Hybrid looks vastly different across every office. If the future is hybrid, to many executives that means the future is choose-your-own-adventure. But now the emphasis is shifting from adventure to choice. Executives are making return-to-office plans with more permanence, communicating requirements more clearly after months of hesitation and mushy expectations, though what their plans look like vary widely.
A New Office Culture
The past two years have changed the way we work in profound ways.
“There’s not a Hybrid Office 101, where you can pick up the book and see what 100 offices have done before,” said Richard Buery, chief executive of the Robin Hood Foundation, which requires employees to come in two days a week.
When Amazon’s chief executive, Andy Jassy, told employees to return to the office three days a week, he cited the need for more “face-to-face” and “serendipitous interactions.” Previously, team directors each set remote work expectations. In response to the policy change, employees rebelled, drafting petitions and starting the “Remote Advocacy” Slack channel, where they argued that returning to the office would make child care more difficult, and exchanged concerns about their badge data being tracked. One Slack message, viewed by The New York Times, read: “I have not slept through the night since the announcement.”
At Starbucks, which recently told corporate employees to come back to the office three days a week, more than 40 of them wrote an open letter in protest, saying: “Morale is at an all-time low, and the brand reputation and financial value of this publicly traded company are at risk.”
At Conductor, which has required all employees within 90 minutes of an office to return three days a week, managers are ensuring that their teams adhere to the rules. Mr. Besmertnik believes that a lack of discipline, with hybrid work, leads to “self-fulfilling failure.”
Orchard, a real estate company, gave its 500 employees an “open enrollment” period in which to decide whether they wanted to be remote or office workers. The 60 percent who selected the office are expected to come in two days a week.