During the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented number of Americans started working remotely. So what happens now that vaccines and falling case numbers are making it possible to return to the office? There’s a hotly contested debate.
On one side, you have Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who believes the new workforce will look like the old, pre-pandemic, office-based workforce. Working from home, Dimon says, “doesn’t work for those who want to hustle. It doesn’t work for spontaneous idea generation. It doesn’t work for culture.”
On the other side, you have researchers cited by Harvard Business Review, who point out the strategic and tactical benefits of a hybrid workforce.
While the coronavirus pandemic intensified the debate about working from home, research about remote work actually goes back a lot farther. If you’re mulling what’s next for your own teams, consider these findings:
- According to data from the U.S. going back to 1970, if you allow people to work from home, performance increases by 10%-20%. But there are two caveats: 1. You must have the right metrics in place (which means you must be measuring the behaviors that lead to success). 2. You also need the right rewards in place (which means you need rewards that are meaningful to your employees).
- Beyond metrics and rewards, there’s a third factor that increases work-from-home performance: autonomy. In a program done in China, a group of employees was allowed to work from home for nine months – with the right metrics and the right reward. Performance increased by 13%. Then, one group was allowed to continue working at home. Another group returned to the office. A third group was given the autonomy to choose whether and when to work from home or the office. For that group, performance went up by 22%! This autonomy is the foundation of the hybrid work environment. And it can be mutually beneficial to both the employer and the employee.
- Citrix surveyed more than 2,000 millennials and members of Gen Z across 10 countries. The survey found that 90% (not a typo!) wanted to work full time, but did not want to be at the office full time. In the current global war for talent, the Citrix data should grab the attention of anyone who intends to be in business for the foreseeable future or who intends to sell their business for any kind of multiple of what they believe it is worth. If you are not building a culture that facilitates a hybrid (or distributed) work environment, be prepared to lose top talent to those that are.
What Jamie Dimon attributes to the collocated workforce – hustle, spontaneous collaboration, culture – can all be achieved in a hybrid and distributed workforce if you understand how to do so. Some companies have been doing it for years. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I am a big fan of taking what is working across industries and across cultures and applying it to other industries.
My next series of four blog articles will focus on what you can do, strategically and tactically, to transition out of the pandemic to be successful in the future with a hybrid workforce.
I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note.
Let’s keep cultivating our culture, together!