It’s time to go back to work

 I spent this past week working in the office with a group of my Protocolleagues. (Better than Metamates, amirite?) What a relief to be back in-person to see people’s 3D facial expressions and to know that some of your co-workers’ personal brands have nothing to do with what they say on Twitter and everything to do with the fact that they wear novelty socks.

But all that in-person stuff made me mentally and physically exhausted, and I’m an extrovert! I never mastered the hybrid meeting. I talked to too many people and drank too many Diet Cokes. I somehow accomplished less, but it felt like so much more. Mostly, I missed my sweatpants.

In-person office life is coming fast, especially for Big Tech. If you, too, miss your sweatpants when you’re away from them, you might want to start brushing up on your in-office etiquette.

  • Microsoft, Meta, and Expedia recently announced that they’re returning to the office.
  • After a year of “will, they or won’t they” back and forths, Apple, Google, and Twitter also finalized dates for return to the office.
  • And although Salesforce still embraces the “Success from Anywhere” ethos, the company announced the acquisition of more real estate to convince employees that their offices are appealing as a “destination for collaborating and connecting.”

Does that mean Zoom town’s dead? Lots of folks left their NYC/SF/DC bubbles in favor of a life with a slower speed and a lower cost of living.

  • This migration away from cities (especially among young people) always happens, but the pandemic sped up the process for many and the proliferation of remote work caused an unprecedented growth of towns designed for telecommuting.

If Zoom town is located near a big city, this phenomenon is far from over. Stanford researcher Nicholas Bloom is part of the founding team at WFH Research where he studies the patterns of the workplace for professionals.

  • His data (and many surveys we’ve seen) found that most tech workers want a hybrid plan, meaning two to three days in the office per week, and that’s exactly what the big tech companies are offering.
  • This means that most people will have to stay near the big cities where their offices are located, but they can move out a little farther if they want (and if they haven’t already). He calls this the “The Donut Effect.”

Once you’re in the office, not everyone will be masked up. It took the CDC until July 2020 to officially announce that masks would help stop the spread of COVID-19, and masks still do this.

  • But as of Feb. 25, 2022, the CDC revised its guidelines: At least 70% of Americans can stop wearing masks in most places, including the office. Shortly after the announcement, Amazon and Apple lifted mask mandates, and Google did, too, with the exception of its office in Santa Clara County, where masks are required until the spread slows down to meet the CDC guidelines.

Eventually, things could go back to some sort of “normal,” even though nobody’s sure what that is anymore. According to Bloom’s research, there might finally be a little certainty in the uncertainty, saying that he thinks the return will be gradual, but steady.

  • “You want to give employees an initial period to encourage them back, say starting shortly, and an end period when they have to be back on a regular basis, say three-two hybrid,” he said.
  • “That end period tends to be three to six months as it is hard for employees to suddenly move if they have been fully remote for two years. Some can easily return but others have changed state so need to change apartment leases, move possessions, etc.”

But as we’ve seen for more than two years, flexibility is everything. Workers have said time and again that they value flexibility in the workplace. And they will leave if they don’t get it. Tech professionals (like most professionals) want their bosses to trust them to know where and when they do their best work, within reason. That might mean letting managers decide how often workers come into the office and it might mean letting the employees decide, but it rarely means instituting a one-size-fits-all policy for everyone at the company.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post