The past two years has produced a lot of speculation and back-and-forth about whether companies will bring their employees back to the office.
This week, Google’s hybrid work arrangement started, which means that most employees are now expected to be in the office three days each week.
Many companies have advocated a hybrid workweek as a plausible and fair way forward, and it’s largely considered a key component of the future of work.
But one former Google executive believes that eventually, most companies will resume their pre-pandemic models and have the majority of staff in the office, the majority of the time.
Google’s former head of HR, Lazlo Bock, told Bloomberg that hybrid work likely won’t last long-term.
According to Bock, there are two reasons companies are likely to return to the way they were pre-pandemic. The first is due to proximity bias. Bock believes that employees who work remotely will be at a disadvantage when it comes to promotions or pay increases, compared with their in-office peers.
Second, business leaders and managers want employees back in the office. “We’ll get everyone back into the office eventually. I just don’t want to pick that fight now,” Bock says one Google executive told him.
The shift to remote work was challenging, particularly for those who were accustomed to working with their teams in-person. Some habits are hard to break.
But that doesn’t mean working in the office is the be-all-and-end-all solution.
Let’s not forget that workers value choice and flexibility. While many indeed prefer a busy office to a quiet home environment, others do not, and having the option to choose their ideal working environment can greatly increase worker happiness, wellbeing, productivity and loyalty.
Bock believes it will be three to five years before everyone is back in the office, the way things were before Covid-19.
For businesses that have thrived with a remote workforce, or even maintained productivity, is it worth resuming traditional office-based work models? That remains to be seen. For now at least, it’s expected that hybrid work will remain a key part of the future of work.