Collaboration and Expectations: Where We Stand Regarding A Hybrid Workweek

After a year and a half of working from home, companies have started calling their employees back into their offices. However, as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread, we’ve seen a growing disconnect between employees hesitant to return to their offices and executives pushing to get them back. So, where are we now?

To align themselves with the expectations of their employees, many companies have moved towards implementing a hybrid work model that will allow employees to work both in-office and remotely. As a result, questions have shifted from “is a hybrid work model possible?” to “how can a hybrid work model be sustainable?”

Remote Work and Career Growth

We’ve learned a lot about how executives feel regarding remote work since the beginning of the pandemic. But with unique systems such as a hybrid work model in place, questions remain regarding the implications working from home will have on an employee’s career growth.

For example, how certain is it that employees working from home will have continued access to the same guidance and mentorship they had before the pandemic? Moreover, how will a hybrid model affect overall relationships between colleagues, and ultimately, a company’s culture itself?

The Society for Human Resource Management surveyed approximately a thousand senior-leveled supervisors across multiple industries to understand how those in management feel regarding remote workers and their career growth. Some key results of the study are as follows:

● 67% of supervisors admit to considering remote workers as being more easily replaceable than on-site workers.
● 62% consider remote work to be detrimental to an employee’s career objectives.
● 72% stated they prefer their subordinates to be working in the office rather than at home.

As we move forward with adopting hybrid work models, companies must eliminate any management bias against remote workers to ensure dedicated employees won’t be hindered by their choice to work remotely.

Divided Industries

On Wall Street, CEOs from the largest financial institutions largely reflect the findings of the SHRM survey, with many hoping to have most employees back in the office by mid-September.

During an investing conference webcast, the CEO of Morgan Stanley, James Gorman, told employees to be back by Labor Day or they’ll “have a different kind of conversation.” Being on-site enables essential collaboration to solve day-to-day issues and ensures proper training through observation, Gorman emphasized.

David M. Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, has also been vocal about his opposition regarding remote work. For Solomon, remote work is an “aberration,” stating that for businesses like his, which are innovative and rely heavily on collaborative apprenticeship culture, remote work is “not ideal and not a new normal.”

Both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs began calling employees back into their offices earlier this year. They have relied on increased office precautions—such as proof of vaccination status and mask requirements—to prevent outbreaks in the workplace. Both executives hope to be back to pre-pandemic levels by October.

The drastic tonal shift regarding remote work from leading companies in different industries, however, is significant to note.

For Silicon Valley tech companies, remote work has primarily been preferred and even encouraged. In an email to his employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai stated that “Google’s future workplace will have room for all [hybrid] possibilities.” CEO of Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey, announced earlier this year that his employees may work from home “forever.”

In June, Apple CEO Tim Cook emailed his staff to inform them that a policy change regarding working from home was imminent. In the email, Cook called for his employees to return to the office for three fixed days out of the week starting in September. In response, employees circulated a survey to reveal that Apple’s decision was misaligned with their expectations amid the growing delta variant surge. 68% of the survey’s respondents agreed that the lack of “location flexibility would likely cause them to leave Apple.”

Due to the growing health concerns, Apple has since fallen back on its initial plan to bring employees back into the office in September, settling for January 2022 instead.

A Shift in Power

By and large, employees have maintained their preference for remote work, forcing executives to consider the expectations of their employees for any return to the office plan to work, hybrid or not.

A study conducted by Citrix Systems, a multinational company whose products are used by many Fortune 500 companies, found that 45% of employees surveyed would “only accept a role that offered flexible remote options” if they were to change jobs. In addition, 52% of surveyed employees stated that they would like a “hybrid model where they can choose to work remotely or from the office each day.”

As the number of companies that offer a hybrid work model increases, so will the number of applicants that will expect a hybrid work schedule. A Harvard Business Review survey found that employees want to work from home two days out of the week on average. So what does this mean for executives? Companies that don’t offer a hybrid option could find themselves at a disadvantage in retaining and hiring talented employees.

One approach firms on Wall Street have recently implemented to maintain a steady applicant pool has been to increase salaries. For example, Goldman Sachs announced salary increases of nearly 30% for entry-level employees and second-year analysts. First-year associates will also see a salary increase of 20%. Multiple firms on Wall Street, such as JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup, have also increased salaries for entry analysts.

With such drastic changes in policy, it is clear that we are entering a new paradigm. Wall Street didn’t raise salaries because they wanted to—they did it because they had to. An increase in demand leads to a rise in price, and Wall Street isn’t the first to notice that they’ll have to pay accordingly if they want workers to remain on-site only.

As we progress, companies that don’t appease job applicants will lose them to those that do, especially when it comes to remote work flexibility and pay.

Collaboration Will Be Key Moving Forward

By and large, employees across all industries have favored remote work, with many stating they feel more productive due to an improved work-life balance. But the question stands—how do you run a company over a zoom call? Much like remote work demands collaboration, executives will need to collaborate with their employees to build this new workweek concept.

For a hybrid model to work across the leading companies that influence our economy, both employers and employees will need to contribute more, not less. For example, when working from home, an employee’s mental presence must be greater than what it would be in person due to the numerous distractions one has at home. On the other hand, executives must consider how to maintain their established culture over a screen rather than in person. Effective communication amongst teams will be essential for ensuring a company’s culture remains intact.

A significant portion of the non-executive workforce has experienced the numerous benefits that working from home provides, and taking that away won’t be easy. Improved work-life balance, less commute stress, and location independence are influential factors that help increase an employee’s happiness and thus, encourage them to be more productive in a role they fully appreciate.

There is no guaranteed method for establishing a hybrid work model in any industry as of yet. However, as we continue to study the hybrid work model and how it ultimately evolves, we will gain a deeper insight into the planning and restructuring required to effectively have a hybrid workweek. With Wall Street calling their employees back to the office this month and tech companies keeping theirs at home, the hybrid work model debate is far from over.

Executives Unlimited will continue to monitor the ever changing work landscape. We remain committed to helping our clients navigate these issues and to find the best solutions to create a sustainable and successful work environment for all.