New learning about the hybrid office
Whereas real estate sectors such as retail, industrial and warehousing are showing strong gains in 2021, the office sector continues to lag behind especially given the uncertainty among employers about what the office world will look like in the months and years ahead. Although most are confident that some level of hybrid is here to stay, the specifics are unclear. Krithika Varagur recently wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal that takes a next step into some of the emerging hybrid trends. Here are some of the themes:
- In a recent McKinsey study, the top choice of respondents was to work 3 days in the office, followed by 5 days and then lastly no days in the office – but all 3 responses received similar support. Kristi Fox, chief HR officer of a financial services firm in St. Paul, Minnesota reports that the most popular days in the office for her firm’s employees are Mondays and Wednesdays with Friday as the least desirable.
- Varagur writes that divvying up days and teams can be complicated so many are now initiating a more structured approach. Both experts and those who have prototyped their own companies’ return-to-work say that “perhaps counterintuitively,” structure can be your best friend suggesting that schedules are usually better than endless choices, and a clear, unified message to all employees is essential.
- San Francisco startup “Modern Health” has decided to mandate office attendance on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then allow flexibility on Monday and Friday. According to founder Alyson Watson, “We considered all options, including staying fully remote, which we ruled out pretty fast because we really missed in-person collaboration.”
- Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup, an office staffing firm in Milwaukee also advocates for structure and that “one-size fits all can make life a lot easier”. He believes that those coming into the office will be perceived more favorably than those not in the office, which could impact advancement and compensation and that remote work could negatively affect women more than men given that women tend to take on more domestic tasks and child rearing so will be more likely to favor remote work. Chamorro-Premuzic also advocates against hybrid meetings given that those physically present will have an advantage among the participants.
No doubt these types of insights will proliferate as more companies test new work strategies. I would not be surprised to see more and more counter intuitive trends like the need for more structure. Time will tell.