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“Hybrid is Hard” – Your Back To The Office Plan is Failing.

Phil Bennett Posted by Phil Bennett in Uncategorized 4 min read

Most of us have received the email. The title reads “Back To The Office Policy” it starts with something like “We all believe that face-to-face collaboration is part of creating a vibrant, fun, and effective work policy.”.”

The internal comms team knows this isn’t going to be 100% popular, so maybe they’ve hamfistedly wedged in some meme themed around the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie “Back To The Future” to soften the blow.

The promise of free lunches, travel support, and fun pizza parties are offered in return for you gracing the office with your presence. The true motives seem unclear. Some feel a lack of trust that they’re working from home, some question if the company needs to justify its physical office costs, and some question if this is just a step towards reducing the headcount of those who don’t comply.

What is clear is that only 17% of people think push tactics (forcing employees back to the office) are working. Trying to entice, or “pull,” people to the office with free food seems slightly more popular, but only over a quarter of people feel these are working in any sensible way.

Coping with COVID.

Humans adapt. We have done so for over 300,000 years. When COVID popped up and completely stopped most of the world from being able to go into the office, we adapted. Teams worked out how to be productive entirely online. Some even felt that they have become more effective.

Thanks to a few companies pioneering remote working for some time, and the growing globalization of the tech industry tools like Miro, Zoom, and Google’s G-suite set of products were mature enough to support this immediate shift to most of the world working from home.

The world didn’t collapse.

We are transitioning to the new normal.

However, as things began to return to normal, vaccines developed, and social distancing practices became efficient, the need for everyone to work from home disappeared.

Companies needed to make a choice, go fully remote, force everyone back into the office, or find some compromising middle ground. Several factors influenced the choice.

Firstly trust is an issue; in research completed in November, you can see a significant mismatch between the perceptions of how performance has been impacted by working from home.

Individual employees trended towards thinking they are more productive working from home, and senior managers feel people are less productive.  

The research also showed a mismatch between what managers think they will do if people don’t come into the office on the mandated days and what employees believe will happen.

Alongside this, companies started to consider the expense of their office spaces. An asset that previously felts like a ‘must have’ for a successful business started to look like an overhead that needed to be justified. What is the value of an empty office?

The third challenge came from the fact that everyone has hung onto this idea that the office is the best place to get collaborative work done. If it is, people aren’t taking advantage of it. 60% of people aren’t actually in the office with their colleagues.

So companies changed and adapted their policies to varying degrees.

The Great Resignation.

All of the above factors have resulted in massive changes in many companies. Most are not the companies they were before COVID, some are more flexible, and some are more strict. Additionally, people’s work expectations have shifted. Those who never felt it likely that they could work remotely have been surprised at how easy it is and the flexibility it brings them.

Work environments have changed, and expectations have changed. Ultimately this has led to a massive volume of people working for companies that don’t provide them with the work environment that they desire.

This miss-match has contributed to the “Great Resignation” as the workforce migrates to companies that offer them what they desire.

Paused for Now.

However, the Great Resignation is paused for now. As mass layoffs slice through the tech industry and global hiring pauses create a restricted job market. Options are limited.

Even though the survey shows that 23% of people aren’t working the way they desire, more than half are sitting still because of the job market. The rest are compromising because they like their job enough.

Some Time To Get It Right.

This situation has given us a unique opportunity that we shouldn’t pass up. We got to test-run our new work policies, and now we have some breathing room to determine why things aren’t working before the next wave of resignations.

We need to iterate, run retros, collect feedback, and rethink how Hybrid is meant to work for you on both sides.

You can get this right before you lose another quarter of your workforce.