Why The Great Resignation Means Hybrid Work Is Here For Good

Why The Great Resignation Means Hybrid Work Is Here For Good

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Unknown: We've been speaking with top economists and organizational experts to better understand how the U.S. is going to get back to the office post pandemic. Today I'm speaking with Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. Broadly, just to kick it off, what is the future of the workplace? Well, I'm very glad that you said back to the office and not back to work, because so many people use that it's like, it's not as though we haven't been working for the last two years.

Back to the office is going to be very different than the place we left, both physically and how we use it. If all of the data is correct, and it's been coming in for the last two years, and is very consistent, it looks like about 10 to 20% of people will be in the office full time, about 10 to 20%, will be at home full time. And that middle will be hybrid. So just like before, the pandemic, about 80% of the workforce wants to work from home, at least some of the time. The difference now is I think

they're more galvanized in their resolve. That's a great word galvanized. So speaking of that, so what job categories are the most flexible when it comes to remote work and which ones are the least? Well, a lot of them have become more flexible, because they've learned to be. In the past, we

would see that it was really the tech sector, and perhaps the health services sector that led the charge. But what we've learned during the pandemic is that you know, just about any industry has some element that can be performed remotely. And so I think we're going to see a much greater a much wider range of organizations and type of organizations that are doing this. It

is still going to be heavily tech finance industry is kind of a low hanging fruit, health services, even in terms of doctoring, which was, you know, pretty much not, not done that very, not done very often prior to the pandemic. Sure. And which is the most resistant to this remote work, or what industries do you see will not be able to adapt? The legal industry has always been a holdout. But I've got a client that has 4000 lawyers around the world. And they're very much looking at a hybrid mode, in part because other law firms are offering it too. And I think that's something that if we weren't in a talent shortage, if we weren't in worker shortages, I'm not sure that we'd be looking at as much flexibility in the future as we are now.

So on that. So is the nine to five and the five day a week work schedule over? Yeah, that's an interesting question. A lot of employers don't realize that a big part of the flexibility that people are looking for, is in time flexibility. In fact, even more so than where they work, where we don't, we don't live a life that is linear anymore. We never were good marathoners, we've always been sprinters. And so you know, it's kind of silly

to think if you think about it, that we would think people work best from 9am to 5pm. And everybody would work best that way. It's just not the way it is. And it's not the way it is for other reasons too. We work across time zones. We you know, we've got to be flexible, and certainly for parents, you know, it's it's part of the value of this is being able to have a life and earn a living.

So you mentioned the worker shortage and the talent shortage, a lot of people are referring to that as the Great Resignation. So people are taking their talents elsewhere, if I can't work from home, or if I can't set my own schedule. Can you talk to me a little bit about what power potential employees might have, as they're trying to apply for new jobs or when they're looking to make their great resignations? Yeah, I prefer to think of it as the great reevaluation, and that's not my term, I read it somewhere. I think that we've had this glimpse a lifestyle that we like, and we don't want to give it up. I've always felt that you never really realize how bad things are until they're over and then you step back and you look at it.

Really was I on an airplane four days a week, you know, really did I work these crazy hours and people are looking at it legal industry, for example, and saying, you know, I don't I don't think I want that. And now I've got a lot of alternatives. They may not have wanted it before, but now there's a lot of opportunity for places that will allow them to work flexibly including virtual law firms. So are you Seeing that companies are reacting to employees demands or potential employees demand, or is this something they're doing prematurely? They're much more open to it. I mean, a couple of things changed. We've always seen in the past

that the the biggest difference between a manager or a leader who supports remote work and who doesn't is whether or not they've done it before. And so pretty much, you know, in about the first six to nine months of the pandemic, we were seeing a lot of surprise within organizations that wow, I, you know, I really didn't think this could work. And they learned that it could, it could not only work, but it had a lot of advantages, including increased productivity, which is something that I've been saying for 20 years, people tend to give back half of the time that they would have otherwise spent commuting, in fact, overworking is one of the biggest problems in with with remote work, it's hard to turn it off when it's there with you. 24/7. So we've proven a lot of those things that, you know, before we have research on, but but maybe employers didn't really see for themselves. So that's changed, those attitudes

have changed. And then certainly knowing that, you know, your talent could work out the door, I heard somebody say, it's easier to quit a keyboard. You know, it's like, On the keyboard, they mean? No, no, no, no, that, that I could sit here in my chair working for one organization today. And

tomorrow, I could be working for another organization. You know, it's the mobility of it, the virtual mobility of it is much greater. I hadn't thought about like that. Yeah, it's like you're sitting in your room. So why don't I just work for the company that is more open to me doing that, and might pay me more for this. But But again, you know, let me go back, clearly, this is not going to be an all virtual, it's going to be hybrid, and quite frankly, hybrid is a lot harder. And I don't think a lot of

organizations are ready for that. They think, oh, we did mobile, you we've got this. But going when half of the people are in the office and half of the people are not, that's going to create a lot of issues that are not that, it's not that they can't be overcome. But it takes a great deal of intention intentionality, to, to make it work successfully. Sure. I have a lot of friends who are like, I don't want to go to the office and then be back on Zoom again, like what's the point of Zooming from my office? So can you explain a little bit about how companies can make sure going back into the office is worthwhile? And what they need to think about in terms of challenges to make sure everybody's included? Sure. I mean, that's what I've been working with

companies doing for the last two years is sort of reevaluating how are we going to operate? First of all, can we operate remotely? And I think we've proven that secondly, should we and then how can we and that last part is is really important. The understanding that there's a potential for an equity issue, that people that are in the office are going to be favored for a job promotions for increased compensation. It's something that that we really have to keep in mind. Meetings, hybrid meetings. It used to be when you were the virtual participant on a meeting, you kind of felt like an outcast and I have heard through employee surveys and through focus groups, and that kind of thing, that one of the things that remote, formerly remote people enjoy is now actually having an even playing field. And so we have to make sure that when we go back, that doesn't, that doesn't go back to the old way. You know, we've

got a whole list of things that organizations should do to make sure that they're being inclusive. Great. Can you give me a example of two or three of those? Yeah. Well, I'll tell you a story. I, I was talking

to a board of directors. And it was just after we had wrapped up a six month engagement, they had about 3500 global employees. And we're teaching them how to how to be better hybrid organization. And at the end of the meeting, I

said, Okay, let's all rate this meeting. And I'm going to go first, I'll give it a three on a 10 scale. Here's why. You didn't have your cameras on in the room, so I couldn't see you. When you were speaking you were at a long table. So

I couldn't really hear you know who it was was talking or identify who was talking. When somebody asked a question, I had an answer for it, but I could, I wasn't able to break through I wound up texting the chairman of the board and saying, Hey, I'd like to answer that question. So you know, those are the kinds of problems that will come up and the way you you deal with them some ways, you know, one thing is make somebody that is remote, the meeting leader so that they've got that perspective, or have a buddy system so that you know someone that is remote has a buddy in the room, go around the room and call on everybody. There are

even technologies coming on that will identify are just the men talking or just the women talking or have we heard people with accents. So being, again, that that that intentionality about including people, one of the things that we've found throughout the the pandemic, particularly most recently is that this has given organizations an opportunity to really increase diversity, because they can hire from anywhere from all over the world. But we have to make sure that we're including those people once we've brought them on board. But we've talked a lot about the how beneficial work from home or remote work can be for organizations and for employees. There's a huge class of people who are going to be left behind by this, maybe that type of job that they have cannot be done remotely, what can we do to make sure that those people are included in economic growth and better address that? Yeah, and that's about half of the workforce, quite frankly, about 56% of the population has a job that can be done from home. So it's a very important question. If we were talking to an

organization before the pandemic about a remote work program, we also would have been talking to them about other kinds of flexibility. So just just being able to shift their hours is is important to people. Being able to choose what days they work, maybe they want to go to part time. Even something as simple as being able to flex what time they take a break, has a huge impact on people. And I think we also need to be looking, this is not new but the pandemic I think, certainly accelerated, in our minds anyway, that we need to be upskilling. And we need to be re-skilling because more and more jobs are going to at the low end of the wage spectrum are going to be lost. And so we need to have a place for

them to go. That brings up another idea that we've talked about, which is like AI and robotics. So you gave a great example of how AI can help us increase more diversity in the workplace by, you know, I would love to see those statistics on who talks more on the meeting and that kind of thing. But when we talk to the actual retraining and retooling of the workforce, how do you see AI and robotics defining the future of work? I don't think it's going to be very long before we have a hologram equivalent, I've seen some fabulous decorations of I know, demonstrations of it, and the cost has come way down. So I think maybe in a five year horizon, we're going to see something that significant. In fact, the X Prize, I think this year last year, was for the first organization, the first company that could simulate touch, virtually. So I reached

out like this, I can actually touch you. So lots of interesting things going on there. It will also help help people be more effective at their jobs. You know, having all of the the sort of base intelligence in the cloud and available to me, and the so that what, that I'm able to do what I do best, which is think process, triangulate, I don't need to have all that other noise in my head. I think we're also

going to see a redefining of jobs. I mean, I would suspect that a very large part of your job is not the part that you enjoy. Typically about, you know, 80% of what you do is not what you enjoy is not what you best you're best at. But there is somebody that's good at that. And there is somebody that enjoys that, you know, I picture a time when I'm working on a PowerPoint demonstration and the computer shakes. And it

tells me you know, you're not very good at this. And did you know that we have 12 contractors that could be doing this for you? And did you also know that somebody else in the organization just did a presentation on this exact same topic? Maybe you should talk to them. I want to come back to the great resignation. So the big question is just like is the great resignation or restructuring of our economy fundamentally, and how does remote work play into that? I think people are going to require, request, demand, more flexibility, more trust, you know, you go to the Glassdoor ratings down and it'll, it'll tell you you know how an organization is treating its people. With the increase in environmental, social and governance reporting ESG reporting, it's going to be right there in their annual report, what's their turnover ratio? What's their commitment to training? What's their engagement scores, it's it's all becoming very much more visible. And so I think that that whole

relationship of employee employer is going to be very different in the future. So I think what I can summarize is your seeing a move towards more transparency and more trust, and in the end, hopefully a more productive and better growing economy? And it goes both ways, the employee has to trust the employer, and the employer has to trust the employee. And let's face it, it isn't any relationship that has trust better than one that doesn't? There's also this concept of bringing your whole self to work. One of the

things I think we've learned over the last couple of years is that we're whole people and and our level of empathy has increased, you know, when your sitting, the CEO sitting in a chair, and his dog walks up or her her grandchild crawls onto her lap, you have a whole different impression of that person. And you can't forget that. And in the companies that I've worked with it, they're very interested in continuing that kind of relationship. And people say that a big percentage of people say that they can't be themselves at work. That's exhausting.

It's hard enough, being myself than than two people, or three people. And I think we have to get over that. And that all is part of that trust and that transparency and that openness. Do you think remote work is going to make the class divide worse in the U.S.?

It could. Remote work could increase the class divide if we're not careful. I think what we need to be very careful that it doesn't. I think as more jobs become computer enabled, there will be more people that are able to work flexibly. And so I think that that will help. If I think if you think about the the city centers and the people that may be still have to go to an office there. If we do it right, we can keep down the traffic and make their route to work easier.

As we head back into the office, is flexible work going to be still in the test phase? Or are we going to do things for about six months and then change even though 80% of the workforce has said that they want this flexibility? It worries me to some extent that organizations are going to get back to that people are going to get back to the office. And the organization hasn't done the kind of planning that it needs to for doing hybrid well. And so six months after they've been allowing flexibility, and hybrid, they're going to go back and say, you know, that didn't work. Well, you know, in some ways I think about the way that we've been doing remote work is kind of like, if we had a cell phone, when we first got cell phones, we only used it to make phone calls at the house. Or when we got smartphones, we only used it to make phone calls. We're really doing that with the way we're working now. We're using old practices and

processes to work in new ways. And if we want this to succeed, and if we want to maximize the opportunities in terms of productivity, and diversity and attraction, and retention and environmental performance, we need to rethink and reconstruct those practices and processes. You know, I'm seeing, for example, organizations that say, okay, you can work a hybrid on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, that doesn't make any sense. Because life doesn't happen like that. If there's something important going

on on a Wednesday, then you know, I'm going to go to the office. It also sends the message that I don't trust you to take a Monday and Friday and work at home because I think that you're going to be on the golf course. And leaders want to lead so they want to make decisions and they want it they want to have a structure. But I think

we've just thrown that out the window the last couple years, we've got to be comfortable with ambiguity, and we've got to be comfortable with change. And this is not a one and done. We're not going to go back and get it right. We're going to go back and reevaluate. And in order to do that,

organizations need to figure out what do they want to get out of this? What are your goals for this music? If it's attraction and retention, then let's measure it. Let's measure what it was before the pandemic during the pandemic. And after this new flex policy that you have. Lets make decisions based on science rather than gut feel or you know what the CEO happens to want. It's really interesting that you're asking for flexibility for both from both the employees and the employers. Because it's nerve, this, we've been in a place of flexibility and uncertainty for almost now we're in the third year of the pandemic, and it's anxiety producing.

So I think as managers, they're trying to create some sort of structure. But maybe their hearts in the right place, but it's not working out? I don't think any of us know, you know, a lot of companies are sort of trying to define what the workplace should look like, you know, what should, how should the physical workplace change? We're pretty sure that people are going to want to do their focus work at home, and they're going to want to do some of their collaborative work in, in the office. So does that mean that we get rid of the sea of desks, and we put in more conference rooms, and we put in more informal area. A lot of companies are going to that they're going to unassign desks, for example, because, you know, if you're not going to be only going to be there two days a week, or one day a week, you know, that's kind of that's a big waste of space. And

that's going to continue to evolve over the next three to five to 10 years, because of lease terms, you can't just get rid of the office space. So for some companies, it doesn't make any sense to to make those changes yet to to move to a more activity based format, if they have to help hold the space anyway. But the real question they're asking themselves is how do we make people want to come to the office? How do we make it a place that supports the work they're doing? And for the last five to 10 years, it hasn't, it's been too hot, too cold, too noisy, air quality's poor, don't have a place to meet. And I think that this has sort of just brought it all to a head, we, we have to make a value proposition if we want people to come back to the office.

You know we did talk in 2020 right before, I think I did my first interview with you in the office, maybe or the first interview for that piece I actually did in the office. And then the second one, I did it at home, which is crazy. We're now three years in what trends have we learned? What have we gotten better at what changes have you seen over the course of the pandemic? I thought I think we've all gotten better at using technology, which we should have known how to do all along. About being flexible about communicating better, you know, we've seen CEOs, you'll have weekly meetings, weekly town halls, and that really meant a lot to people and and the extent to which they want to people want to stay with the organization depends a lot on how the their employer handled the, the pandemic. Some companies haven't even announced what they're going to do when the pandemic is over. And what what they're going to require

in terms of in office work. And that's, you know, that's a lot of ambiguity and ambiguity is stressful. I think we've also faced up to the, the incredible stress that people are under. They were under a good bit of stress before

the pandemic, but this has only accelerated it. And it's not just stress over work. It's also stress about our financial security, and about our families, and about other things in our lives. And so sort of that that whole person point of view, organizations are realizing that people do bring their whole selves to work and that's not always good. And that they need to to be treating that that whole person mental health has just become a huge buzzword in the in the C suite. You know,

something you wouldn't have heard three or four years ago in a boardroom, but you know, there would have been Snickers around the room if somebody was talking about we should do something about mental health. But people, organizations are really taking it seriously now, because we can't perform our best unless we feel our best.

2022-01-30 05:50

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