Remote Work: Great Success *and* Falling Apart
Quite the duality we see
Another week, another remote work study. At least that’s how it feels in my Google Alerts. I noticed two articles that I want to chat with you about this week.
The first is PwC’s COVID-19 remote work survey.
The second is a Financial Post article about bankers’ concerns around remote work.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
The good: Remote work is going great
The key stat from PwC’s survey is that 83% of employees say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company. That’s up from 73% when PwC did the survey in June 2020.
Suffice it to say, that’s a huge majority. Remote work works, you may cry (and I’d agree with you)!
The bad: Culture
Financial Post - and PwC’s study - both talked about culture.
In the PwC study, 68% of employers say that culture will only be preserved if employees are in the office for three (29%), four (18%) or five (21%) days per week. And as the study’s author boldly claim: “The office is here to stay, but its role is set to change.”
Big bankers tend to agree with PwC’s findings. Here’s a big bold juicy quote from the article:
“I don’t think it’s sustainable,” Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s asset- and wealth-management boss, Mary Erdoes, agreed."
"In the corporate world, “if you ask anyone today, it feels like it is fraying, it’s hard, it takes a lot of inner strength and sustainability every single day to continue to focus and to not have the energy you get from being around other people,” she said."
Schrodinger’s ways of work
When bigwigs from JP and Barclays make these bold pronouncements, people pay attention. But then again, reddit investors are rumoured to have put a hedge fund out of business with their Gamestop shilling, so who knows what’s real anymore.
All I can say is this: I kindly ask the good people of the investment banking world to stop implying remote work and lockdown work are the same thing. They are not the same thing. To say that “remote work” (aka everyone working from home under lockdown conditions) is damaging to culture is like saying that it was the perfectly good milk that got you sick instead of the rancid sausage. Yes, both were from breakfast. But it’s clear that one is going to impact you more than the other. In case this metaphor got lost: remote work is milk. Lockdown work is rancid sausage. One is worse than the other for your health.
And then we have the “we can’t do remote work we need offices” chorus.
You do need offices. They are essential to a culture that deems them essential. While there are many ways to build culture remotely, if that’s not the vibe you want for your company I 100% respect that.
I only suggest a few things:
Hybrid remote work exists: You can be in the office 1-4 days a week. Or even 5, with flexibility for people. That’s a form of remote work (remote work is both a way of work but also a spectrum. It’s not binary).
Most companies transitioning to remote are doing hybrid first / only: You don’t have to choose a binary option and you’d be in good company choosing hybrid. You can create the thing that works best for your culture (here’s a guide on how to do that).
/ end rant.
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