Big American corporations are finding that “hybrid” work is fraught with difficulties as companies struggle with hybrid work plans. Awkward meetings and crowding in the middle of the week is common. A combination of office and remote work introduces new challenges, such as deciding how many days workers spend in the office and how to hold meetings.
Many businesses are running into roadblocks as they try to get white-collar employees back into
the workplace while still encouraging them to work from home. According to chief executives,
board directors, and others, companies are wrestling with what new schedules workers should
meet, where staff should sit in revamped workspaces, and how best to avoid employees at home
from feeling left out of impromptu workplace meetings or being skipped over for opportunities.
Prudential Financial Inc., which expects the majority of its nearly 42,000 workers to work half-
time beginning after Labor Day, wants to make sure that not all employees chose to work from
home on Mondays and Fridays before returning to the office midweek.
Expedia Group Inc. executives are attempting to find out how to hold in-person meetings that do not disadvantage those who are unable to attend. Other employers, such as Twilio Inc., a tech firm, expect that the modern age of work will result in shuffles between teams, with employees gravitating to
bosses who accept their preferred working styles.
Kevin McCarty, chief executive officer of Chicago-based consulting company West Monroe, which employs 1,360 people and is rethinking when its employees can work from home or come into its offices, says hybrid work “is going to redefine priorities, laws, and permissions.”
Survey Shows Most Employees Want a Mixed Model
Staff who had to adapt to life at home a year ago would undoubtedly face another change with
the new work style. Though executives claim that it would be easier to handle if every employee
returned to work or stayed at home, polls indicate that most employees prefer a mixed approach
as more adults are vaccinated. The majority of companies said they would use a hybrid model
in a February survey of 1,000 companies conducted by LaSalle Network, a global hiring and
Companies have often interviewed their workforces to learn how they feel. According to Rob
Falzon, vice chair of Prudential, most employees enjoyed working remotely but missed the
planning, ideation, and teamwork that takes place in person.
Prudential has been redesigning the office space floor by floor, repurposing the majority of it for
conference spaces, collaboration, and open space in order to encourage employees to engage
more. Mr. Falzon states that he insisted on video capability being extended to more small
meeting areas, not just conference rooms, so that people who work from home are not left out.
The business, like many others, is reducing its physical footprint, which means there will be less
available desks for people who want to come to work more regularly, with the exception of some
staff, such as traders. Mr. Falzon explains, “We don’t have a desk for you every day. Three
days a week, we have a desk for you.”
How Companies Are Struggling with Hybrid Work
How companies struggle with hybrid work models vary from one business to the next. According to Gloria Chen, the company’s chief people officer, Adobe Inc. expects to encourage workers to work from home up to two to three days a week, with employees able to make reservations for office desks. Other businesses are reluctant to state a fixed number of days that can be spent at home. According to executives, factors such as the length of a commute, the type of job, and an employee’s seniority could determine how often an employee needs to visit an office.
According to David Henshall, CEO of Citrix Systems Inc., “we won’t recommend” from a
corporate stage. “You’ll find the right balance based on the type of position you have.”
With versatility comes the risk of encountering difficulties. According to Expedia CEO Peter
Kern, if a team meets in person but not everyone is able to attend, it will result in a subpar
experience for those who are not present. Before the pandemic, the travel company opened the
first phases of an expansive campus on the shores of Seattle’s Elliott Bay, complete with Wi-Fi-
equipped rocks, and plans to allow spaced community team meetings at its headquarters. Mr. Kern, on the other hand, is skeptical that those using Zoom would receive the same degree of learning, motivation, and career advancement as those in the room. And there’s the matter of scheduling.
Managers may be required to “schedule group meetings based on some wacky algorithm of:
Who’s available when? When do you have a flexible day?” Mr. Kern explains. “There’s a lot of
squabbling going on here. ‘Everyone go to work,’ is a lot easier to say. Someone has called a
meeting, and you’ve all shown up.”
Managers Must Strike Balance Between Remote and In Person Work
According to Mr. Kern, a new way of operating would enable the organization to think about
success differently. Managers must avoid making unfair decisions about those who spend less
time at work, forcing the organisation to be “very conscientious about how we judge employees
and give people opportunities so that we don’t end up with distorted outcomes.”
According to Tom Gimbel, CEO of LaSalle Network, training and onboarding may be more
difficult in a hybrid setting, particularly if new employees have a tougher time understanding the
company’s culture without daily, in-person contact with colleagues. “For them to understand
more, they need to be among the more seasoned people,” he says of younger workers.
Other businesses have stated that they would promote remote work under some circumstances.
The New York Times Co. said in a memo that it intended to reopen its main offices in
September and that it did not want to go fully remote. “Remote work will be approved only in
areas where the team and nature of the work can handle it,” the company says.
According to some human-resources experts, businesses would have little option but to meet
workers’ demands, as an inflexible workplace could push employees away as the economy
recovers, and many workers have proven their ability to work anywhere.
“Previously, an employer might simply say, ‘This is our culture,’” says Tara Wolckenhauer, a
human-resources executive at payroll processor Automatic Data Processing Inc. “Employers
must take a step back and reconsider their approach.”
These are just some of the ways companies struggle with hybrid work plans.