Return to Work: Time to embrace flexibility
28 April 2023
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies around the world have been forced to adopt a work-from-home or hybrid work model. While this shift was initially met with reluctance by some business leaders, it has become clear that there are many benefits to these models, both for employees and for the companies they work for. So, why are some leaders so eager to return to the old working methods?
Why the Excitement?
At a recent conference I attended, there was a palpable sense of excitement from various leaders about the return to work. Many seemed eager to get back to the way things were before the pandemic, with everyone working in the office and following the traditional 9-5 workday.
But why? What is so exciting about returning to a way of working that we know is flawed?
The answer is perplexing, but it seems that many leaders have become so accustomed to the traditional way of working that they are reluctant to change. They may also be afraid of losing control, or of not being able to manage their teams effectively if they are not all in the same physical location. This is a burstiness that we need to address.
The Benefits of Work from Home and Hybrid Work Models
Many studies have shown that work-from-home and hybrid work models offer significant benefits to employees and organizations. For instance, a study by Nicholas Bloom and colleagues (2015) found that remote workers had increased productivity, lower stress levels, and were less likely to take time off due to sickness. Another study by Global Workplace Analytics (2021) revealed that remote workers saved an average of $4,000 per year on commuting expenses and had more time for personal activities.
Moreover, flexible working environments have been shown to foster innovation and creativity among employees. A study by Gajendran and Harrison (2007) found that employees who had control over their work environment and schedule reported higher levels of job satisfaction and innovation. This is because they can customize their work environment to suit their needs, which can help to reduce distractions and increase focus on work tasks.
Finally, some employees are resisting the return to work because of concerns about work-life balance. A study by Harvard Business Review (2021) found that many employees value the flexibility and autonomy that comes with remote work, and they are concerned about losing these benefits when they return to the office.
For instance, they may worry that they will have to work longer hours or be less able to manage their personal responsibilities if they are required to be in the office every day. This can be particularly difficult for working parents or those with caregiving responsibilities.
The Need for a Culture Shift
Despite the many benefits of work-from-home and hybrid work models, some leaders are still resistant to change. According to a study by Accenture (2021), only 24% of executives plan to offer hybrid work options after the pandemic. This reluctance may stem from concerns about control over teams, reduced collaboration, or a lack of understanding of how to manage remote workers effectively.
However, as highlighted by a study by McKinsey & Company (2021), organizations that embrace flexibility and adaptability are more likely to be successful in the future of work. This means creating a culture that values outcomes over input and is built on trust and collaboration. Leaders need to focus on building a strong culture of communication, accountability, and engagement to ensure that remote and hybrid teams are successful.
To achieve this, it is not enough to offer perks or incentives to employees who come into the office. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review (2021), employees value flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance over perks such as free food or gym memberships. Therefore, leaders need to focus on building a culture that values and supports these principles to attract and retain top talent.
The benefits of work-from-home and hybrid work models are numerous, but there is still a need for a culture shift to fully realize their potential. Leaders need to focus on building a culture based on flexibility, adaptability, and trust to ensure that their organizations thrive in the future of work. This means rethinking outdated ideas about work and focusing on building a culture that supports and encourages innovation and productivity.
The Future of Work is Here: Will You Embrace It?
The future of work is here, and it is time for business leaders to embrace it. This means letting go of the old ways of working and building a new culture that is based on flexibility, innovation, and adaptability. It means acknowledging the benefits of work-from-home and hybrid work models and working to create an environment where employees can thrive and contribute their best work.
So, will you be a leader who embraces the future of work? Or will you be left behind, clinging to outdated ideas about how work should be done?
The choice is yours, but the future is clear: the old ways of working are no longer sustainable, and it is time for a change.
Accenture. (2021). Workforce 2.0: the future of work is here. Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-151/Accenture-Workforce-2-0-Full-Report.pdf
Bloom, N., Liang, J., Roberts, J., & Ying, Z. J. (2015). Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(1), 165-218. doi: 10.1093/qje/qju032
Gajendran, R. S., & Harrison, D. A. (2007). The good, the bad, and the unknown about telecommuting: Meta-analysis of psychological mediators and individual consequences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(6), 1524-1541. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.6.1524
Global Workplace Analytics. (2021). Work-from-home after COVID-19—our forecast. Retrieved from https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/work-at-home-after-covid-19-our-forecast
Harvard Business Review. (2021). What employees are saying about the future of remote work. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2021/03/what-employees-are-saying-about-the-future-of-remote-work
McKinsey & Company. (2021). The future of work after COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19