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Return to Offices or More Possibilities?

Updated: Jan 31

Man sitting at a laptop, daughter jumping on his back, remote work

On June 1, Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk asked employees to return to the office or leave the company. Still, in the face of employee reluctance and a resurgence of coronavirus infections in California, most major tech corporations in Silicon Valley do not demand workers to return to the office full-time. More and more companies have adopted the hybrid working model. Although it is unclear how long the pandemic will impact our working model, the past two years have greatly changed the way we work. Let’s take a look at how new office culture might be born.

1. The long-time office culture is being questioned

As Covid cases decline, many companies want to bring their employees back. But they might not get their wish. When interviewed in March, 2020 by The New York Times, people gave diverse reasons about why they prefer working from home. The most strongly argued was over workplace culture, rather than concerns of the Covid. Studies by Future Forum, a research group backed by Slack have found that many people, especially women and people of color, feel that they do not belong to their workplace. Thus, they are more likely than white male colleagues to regard working remotely as useful.

To exemplify, The New York Times comments that “some people of color have been harassed by coworkers who keep asking them how to operate the copy machine.” “There are many women who would rather not talk about fantasy football leagues with male colleagues in the office.” In a lot of industries, just being a woman of color is still an outlier," a worker remarked. "All of the side chats, pre-meeting conversations, post-meeting conversations, inside jokes — they all pile up to tell you that you don't quite fit." Remote work has profoundly changed the way individuals work and diminished the corporate workplace's supremacy.

2. In N.Y.C. some offices have been relocated

At present, many companies are adopting a hybrid in-person and remote working style. But these executives still want their employees to return as many workdays as possible. To make the return-to-work appealing, some companies in N.Y.C are taking drastic measures: they choose to relocate their offices closer to where their employees live, like Brooklyn. These changes in New York City reflect an effort by businesses to minimize a significant barrier to getting to work — the commute — as they begin to summon their employees back to work.

The pandemic has shown that one of the most difficult situations in decades for New York real estate, a core industry for the city, has been the seismic shift in office building utilization. Although hotel occupancy and subway ridership have increased recently, office buildings remain dismal. Real estate firms predict that in Manhattan, companies that have kept offices will continue to downsize because they no longer require as much space, while others have relocated to newer or renovated buildings with better amenities in transit-rich locations.

3. How hybrid work model works is different

In each office, hybrid models have played out differently, with some requiring two or three days of attendance each week and others allowing employees to come in whenever they like. A Robin survey has found that only five percent of employees are back to the office three days a week. This brings new challenges for many company leaders. Attendance in the office has dwindled, and executives have understood that when attendance isn't essential and employees aren't guaranteed to see their coworkers, they must be creative in conveying the value of a commute. These leaders have tried diverse incentives to bring employees back to the office, for instance, some choose to provide free lunch, and some are redesigning their offices, especially the used-to-be boring conference room. Yet it is still difficult. Not all employees are touched by the so-called magic of working together. Companies need to focus on the carrot rather than the stick, paying employees for coming to work rather than punishing them for remaining at home.

As COVID-19 cases resurge in many areas, managers need to take great efforts to “attract” their employees back. Adopting a hybrid working model may not be enough now. The old office culture is being questioned and investigated. Employers may need to create more possibilities for their workers.



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