not remotely working

Watching the return-to-office efforts starting around the world is a fascinating exercise. Not everyone wants a return to the old normal.

“But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.” —Bloomberg 2021-06-01

Some people are quitting rather than going back to work in the office full-time.

“When you average out some of the bigger surveys you discover that 39% of an organization’s employees say they will consider quitting rather than returning to the office full time. Companies that have been among the first to attempt returning their people back to full time office work are discovering that half of that 39% are doing more than considering, they are in fact quitting.” —Steve Keating 2021-06-06

Many organizations are offering a hybrid solution, part-time working from anywhere but the office. I have called hybrid work arrangements the worst of both worlds which have the potential to create two classes of workers — insiders and outsiders.

This is the approach to hybrid work at Citi, from CEO Jane Fraser, with set principles on how to best use office time, and a minimum of three days in the office.

“The majority of roles globally will be designated as Hybrid. These colleagues will work in the office at least three days per week and from home up to two days per week. This is not just a scheduling exercise; we will be thoughtful about when we ask colleagues to be in the office together, using the four principles [Belonging, Collaboration, Apprenticeship & Learning, Competitiveness, and Performance] above —Citigroup Blog 2021-03-24

Last week, Apple had announced a hybrid work plan based on Monday, Tuesdays, and Thursdays in the office. Two days later Apple employees collectively pushed back.

“However, we would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues. That Apple’s remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple … Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored. Messages like, ‘we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,’ with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating. Not only do many of us already feel well-connected with our colleagues worldwide, but better-connected now than ever.” —The Verge 2021-06-04

Not allowing fully distributed knowledge work may not last for long. It’s visible on the edges already. For example the startup founders at Initialized found a recent significant shift in the choices for startup location. In 2020 41.6% of their portfolio chose the San Francisco Bay Area, while only 6% opted for remote/distributed workplaces. One year later and 42.1% were opting for remote/distributed work as their primary choice.

As — or if — this pandemic winds down, it may get difficult to attract and retain talented people unless they have a degree of control over where they spend their time, especially if competitors offer work from anywhere.

it's not remote work, it's distributed

Sackville, New Brunswick — far from the madding crowd

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