Work-from-Home, Work-from-Anywhere, WTF!?
Stop the confusion and commit to flexibility
Tim Cook wants his employees to come back to the office three specific, conveniently selected, days a week. James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, has articulated his steadfast commitment to having all workers back in the office by stating, “If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office. And we want you in the office.” While Cook and Gorman are more explicit in their policies, Facebook’s extension of its work from home policy is generous only on the surface. Upon closer inspection, Zuckerberg states a work from home policy can be exercised only “if your duties can be performed remotely.” It would be interesting to hear more about Zuckerberg’s definition of “if.”
Similar stories are experienced daily by business leaders navigating the confusing post-pandemic world. From the employee’s perspective, the uncertainty of their bosses’ intentions and general fickleness are confusing, but the evidence on their preference is discernible — most people want to continue working from home, or at the very least have the ability to decide on their own accord. Many are willing to quit their jobs if forced to return to the office full-time.
So why are business leaders trying to implement strict policies now that the pandemic is subsiding? Why is “hybrid” becoming increasingly about counting the days in the office?
I understand my naivete with the current situation and I am not insinuating to have figured out the complexity of the issue at hand. As a CEO I’m facing the exact same choices. And it’s not easy; that’s why we don’t make snap decisions.
A couple of years ago, if my employee called in sick and offered to work from home, I would’ve replied with a perfunctory “get better” but would’ve been suspicious, thinking, “So you just want your Friday away from the office, don’t you!”. I consider my management style empowering and accommodating, but I always enjoyed seeing my team in the office; the casual chats by the coffee machine or ad-hoc gatherings by someone’s desk facilitated an environment of camaraderie. I enjoyed how they arrived in our conference room for a weekly team meeting, or how they were leaving work quietly on an unremarkable day or, in joyful spirits on a Friday afternoon, anticipating the deserved rest.
I believe this is a shared sentiment amongst business leaders, myself included, who have built their companies and solid teams. Building teams rooted in culture takes an earnest commitment over time that stems from in-person interactions, in good times and bad.
The pandemic forced everyone to take a step back and restructure. We accepted the set-up that had previously seemed acceptable only in rare circumstances. We had no choice. We adjusted, but our biases and insecurities never left and as we are coming out of the pandemic, we are looking for ways to get back to our comfort zones; this attempt however cannot come at the expense of our employees’ comfort zones.
So what should business leaders be doing?
Cook, Gorman, and Zuckerberg, what I say to you is “It’s Not About You.” The solution is to sign a new pact with our employees — that of unconditional and unconstrained trust. Some individuals and teams will perform the best working from home consistently; we should provide them with that opportunity. However, if someone requires office space, we should provide that too. Time and time again, our employees have risen to every challenge, and the pandemic was no exception. Now is a time for us to partner and learn from our successful and loyal teams, who have collectively helped during one of the most challenging times in recent history.
Amir Moussavian is a seasoned technology entrepreneur and founder of Eturi Corp. Eturi develops essential cross-platform solutions for mobile devices. Eturi’s flagship product, OurPact, is the world’s leading screen time management application. Eturi’s new product — Motiv — is a mobile-first dashboard for CEOs and business leaders that provides valuable insight into their teams. Motiv allows hybrid organizations, and their leaders, to navigate a decentralized workforce while addressing potential privacy concerns.