Will work-from-home continue? - TT Newsday

Summary

Will work-from-home continue?

Paolo Kernahan -

Will work-from-home continue?

Paolo Kernahan -

PAOLO KERNAHAN

“IF YOU want me back in the office you're going to have to fight me for it!”

With the pandemic hesitantly releasing its grip on our lives, we're faced with an intriguing question: what's the future of remote work after covid19?

Calls are mounting for workers to return to the office. It's a looming reality building in intensity – a reset of the great reset.

Time to give up the headset and the Zoom calls in shorts. No more Call of Duty when you're supposed to be on duty. Your company wants you back!

Lots of employees, though, want to continue working from home. Insight from the Pew Research Centre suggests that 60 per cent of workers with jobs that can be performed at home would like to continue if given the option.

Ironically, many of the businesses leading the work-from-here charge are IT giants. Google's parent company, Facebook's Meta, Apple and Microsoft are among those who want their people in place at least for a few days a week.

Tesla's Elon Musk famously sounded the warning that those against working in the office should pretend to work elsewhere. Musk's sabre-rattling doesn't account for the reality that those inclined to “pretend to work” can do so in the office environment as stealthily as they can at home.

It's bizarre to see tech pioneers among those “calling back the herd.” The industry is at the heart of advancements that made work-from-home policy possible. They are disruptors who went from challenging the status quo to championing it. Now, they've become “ruptors.”

Some financial services behemoths are also joining the back-to-the-office clarion call. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs Group have asked staff to return.

It's a hard sell for workers who spent two years acclimatising to business as usual from home. Employees are likely confused about being prodded to show up to perform tasks they've proven can be done efficiently and effectively remotely. It has to feel like trying to un-discover fire.

Most problematic about entreaties for a return to the office is generally flimsy justifications peddled by employers.

There is a tincture of passive-aggressive reinforcement of the employer-employee relationship dynamic. You work for me, so I dictate the terms of this arrangement. We encourage our employees to think, just not of themselves. That you do on your own time. Of course, this is mainly anecdotal.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon says, “Working from home doesn't work for young people. It doesn't work for people who want to hustle. It doesn't work for spontaneous idea-generation. It doesn't work for culture.”

His theory of everything that doesn't work for young people assumes they all have the same backgrounds, motivations and personal circumstances. The priorities of some young folks differ from others who have started families or have elderly parents needing care. Some working stiffs, no matter their age, want more out of life beyond slavish devotion to corporate culture and income.

Either way, it isn't clear how the office environment stimulates the “hustle” and idea-generation. People draw inspiration and derive career satisfaction from a variety of sources.

Dimon did, however, concede that working from home will become a more permanent feature of doing business. So the answer to the ongoing conundrum will likely fall somewhere in the middle.

Companies will have to determine who in their ranks is best suited to working from home based on their roles and track records with results. This would be helped by embracing a culture steeped in performance rather than presence. Is the employee getting the job done promptly? Are they maintaining client relationships while cultivating new ones satisfactorily?

As a manager told a close friend of mine, “I don't care where you are in the world, as long as you get the work done.”

There are thousands of workers who can't see themselves giving up the shrapnel of a life they clawed back during the pandemic. Also, they aren't keen on spending their most high-energy period of the day frozen in a glacial commute and then in rudderless morning meetings.

Such folks might be tempted to court more flexible companies. Indeed, in several competitive markets opportunity-sniffing businesses are snapping up talent because they're more open to preserving a work-from-home setup.

Winding the clock back is a tricky proposition for employers. One enduring post-covid19 condition in the workforce is this: a wider perspective on the meaning and value of life, one that for many people is no longer anchored entirely in a job.

Will work-from-home continue? - TT Newsday
Photo Credit: TT Newsday

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