Work remote, get paid less? The battle dividing offices will define the future of work


The work world was already sick enough before the coronavirus took hold, but the pandemic put rocket boosters on cultural change.

We can see its impact in every metric of work: during the great resignation of 2021, millions of American workers resigned en masse. Workers around the world have announced that they will quit their jobs if they are not given the flexibility.

Corporate property rents declined by up to 10% last year, driven by drastic changes in the use of office space and co-working space. And there’s a new competitor in town: the suburbs. The flight to suburbia during the pandemic has led to an increase in the property market for residences outside city centres. In order to attract and retain city districts as places for people to live and work, city centers will need to be completely redesigned.

These developments come as no surprise: The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that a quarter of workers in advanced economies will work on a permanent hybrid basis, that is, partly from home, several days a week. The discussion regarding RTO (return to office) is fast and in flux. There is no uniform model or compromise.

The case for regularly going to an office is being made for the workforce – and many are in denial. Meanwhile, CEOs have to grapple with employees who want more flexibility, the ability to work remotely and even choose their own working hours – and that without pay.

The degree to which agency employees will be given – to be able to choose their location and working hours – may define us in the future far more than in previous classifications. Instead of being labeled as a “white-collar” or “blue-collar” worker may be substituted as a “hybrid have” or “hybrid have-not” worker.

In addition, half of America’s jobs are projected to be freelance by 2030 and two-thirds of employers now consider some form of remote work or hybrid work as the “new norm.” Many companies are declaring themselves “completely remote,” giving them a competitive edge over those needing presentations.

As more of us can now choose how to manage the time we do at work that suits us instead of the traditional nine to five, the buzz around the four-day week has never been seen before. Is. John Maynard Keynes predicted in the 1930s that we are not yet close to the famous 15-hour work week, but his prediction seems new relevant. People believe that their work, and therefore their time, is a valuable commodity and they want it when and where they want to sell it.


IDespite those changes, considerable dilemma remains among some leaders. In one camp, you find fanatics who believe that working from the office is the best. Many people feel that those who do work from home are somewhat work-shame. At the very least, they want to punish people who like to do hybrid work.

Take the bombshell internal memo sent by Morgan Stanley president and CEO James Gorman to his employees: “If you want to pay New York rates, you work in New York. None of the ‘I’ I’m in Colorado … and getting paid like I’m sitting in New York City,'” echoing an equally strong statement from Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon that working from home was “an aberration.”

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Similarly, veteran Wall Street observer William Cohn put it simply: “Here’s my advice, fellow Wall Street drones: Get back in the office.”

In another camp are more do-it-yourself hybrid softliners such as Kevin Ellis, London-based president of consultancy firm PwC with 285,000 employees in 155 countries around the world, who said that “we want to ensure new working patterns so that May they overcome the epidemic”.

Regardless of which camp the employers are in, it is clearly true that a lot of social capital resides in the office. I spoke to Kevin Ellis, who said, “My concern is that we’re going to create a glass ceiling for people whose careers will be stalled because they’re working from home and don’t realize That’s what they’re missing.”

Still, all of these comments reflect an eagerness on the part of big business, which can no longer magically attract the same kind of worker willing to work the way they did before the pandemic. Hybrid working reflects the fact that mobility and independence are the new rewards for the professional working class. The shift to an immaculate and timeless dimension to the work means that fixed headquarters will have to work much harder to attract and retain talent.

Smart leaders today are thinking the unimaginable and asking if they need an office like that again, not because they’re following the hybrid herd, but because they’re interested in what’s happening in their own businesses. Keeping your eyes and ears open for this.

Joanna Swash, CEO of outsourcing reception, PA and communications provider MoneyPenny, was clear that her assumptions were challenged by the pandemic when everyone had to go away completely overnight. “Before Covid-19 I thought we had amazing offices, and this is the space that everyone loves,” she said. “What I learned was that our culture was so strong that it was based not only on the office or physical environment, but it was based on the spirit of that whole community, and how people trust each other. It was clear to me Should have happened, but it was a really big lesson at the start of the pandemic.”

A similar talk was made by Chris Thurling, president of Armadillo, a digital design firm that went completely away during the pandemic, which has expanded its business during the period:

“I want to be completely open-minded about whether we need a traditional office again. If you look at the performance of our business since March 2020, we are doing really well and our customers Not saying that quality has declined. Our profitability as a business has grown and we are growing. Why would we change too much?”

Bruce Daisley, an authority on the future of work and presenter of the podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat, closely observes the hybrid work trend. He told me, “Perhaps the most visionary approach I’ve seen was Dropbox, which said in late 2020 that getting people into the office on certain days or on specific days doesn’t work. Because people think, I’m on Wednesday. Why am I going to office? Just because it’s Wednesday doesn’t make any sense. People will come to the office when needed and come to the office to experience.


PPeople will not come to the office, however, under pressure. And if they come, they won’t be faithful for long. In the summer of 2021, Google faced significant employee dissatisfaction when it announced that it intended to use its pay calculator to calculate pay according to proximity to the office, reflecting the priority that some employers have. Still on to the presentation.

Sarah O’Connor As This Tactic Is Risky And Unreasonable commented In the Financial Times: “If two employees of the same head office want to work from home, but one has inherited a house in an expensive city, while the other is living in a commuter city, what about the latter? Is it fair to take a pay cut?

He quoted Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg as telling his employees via video, “We will adjust the pay on location… there will be serious repercussions for people who aren’t honest about it.” But who is not honest?

Some companies are clearly struggling to accept the serious change in mindset and values ​​of their talent. It remains to be seen whether management will face the challenges of supporting home-based working or continue to believe that they can persuade employees to attend office when and when they don’t want to be.

Anne-Elizabeth Moutet, a French broadcaster and columnist based in Paris, understands presentism as something else: a feature of power politics.

“The French system hates hybrids,” she said. “Since the French boss wants to know what his subordinates are doing, most of the time very subtle management. A strict hierarchy prevails. And the fact that this hierarchy doesn’t really work with new methods of [hybrid] Working means innovation is slow in our country; Sometimes it is even sabotaged by the people next to you who are competing with you to get the attention of the boss. If it sounds like a minor Borgia or the court of Louis XIV, except for the decoration, that’s where it comes from.”

Finally, the question for leaders who want their people back in office is: Why? Is it because regulating some work from home – finance in particular – is legally complicated? is it optics? Do management and leaders feel emotionally invested in highly-specialized, high-tech, visible offices? Or is it a failure to understand the scale and pervasiveness of change?

Mobility and work are hardwired into us – office workers of the early 20th century came, as the great Chicago poet Carl Sandberg put it, in the skyscraper, from the prairie to the city, to work a certain day and then “put back again.” Given” Roads, Valleys and Valleys “. The city became the fixed place and also the office. But with the advent of the Internet, the pandemic has now led to a new focus for work: the home, and a new form of mobility: the smartphone, which can work anywhere.

The future of action cannot go backward in time – it can only go forward.

this piece. was adapted from The Nowhere Office: Reinventing Work and the Workplace of the Future by Julia Hobsbawm, out now

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