OFFICE-BASED VERSUS REMOTE WORKING LIES AT THE VERY CENTER of businesses’ desire for efficiency and cost management, juxtaposed against new societal desires for flexibility. Such flexibility existed in patches before the pandemic but has now been accentuated by the advent of simple and effective communication technologies. A recent survey by Microsoft on productivity with hybrid working produced these results: 87% of team members reported being effective, but only 12% of managers reported confidence about employees being productive. Academic research points to the existence and establishment of trust as the key element. This presents a challenging situation, especially with newer employees. With about half of U.S. office space being unoccupied, companies renewing leases are reducing space. This has already doubled, to 20%, the number of office workers required to “hot desk.” Experience so far shows that this leads to greater discontent, especially if employees have proximity to unwanted desk mates. In conclusion, it is all about finding the right balance of two or three days at the office, usually midweek, depending on the nature of the tasks and the culture of the organization. Recently, even Zoom required employees to spend two days per week at the corporation offices.
DAVID PYOTT is chairman at London Business School, a board member at Alnylam Therapeutics, and the former chairman and CEO of Allergan.