I was struck by this observation from Ron Carucci in his HBR article last month on returning to the office:
“If the transition to WFH wasn’t challenging enough, the transition back to the office may prove even more difficult.
“Our brains will be looking for familiar routines to “return” to that simply won’t be there. And when that happens, our brains will have to expend extra energy to adjust on the fly. This transition will invite us all to bring the best versions of ourselves back to the office and reveal how the pandemic made us even stronger. Knowing that, your role as the team’s leader is uniquely important in helping others traverse this with hope, kindness, and patience to make sure those are the versions that actually show up.”
Ron cites a recent Harvard study that found that 81% of people either don’t want to go back to the office or would prefer a hybrid schedule going forward. Of those, 27% want to remain working remotely full-time and 61% want to work from home two to three days a week.
Separate from the obvious benefits of schedule flexibility and a barefoot commute, one in three felt that both their overall performance and quality of work was better than the previous year and one in three were able to better focus on work from home.
This return hesitancy is sparking friction as businesses figure out the new normal, most prominently in financial services.
Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman recently warned he would be “very disappointed” if workers aren’t back in the office by Labor Day. And if they’re not, he threatened “then we’ll have a different kind of conversation.” Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are taking a similar hardline tack.
UBS Bank in contrast will allow two-thirds of employees to permanently adopt a hybrid schedule. Citigroup made a similar announcement.
Independent of how much the future of work takes place in a traditional office, it’s a good time to re-consider the role that the office plays.
Is it an office worth returning to?
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: