As employees are returning to offices and the workplace is shifting, I was curious how things are playing out during this transition. Which working models will dominate in the workplace moving forward? Many companies are experimenting with various hybrid models as one size does not fit all. Some companies have remained mostly remote while others are demanding employees come back to the office five days per week. It seems most companies have landed somewhere in-between at this point. In a recent Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial survey, “they found 75% of Gen Zers prefer a hybrid or work-from-home model, as do their millennial counterparts (76%).” Most of the workforce is demanding some flexibility in their schedules.
I’ve found two very different approaches to new organizational models. The first one is from the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. He announced on April 28, 2022, that his employees will promote a “remote-first” operation. In his Twitter announcement, he outlined 5 key features of this work arrangement for his employees. They include:
- You can work from home or the office—whatever works best for you.
- You can move anywhere in the country, like from San Francisco to Nashville, and your compensation won’t change.
- You have the flexibility to live and work in 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location.
- We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings. Most employees will connect in person every quarter for about a week at a time (some more frequently).
- To pull this off, we’ll operate off of a multi-year roadmap with two major product releases a year, which will keep us working in a highly coordinated way.
He ends his announcement by giving his “why” on this decision and how he thinks it will be a competitive advantage for his company and industry. This is the most comprehensive strategy I have seen shared around a hybrid workplace strategy, and I believe it is very thoughtful in how they are tackling some complex issues and concerns employees are having about returning to the office. Also, I believe it shows a fair amount of innovation in the structure that meets the new demands of the many generations in the workplace right now.
Another CEO, David Solomon of Goldman Sachs, has a very different approach and is sticking to a more traditional work mindset. He insists employees return to the office five days per week with no exceptions. Solomon is an advocate of in-person interactions and feels it is essential to the culture and nature of his business. Goldman Sachs hires mostly college graduates right after graduation, so these new employees have limited experience or networks. Solomon believes by having them in the office versus working remotely, they learn from the experienced bankers and grow their networks. Another key cultural aspect is encouraging teamwork through in-person interaction, which Solomon believes is not as effective as remote work. What I think is interesting is some of his industry rivals are not heading down this path such as Citigroup or UBS. These companies are sticking with the hybrid strategy. I am wondering if those companies are changing their workplace approaches, will they have a competitive advantage in the long run against Goldman Sachs? Only time will tell which company wins in keeping their best talent.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, most companies I am working with are in various models of hybrid workplaces with two to three days in the office every week on average. Adapting to employee preferences and business needs while building culture will be tricky for most executives and human resource departments. I believe any return to office strategy must include these top three components:
- Communications will be vital in building trust and soliciting feedback from employees to adjust as needed or provide solutions to situations that pop up from this evolution.
- Technology will continue to evolve to support this more fluid way of working. Many companies such as Google, Meta, and Zoom are looking for product enhancements that will give them an advantage for the workplace of the future.
- Lastly, collaboration in person will require more meaningful and strategic coordination. It may happen by synching key business goals or communicating transparently the expectations of senior leaders on the when and why they believe it is important to get together.
Without all these key components, you may lose your key talent as they look for more clarity elsewhere. Success will be determined by who can figure out the puzzle pieces and make it work to drive growth and market share within their organizations and industry.