It took a pandemic to change how and where we do our jobs. Now, a tight labor market, a shift in employee priorities, and more open management are forging a revolution in the workplace. Here is how that is playing out in the new year.
Workers Will Definitely Return To The Office In 2023 – Kinda, Sorta, Maybe
Many employers have been trying to push or woo employees back to the office almost since the pandemic accelerated remote work.
Some employers, such as JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon and Tesla’s Elon Musk, have laid down ultimatums.
Musk exercised measures this year to allow Nazis back on Twitter and force workers back to their offices. He issued several emails to Tesla employees in late May telling them to be in their respective offices 40 hours a week or resign. (He later allowed some exceptions.)
Other companies have offered games, free food – even free alcohol to get workers back to the office.
A Hybrid Future
Some employers are adopting a ‘my way or the highway” stance and some workers are responding “take this job and shove it”. However, there seems to be a common ground surfacing.
A recent Resume Builder survey found that 90 percent of employers plan to require workers to return to the office at least a few days a week in 2023.
In late September, General Motors made an abrupt U-turn on an announcement to bring workers back to the office later this year. Subsequently, the automaker said it was leaving timing on returning to the office to individual teams.
“Our plan was always, and still is, collaboratively design the solution that best balances the needs of the enterprise with the needs of each of you,” CEO Mary Barra wrote in a message to employees.
Not That Far Apart
Increasingly the gap between management and employees in hybrid work is closing.
Instead of debating the need for hybrid work, the conversation seems to have shifted to how much time needs to be spent in the office. Workers usually want a little less time in the office than managers (two days versus three) in recent surveys.
“Overwhelmingly, managers are pretty much aligned with employees,” Stanford University’s Nicholas Bloom says. Those managers who resisted hybrid work, according to Bloom, are those with “30-plus years of work experience, and have been very successful and have done that all in person … but they are real outliers.”
Bloom feels both work from home and the office are here to stay.
Often, business leaders ask Bloom if they should eliminate their offices altogether. He says, no.
Business leaders in the ResumeBuilder survey, even those who favor some remote work, see benefits to having an office. Of those leaders surveyed, 55 percent said communication was improved in the office. Additionally, 48 percent said working in an office increases productivity. However, some employment counselors disagree.
“It’s been shown over and over that employee production increases with remote work,” says Stacy Haller, chief career advisor at CareerBuilder.
A report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that remote workers put in over 48 minutes more work time than they did in the office. That increased work time is about equal to the time they would have spent getting to and from work. The average commute to work is 27.6 minutes one-way (55.2 round trip), according to the U. S. Census Bureau.
Accountability Versus Privacy
Bloom suggests that remote or hybrid work requires a performance review system. That means measuring worker productivity. However, some businesses think it means spying.
According to the National Law Review, 80 percent of major employers use some kind of monitoring in the workplace. That can include everything from security cameras to computer tracking software.
While electronic monitoring of productivity is not new, the increase in remote and hybrid work raises the possibility of such monitoring systems being used on employees’ personal devices or in their homes. That raises legal issues over personal privacy.
“Close, constant surveillance and management through electronic means threaten employees’ basic ability to exercise their rights,” said Jennifer Abruzzo, the general council of the labor board.
Abruzzo termed the practice illegal under the National Labor Relations Act.
The coming year is likely to see a clearer line between employer monitoring for safety and productivity and employee privacy rights.
The rise in remote work during the pandemic prompted a dramatic rise in Zoom meetings. The coming year is likely to see more such activity as the conferencing platform unveils new meeting rooms and whiteboards.
In addition to Zoom, other immersive work tools are set to play an increasing role in the work environment.
Horizon Workrooms by Meta puts co-workers in the same virtual room to collaborate, brainstorm, hold meetings, work on a document, or have a virtual office party.
In addition, Nvidia is offering Omniverse, a metaverse-based collaborative tool. Similarly, Microsoft has created Mesh to provide a collaborative environment for work teams.
As the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting have shown, people are increasingly frustrated by jobs that are unrewarding and full of meaningless tasks.
As a result, employers will have to experiment with the traditional concept of a job. Remote and flex work is the beginning of that experiment. The next phase will be the four-day workweek.
Some Northern European countries have conducted four-day workweek trials. Some companies in the United States are already using the four-day work week and more are expected to join them.
The new year will force employers to be more creative in the way they craft an evolving workplace. Taco Tuesday just will not be enough.
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