Previously on the Re-invention of Work…
I’ve created this link as a simple place to bookmark some of the research and facts that we’ve come to accept over the last few months.
It may well be that your boss or company would like to be sure of the substance behind the emerging trends and consensus – and sharing this link might give them some third party sources to help them reflect on their own opinions.
- Workers have said that in the context of business continuing robustly over the last two years they feel they have earned the right to work more flexibly
- Most employers’ expectations of days at home has been growing continuously since March 2020
- For most workers this means at least two (or more) days a week at home (a 2nd link) – this number is trending upwards
- Leesman have update their data on what days employees expect to be in the office
This is stunning. @Leesman_Index have used their huge survey of office workers to establish what demand for office space looks like going forwards.
Friday usage is unsurprisingly tiny – at just 27% of what it used to be. pic.twitter.com/gQ0MYqGujm
— Eat Sleep Work Repeat (@EatSleepWkRpt) March 15, 2022
- When firms don’t offer this employees have made it very clear they are willing to quit to find better working elsewhere (‘Three quarters of Brits are ready to quit their jobs’)
- There is a challenge in getting this right. Stanford Economist Nick Bloom has found that if our bosses are in the office we want to be seen too
- Money isn’t in the top 5 reasons why people are quitting their jobs right now
- In fact one study suggests the number 1 reason people quit is a ‘toxic workplace culture’
- Even the firms who remain unconvinced recognise that Omicron is almost certainly not the last variant of the virus and so addressing flexible working isn’t an issue we’ll leave in the past
- So enters hybrid working. And the only problem with bog-standard hybrid working is that it isn’t the best of both worlds, it’s the worst of both
- Why? Well because it leaves half of the team in empty offices doing videos calls. Often with no private rooms and without the set-up they’ve cobbled for themselves at home. Very little makes us as annoyed as travelling for 45 minutes to sit in a noisy office talking to someone sitting at their kitchen table.
- Therefore the smartest firms are now asking themselves how they can make an adapted version of hybrid working succeed. Spoiler: maybe it’s not going to be three days a week in the office. One Harvard professor believes that firms that insist on a simple model of Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday are doomed. Because the best employees will just decide it doesn’t work and will quit.
- To make a version of their culture that works, firms need to decide the importance of three key ingredients:
- What is their workplace why? Why do employees feel the need to come into the office on each particular day (rather than go to see customers, or work from home or go to a meet-up)
- How important is the network effect of your office? Your workplace why might be that on a couple of days a week you want the network effect of everyone being together. It begs two further considerations: firstly are you willing to ban video calls on those days? (and what impact will that have on people who have to work from home). Secondly, we need to be honest about how many days a week we need that effect – because pretty soon if colleagues have spent the whole day on video calls they’ll start questioning ‘the exciting buzz of the office’ that you promised them. The truth of 2020 and 2021 is that we have overpriced the benefit of the network effect. We thought we needed five days, but what would happen if the answer was one day a week is enough? (And what would happen if it is less…?) It’s worth saying that some companies decide that strong shared experiences are the backbone of their culture (or customer service) and they think about intentionally driving these up (but this might look like more events rather than more days a week together in the office)
- Is there more to your team than the sum of the parts? Maybe there isn’t. It’s forecast that freelance work will skyrocket in the next five years – potentially reflecting that some roles might best be considered as jobs for hire rather than employees to manage. If you don’t need so much sharing and connection, can you reduce it. I was struck by the discussion at early Amazon that set about reducing communication between teams (or creating APIs for it)
We’ve said it here before but this is very much a time for experimentation. I worked with one company that had over 60 different experiments in place. They were measuring them on a number of metrics like productivity and employee happiness. Anyone who tells you they have all of the answers right now is ridiculously overconfident.