic views of the city. It’s a hike they do several times per week, she said.
“He and I catch up on our respective days, but then our earbuds go in, we listen to our favorite podcasts or books, and then share learnings with one another,” Davis said.
Davis recently finished “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo and said she liked the author’s “straightforward style in suggesting how we can have better conversations about race.”
“A few stretches at the top and some reflection while the sun goes down is a great way to close the curtain on the day,” Davis said.
8 to 9 p.m: For dinner, Davis and her husband have a kale Reuben sandwich. “Jack is the chef in our home – lucky me,” she said.
9 to 11 p.m.: After dinner, Davis gets some more work done.
“This is when I prepare for the next day — read materials for meetings, think through presentations, look at the revenue numbers, etc,” she said. “All with a nice candle burning nearby.”
11 p.m. to midnight: Davis spends some time reading before bed.
“So that I don’t wake Jack, I have a little light that attaches to my book — or should I say one of a few books, as it’s common for me to be reading several at once,” Davis said. “I seem to read fiction when on a holiday, but otherwise, I enjoy non-fiction.”
One of Davis’ favorite books is Jane Goodall’s “Reason for Hope,” which she says has influenced how she chooses to lead.
As COVID-19 restrictions ease, companies across the world are starting to reopen their offices to welcome employees back to work and a number have decided to adopt a different working culture to what they had pre-pandemic. Some will give staff the flexibility to work in the office, from home, or another location, otherwise known as hybrid working.
Accounting and professional services firm KPMG is one of the many companies making this transition. The Big Four consultant plans to allow employees to split their time spent in the office, at home, and at client offices, Kevin Hogarth, chief people officer at KPMG UK told Insider.
“We’re clear that we’re not going back to working the way we did prior to the pandemic,” Hogarth said.
He explained that the majority of KPMG’s workforce were comfortable with continuing to work a proportion of their time at home as they had greater flexibility with organising themselves and didn’t have to commute. This gave them a better work-life balance, he said.
Despite this, Hogarth said KPMG staff missed connecting with colleagues so it was clear they wanted to spend some time in the office, but not as much as they did before the pandemic.
It comes as KPMG said that UK employees would get an extra two and a half hours off every week over the summer, plus an additional day off on June 21, when the last of England’s Covid restrictions will be lifted.
Jon Holt, KPMG UK chief executive said that the new way of working would enable staff to design their own working week while offices would be places to collaborate.
“The consequence of the pandemic means we have a whole cohort of people who have never been in the office and never been coached face-to-face - we need to get those connections back,” he added.
A hybrid company culture could spark litigation
Martyn Sakol, managing partner of Organisation Effectiveness Cambridge (OE Cam), a business psychologist firm, told Insider how hybrid working could lead to inequality in the workplace.
“Companies might be sleepwalking into discrimination by adopting a hybrid approach which appears to be more inclusive,” Sakol said.
Employees who work in the office five days a week are unfairly advantaged to connect, evolve, and adapt with each other, according to Sanok. This is because they have access to the boss, are better networked, have more interesting work to do, and could potentially receive an earlier promotion than those working from home more often, he said.
Whereas people at home may not have the same access to technology or working space or privacy compared to staff working in the office, Sanok said. In some cultures, women are more likely to work from home and this could resort to a 1970’s male culture in various offices, he added.
If business leaders aren’t careful, they could be in danger of legal litigation because of the “presence privilege and psychological bias” towards those employees who come into the office more, Sanok said.
Sandeep Mishra, professor at the Lang School of business and economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, agreed with Sanok. Mishra told Insider that “folks working in the office will be more “present” in the minds of others in the organization,” meaning there won’t be “an even playing field” between those working in the office and remotely.
“That inequality in “face time” will likely inflame common cognitive biases,” he said. Everything from training and development, to collaboration, promotions, and task assignment – remote staff will “likely be disadvantaged without explicit policy to prevent otherwise,” Mishra said.
But Hogarth said KPMG had learnt a lot about its employees working remotely successfully.
“I don’t think hybrid working in itself necessarily increases the risk” of lack of inclusivity, he said.
The KPMG UK executive told Insider how the firm will support its staff through regular check-ins, a buddy scheme, and equipping managers with the right training to look after those working remotely.
“Now, we just need to be a bit more thoughtful about making sure that we’re proactively reaching out and checking in with our people,” Hogarth said.
Denise Rousseau, professor of organizational behavior and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, told Insider the danger with hybrid working is that managers might assume they can manage the new environment in an old pre-pandemic manner and become “locked into the past.”
Managers might forget about development, the need to build bonds between colleagues and enquiring about information which they wouldn’t usually pick up from someone working remotely, such as problems at home, Rousseau said. Hybrid working filters out those cues, she added.
Managers “should know that if [they] want to be supportive,” she said.
Online real estate company Zillow is also planning to get employees back into the office post-pandemic, but CEO Rich Barton said in February that a hybrid model could create a “two-class system” which negatively impacts remote workers.
“We must ensure a level playing field for all team members, regardless of their physical location,” Barton said.
Hybrid working offers flexibility
Insurance marketplace Lloyd’s of London is also switching to a more hybrid working approach, according to a spokeswoman.
“Flexibility will be key when choosing where and when to work based on the needs of the team – this won’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” she said. Office space will be used for employees to work together, whilst those working alone will do so remotely, she added.
Other employers, such as Amazon and JPMorgan, are more focused on returning to an “office-centric culture” after the pandemic.
A JPMorgan spokesperson pointed Insider towards CEO Jamie Dimon’s annual shareholder letter, which said that most of the bank’s employees would eventually return to the office full time. Dimon said that only some employees would be working under a hybrid model, while 10% of the workforce will be based entirely from home.
In the letter, Dimon mentioned some of the drawbacks of working from home, including video calls slowing down decision-making and interns and new staff members being the most negatively affected.
But the hybrid working trend is happening across a variety of industries. In the tech sector, companies like Google and Microsoft are embracing a more flexible approach to work culture. While in banking, firms such as JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are also making their return-to-work policies more hybrid.
Microsoft will open up its US headquarters to more employees by the end of this month, the company announced Monday.
Beginning March 29, Microsoft employees who typically work at the company’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters or nearby offices will have the option to return to those campuses some or all of the time. Employees will also be allowed to continue working remotely if they wish, Microsoft said in a blog post announcing the update.
“We’ve been closely monitoring local health data for months and have determined that the campus can safely accommodate more employees on-site while staying aligned to Washington state capacity limits,” Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s head of corporate strategy, wrote.
Microsoft offices in 21 countries around the world have also added additional workers, with about 20% of its global workforce working at an office, according to the blog post.
“Our goal is to give employees further flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable, while also encouraging employees to work from home as the virus and related variants remain concerning,” DelBene wrote.
Microsoft said in October that it would extend its work-from-home policy until July 6, 2021 “at the earliest.” The company also announced that month that its policy going forward will allow most employees to work remotely at least half of the time – employees who wish to work remotely full time or relocate may do so with manager approval.
According to a survey Microsoft conducted among those who have already returned to the office, it seems many employees currently prefer some sort of hybrid work schedule: About half of those who have gone back to the office are spending 25% of their time there, DelBene wrote in the blog post.
Microsoft joins many major tech companies in planning for a hybrid workforce. Salesforce announced last month that it will provide employees three new ways to work going forward. Most employees will adopt a “flex” schedule where they’ll report to the office up to three days each week for tasks that are more challenging to do over video calls, like team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.
Andy Jassy, the current CEO of Amazon Web Services who will take over as Amazon’s chief executive in the third quarter of this year, told CNBC in December that he predicts most people will adopt a hybrid work model. Jassy said he expects the future of work to be “hot offices” where employees decide when to come in and then reserve a desk.