As populations get vaccinated, and many countries prepare for something of a return to normality, companies that have been forced into remote-work arrangements for the past year now face a complicated decision. Should bosses let workers stay at home, bring everyone back to the office or find a solution in between?
Businesses are answering in different ways. Some have been quick to herald a completely new world of work, like file-hosting service Dropbox, which went “virtual first”, in 2020, pointing to the benefits of “non-linear workdays” and “employee experience”. But others, like tech giant Facebook and insurance company Aviva, are opting for a “hybrid” model, offering greater flexibility and independence for workers while maintaining certain structures.
Yet some employers, particularly within the finance industry, suggest the long-term role of remote work has been overstated, and that the office will continue to serve as an important hub. “It’s not a new normal,” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said at a Credit Suisse Group AG conference in February. “It’s an aberration that we are going to correct as quickly as possible.” Jes Staley, chief executive of Barclays, voiced similar sentiments in January, describing remote working as a short-term measure that was not sustainable.
The structure of the post-pandemic work world therefore remains up in the air, despite some workers’ assumptions that office life has changed forever. It may be hard to know exactly what set-up an individual employer may choose when the time comes, but understanding why opinions are so diverse – and why some sectors are keen to have employees back in house – may help workers prepare for a future that may look different than they anticipated.