The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated workplace trends that had been slowly germinating for years. Chief among them is that distributed work is here to stay.
Through the early weeks of the pandemic, organizations and employees alike struggled with the sudden shift to remote work. But now, business leaders have warmed to the idea that their people could stay productive away from the office—at least for part of the week. Up to 70 percent of organizations are planning for at least some portion of their workforce continuing to work from home. Research from Harvard Business School confirms this, with more than 81 percent of office workers saying that they do not see themselves returning to the post-COVID office five days a week.
Several approaches to distributed work have emerged, from the “binary strategy” (in which organizations view employees as either office workers or remote workers) to the “remote-first strategy” (in which working from home becomes every employee’s primary mode). The fastest-growing approach — and the one we feel has the potential to help most organizations thrive in this new reality — is one in which most employees exercise autonomy in choosing from a broad array of options both within and beyond the office for where they’ll work on a given day.
This so-called “hybrid strategy” presents organizations with an opportunity to holistically address the needs of a highly diverse workforce with a focus on equity of experience. This means considering the needs of remote team members as well as their colleagues in the office. A myriad of factors can affect an individual’s productivity and engagement—everything from work styles, location of colleagues, and project deadlines to home office conditions, parenting responsibilities, and physical/ sensory needs. And these factors are not fixed; they can change from day to day or week to week.
By trusting employees to make choices based on their daily tasks and preferences — with support whether they choose to come into the office or work from home — organizations can reshape the office into a sought-after destination for those social and cultural connections that cannot be recreated virtually.
Content shared by Jereme Brown, a MillerKnoll client development executive in the Ann Arbor region.