During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the United States were forced to transition to remote work. Employees adapted to months and even a couple of years or more of working from home offices, switching to virtual meetings in lieu of in-person conferences.
But now, companies are returning to in-person work, with some employees eager to reconnect with their colleagues and reap the benefits of company culture while others not so much. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, some employees across the country are pushing back on returning to the office.
Most recently, in our own industry, we witnessed an uproar by employees at Farmers Insurance who were told by the insurer’s new CEO that they had to return to the office beginning in September. Under the previous leadership, employees could work remotely and, in fact, made significant lifestyle changes in response to company policy. Some sold their cars while others expanded their home office, or moved altogether, according to The Wall Street Journal. Now that the remote-work policy has been reversed, employees are threatening to quit or even unionize.
The insurance industry is not the only one getting pushback from employees who want to continue to work remotely. Walt Disney, Amazon, and Lyft also faced employee dissent after their respective companies announced stricter office policies.
What Does Return to Office Look Like Now?
While in-person work varies across industry type and size, read on to learn about return-to-office trends in the post-pandemic world.
A New Hybrid Model
“Hybrid work” is the new buzzword, with most employers using the phrase to refer to a mix of at-home and in-person office work for employees. However, “hybrid” is a blanket term that can include a wide range of mixed-work options – from working in the office only a few days a month to only working in the office a majority of the time. Some large employers have rolled out “structured hybrid” work plans, which outline a minimum number of days that employees are required to come into the office but allow employees to choose.
In other, structured, hybrid models, employees are on rotating schedules that ensure the office is never fully empty, and the space is often utilized by teams who most regularly collaborate with one another, ensuring that the office is being put to efficient use.
With these hybrid models, employees are being given more flexibility than ever before. Now, workers are able to set up a work/life balance that alternates between working from home — which, for many employees, can be chaotic, distracting, or alienating — and office work with other co-workers.
Using hybrid models, employees and their superiors can arrange their schedules based on the type of work they need to accomplish. Do they need time alone for deep work, or do they need a collaborative environment for productive brainstorm meetings? Hybrid models also allow employees to factor in the many other obligations in life, such as family schedules or simple activities like walking the dog.
Why In-Office Work Isn’t Going Away
Even with the rollout of these hybrid models, in-office work isn’t going away, as we have seen with some company policy changes that are attempting to scale back remote work. Leadership feels that in-office work fosters collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
In addition, for many workers post COVID, there is a need to experience in-person connections with others, and this includes the workplace. Many younger employees who began their careers during the pandemic are eager to finally experience office culture and reap the benefits of going to an office. Little moments — like watercooler conversations and quick coffee chats — go a long way in developing one’s network and improving daily workflow.
Plus, for some workers, returning to the office is a sigh of relief. “Zoom fatigue,” an oft-cited complaint of the pandemic, can finally be put to rest with face-to-face meetings. Employees don’t have to struggle with poor internet connections and a barrage of emails to communicate ideas with one another but, rather, can engage in animated discussion in the same room.