Returning to the Office Will be Hard

Lambert here: And the essential workers?

Nicholas Bloom, Professor of Economics at Stanford University, Paul Mizen, Professor of Monetary Economics and Director of the Centre for Finance, Credit and Macroeconomics, and Shivani Taneja, Research Fellow, School of Economics, University of Nottingham. Originally published at VoxEU.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a collective shift to working from home. This column argues that though the shift was surprisingly easy, returning to the office will be hard. New evidence from a survey of 2,500 employees in the UK shows a preference in favour of home working 2-3 days a week, with lingering concerns of overcrowded transport and offices. But allowing workers to choose when to work from home will leave empty offices Monday and Friday, and many tasks such as large group meetings are more effective in person than online. Hybrid working will be the solution.

Leaving the office to work from home in spring 2020 was surprisingly easy. Almost immediately, workers began to work remotely using their own homes as workplaces in an attempt to carry on working while socially distancing due to COVID-19 (Davis et al. 2021a). Data show that 35% and 50% of workers were working from home in the US and some major European countries (Bick et al. 2020, Brynjolfsson et al. 2020, Buchheim et al. 2020, Aneyi et al. 2021).

Initially, productivity at home was lower than productivity at work in normal times (Bartik et al. 2020, Morikawa 2021). But jobs could be performed at home (Dingel and Neiman 2020), and employers got better at working from home, learning how to use the technology available in the 2020s. Compared to what might have happened a couple of decades earlier without affordable ICT equipment, fast internet connections and, most recently, videoconferencing software, the shift was surprisingly manageable.

Davis et al. (2021b) argue that the pandemic accelerated the widespread adoption of technologies used when working from home. This raised the relative productivity of working at home, particularly compared to the awkward and costly arrangements (e.g. personal protective equipment, hand sanitiser, social distancing) of working at the business premises.

A year or more after we first made the leap to working from home, employees like to work from home (Barrero et al. 2020a, Taneja et al. 2021) and returning to the office will be hard.

The May 2021 update of our survey (Taneja et al. 2021) of 2,500 working-age employees reveals what we have been hearing from dozens of firms. Firms and organisations are increasingly reporting major challenges persuading employees to come back to the office, driven in part by the surging labour market. We see that more than 70% of UK employees want to work from home 2+ days a week (see Figure 1) with similar figures in the US (Barrero et al. 2020b).

Figure 1 In 2022, how often would you like to have paid workdays at home?

Part of this is due to the relaxed atmosphere when working from home, with informal clothing and flexibility in balancing work and home chores, and the reluctance to get back into a 9-5 routine with the hassle of commuting. Workers don’t want to go back to ‘hard pants’ (Clark 2021a).

Another issue that is impeding the return to the office is a continued fear of crowding. Large numbers of respondents report fears of being close to their co-workers and fellow commuters. It may seem these worries are overblown – surely once everyone is vaccinated these concerns will pass?

Possibly, although precedents like the three-year lull in air traffic after the 9/11 terrorist attacks do not bode well. Our data suggest a large plurality of employees will be extremely hesitant to return to the office post-pandemic, making it harder still to achieve a return to the office for large firms.

Figure 2 Views on social distancing if a COVID-19 vaccine is approved

Complicating this further is what every manager has been fearing (Clark 2021b) – that, given a choice, most employees will take Monday and Friday off (Figure 3). Indeed only 36% of employees would come in on Friday, compared to 82% on Wednesday. This highlights the severe problems firms could face over the effective use of office space if they let employees pick their days to work from home. Providing enough desks for every employee coming in on Wednesday would leave most of these desks empty on Monday and Friday.

Efficient Office Space Use Will Require Coordination

Question: “If you got to work from home for two days per week, which two days would you choose?”

Figure 3 Preferred work-from-home days

Of course, to fix this peak-load problem, firms could centrally allocate days for each employee or each team to work from home. Indeed, this advice to centrally set work-from-home patterns is the advice we have been giving to firms (Bloom 2021a). But our survey highlights how even this could create challenges.

Those missing out on the coveted Monday and Friday work-from-home days could feel mistreated. Should CEOs and HR groups decide this by lottery, missing out on the chance to pick overlapping days for teams that work closely together? Or should they centrally decide work-from-home days and risk claims of favouritism when some team gets given Tuesday and Wednesday? Or might firms want to rotate work from home days every few months so all employees have an equal share of different days over the year? This would seem fairer but would complicate business and personal scheduling.

Interestingly, drilling into the data, we also see different groups have varying strengths of feelings over working from home on Monday and Fridays (Figure 4). Men with children are the group most focused on working from home Monday and Friday, while women with children are the most balanced across the week. Maybe fathers are planning long weekends away with (or without) their kids? Since we did not ask for the reasons for the choice of days, it is hard to know – but it highlights many of the complexities in planning the return to the office.

Men with Children Are Most Focused on Work from Home on Monday/Friday

Figure 4 Preferred work from home days for people with children, by sex

One other consideration from the May survey highlights why returning to the office, at least for a few days each week, is important: the need to run some activities in person – particularly, larger meetings. We asked respondents to our survey how they found the efficiency of meetings by video call compared to in person (Figure 5).

Large Meetings in Particular Are Better in Person

Question: “How do meetings compare by videocall (Zoom, Teams, etc.) versus in person in terms of how efficient the meetings turn out to be?”

Figure 5 Difference in efficiency of videocall versus in-person meetings, by meeting size

As you might guess, the data suggest that small meetings of two to four people are about as efficient by video call as in person. In-person meetings are typically easier for making personal connections and communicating, with the ability to make more visual cues and gestures. But in-person meetings require some travel time and present infection risk during pandemic times and potentially room-booking logistics.

Since a video call with two to four people means everyone occupies a large box on their Zoom screen, it is easy for everyone to speak. With few people on the call, it is also possible to meet without muting, so it is easier to have a flowing conversation. Hence the choice between video calls and in-person meetings is pretty balanced.

In contrast, almost half of all respondents reported large 10+ meetings were worse by video call, with only a quarter reporting they were better. Large meetings are harder by video call. Individuals are allocated to small boxes so it is hard to see the faces of the participants. People typically have to mute themselves because with large groups, there is always somebody whose neighbour is using a leaf blower or whose kids are practising the trumpet. And we hear from firms that large meetings can be hijacked by one or two vocal individuals.

When asked whether holding meetings by video calls had improved or reduced their overall efficiency, those respondents that answered positively indicated that the main benefit had been better time management. Individuals responding negatively cited the difficulties of accessing side conversations and the difficulty of communicating online, which is more problematic if there are many large group meetings.

As such, the advice to move to a hybrid working week seems appropriate (Bloom 2021b). Two or three days a week at home for quiet time and small meetings of two to four people; the remaining days in the office for social events, larger meetings, informal communication, and building company culture – this is becoming the norm for many businesses. Indeed, the tightness in the labour market means that some firms may never get their employees to return to the office without this.

References available at the original.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. PlutoniumKun

    This more or less matches up with my experience, although I think the ‘large meetings’ thing is not as clear as suggested. In my workplace, we have a large monthly team meeting (about 60 people) and it works far better online, expecially as a dozen or so attendees have to travel a long way to attend. The managers like it because they can mute the awkward squad (there are always 2 or 3 people who love to spin things out with long rambling anecdotes or questions), and everyone else likes it because its far more time efficient to do it online.

    I really wonder if the Monday/Friday thing is a big deal really. Any competent business should be able to work out a schedule for attending office. The one thing that can create friction in my experience is the mid-levels against junior level thing. In my days of being a union rep a continuous source of complaint was how mid level managers (i.e. people with children) often looked after each other when it came to flexible hours, while dumping the awkward work (and more unsocial working hours) on more junior staff. I can see this being replicated with hybrid working.

    One point though on Friday working – there have been experiments with four day week working and one thing they found is very significant cost savings if offices were left empty and unserviced (heat, cooling) for a 3 day weekend. When some organisations crunch the figures they may find that allowing everyone work from home on the same day could make sense. I can see some managers arrange Friday morning and late Friday evening online meetings, just to make sure everyone really is working.

    No matter how much senior management want to push it, I really don’t see things returning to the way it was. But neither will large scale working from home be a solution either. Most organisations will, I think over time return to a pattern of 2-3 days in the office (probably with more desk sharing to reduce office costs). A lot of workers will simply refuse to return to the old pattern, and in a relatively strong job market, they may have more power than they realise. A lot of organisations will realise that there can be significant costs savings if they work it right. It may well be the single most positive thing to come from Covid.

    1. Cocomaan

      The managers like it because they can mute the awkward squad (there are always 2 or 3 people who love to spin things out with long rambling anecdotes or questions), and everyone else likes it because its far more time efficient to do it online.

      I didn’t identify with the data on large meetings either. We have had this exact problem with the ramblers wanting to hijack meetings and make them go on forever. Meetings are an excuse for social interaction for those folks.

      My brother said it best about work from home: it’s just work. The social component that many people do not care for is gone, the commute is gone, the bullshit dress codes are gone. What’s left is a matter of getting your job done.

      Lambert also pointed to an obvious problem, which is parity between those who can and can’t work from home. It will continue to be a sore point in many organizations. And as Yves has said in the past, those who show up to the office are probably the ones who will be promoted.

      But for a fairly large slice of people, there is not a good reason not to work from home. It is, in a lot of ways, an industrial revolution. And like any industrial revolution it will have a lot of sore points

    2. Adam1

      I agree that there is another layer that really determines whether a meeting is as good or better/worse online vs. in-person. I’ve been in fairly large project meetings where it was important for everyone to be engaged and that would have been much better in-person. Whereas other large project meeting where it’s mostly just sub-team updates are way more efficient online. Similar with small groups… most are just as easy online as in-person, but I’ve had one or two that were really very brainstorming / exploratory in practice and it would have been best to have been in person with a white board and a big printer to support what we were doing.

    3. d w

      not so sure that desk sharing is a good idea, as some of us, have accessories for laptops (like monitor keyboard and mouse), others might have others. and desk sharing means for those who bring it stuff (pictures) that they cant do that any more. and dont even think you can bring laptop accessories, with your laptop too. its just likely that so many laptops and accessories will just end being broken etc. having folks on a 2 day at the office schedule would, but depending on how many work in that office, and how big the departments are, it may be difficult at best to allocate enough seats to each (and you will then need co-ordinate among the departments…..another minor politics at work problem)

      so maybe its a 1 day a week at the office, and if you are lucky, that will also solve it so that larger departments can have their meetings.
      also sort of depends on how much of a reduced amount of office space (and how the originally was set office is the wort, as there are no doors, or walls to speak of). and based on social distancing, how much of the space that remains, will actually tell business how many can be in the office

      1. fajensen

        not so sure that desk sharing is a good idea

        People are total swine and they will put boogers and chewing gum under every horisontal surface as well as getting a good skid-mark installed on that shared ergonomic chair!

        Hell, No!! I won’t be desk sharing, like they are planning* at my workplace, just give me my “outplacement package” already!!!

        *) I don’t think they are really planning “desk sharing”, it exists now as a part of a minor harassment programme, aimed at “naturally” matching the 450 persons office building more accurately to the 750 person staffing level.

    4. fajensen

      The managers like it because they can mute the awkward squad (there are always 2 or 3 people who love to spin things out

      My managers like it a lot too, because they get a much fewer inconvenient or critical questions when everyone knows that a digital record is being made, and a lot more “Pixels of North Korea – ‘raa, ‘raa, ‘raa”-performances.

  2. Brooklin Bridge

    I know a software engineer working in a complex, dense subject area (I believe he is rather critical to the project) who is seeking work elsewhere because he has been informed he will be working 5 days a week on site when the company changes work-from-home policy in August. The site where he works is crowded, people work uncomfortably close together even in non pandemic conditions and the commute is slightly over an hour each way. I imagine this sort of chair swapping will play out fairly often and thus potentially slow things down for a while. Just how much of an issue it is going to be is an open question.

    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      I have a former colleague who did the same thing. Got memo that he was going to be forced back into the office, quit, got better job working from home full time.

      He’s a really good engineer so I wonder if all this “chair swapping” is going to accomplish is to leave the stubborn bosses with B-level or C-level talent.

      1. cocomaan

        I’m doing this switch as we speak. I was told by a client that I’d have to be back in the office wearing a mask. Got a fully remote job and transitioning to it right now.

        I think you nailed it. It will be a fringe benefit of people who can get their work done and done well.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Could it be that over time, ChrisFromGeorgia, that you will have corporations that are flexible enough to have their workers stay at home (like with that engineer friend of yours) end up attracting people that are comfortable doing so while you have other corporations try to go back to working solely in the office? If the former can learn to really make themselves effective, that might give themselves an advantage over those that have to maintain expensive floor-space, office equipment, etc. Plus a workforce that might have to spend 2-4 hours a day simply traveling to and from work itself.

        1. ChrisFromGeorgia

          Thats kind of what I am thinking, the really forward looking companies will realize the folly of maintaining the overhead of an office, with not just a lease that is locked in at long terms but also equipment to maintain, carpet that wears out, etc.

          All for what, making some folks come in 3 days out of 7? If all you want is some occasional meeting space for large groups, there are other solutions that make more sense.

          The WeWork/co-sharing model looks better, I have to admit.

          1. juno mas

            Hmmm…so since the cost of office space is now the purview of the worker, will the employer put the office savings into employee salaries?

      3. JMM

        There was a relevant discussion on HackerNews yesterday (not that I love that site, but it’s good to see what the technorati think) There was this very relevant comment, which I subscribe, and it highlights a very important point:

        “However if a company suddenly changes an established working relationship, then all bets are off the table. If people have gotten used to WFH, and now you make them come into the office, then you’re invalidating the status quo bias. Switching jobs is probably less disruptive to their status quo then going back to the office.”

  3. Svejk

    In an organization where some important players were full-time remote before the pandemic, in-person meetings were ruined by the need to always allow some remote participants. Conference set-up time, dropouts, craning your neck to see the screen, difficulty hearing, etc., made it so hard that some people on-site would just stay in their offices rather than go to the meeting room. It has really been easier with everyone remote. I think this dynamic will be widely felt with some people slow to return to offices. Silo-ing, miscommunication, and other poor group dynamics will follow.

  4. R

    We have survived online quite happily (4 person VC team), interacting globally with portfolio companies and advisers on multiple investment rounds, two exits etc. One of us just had our first board mtg in person in 18m!

    We have also hired in the pandemic so we are now 5 people but like most people, we have played it safe and hired back former staff rather than risk hiring new people. And we lost a team member who was hired in the same way, by a former boss.

    However, we have had three physical meetings in this time. In each case, it could not have been done in person. Two with our sole LP to discuss terms for a new fund, one of which was in southern Europe (I drove rather than flew). The third was as a team, to develop the new fund proposition. For this team meeting, we hired a flat with a terrace and barbeque in Mayfair and had a 48h offsite residential meeting together. Not very off site: our office is in Belgravia, i.e. 15mins walk away :-)

    We are currently in the middle of our weeklong annual conference (we are a small part of a large group) and the CEO confirmed in the opening speech that remote working is here to stay. I think they would rather do the conference in person but I am not sure: it is a lot cheaper this way!

  5. ChrisFromGeorgia

    I just don’t see how large company CEOs reconcile two mutually incompatible goals:

    1. Virtue-signaling on climate change (or actually caring about it and doing something to make a difference)
    2. Forcing all/most of your employees to commute back in burning fossil fuels (outside of NYC where mass transit is more available. )

    Perhaps a masters program in “greenwashing” will be a minimum requirement for all future C-level executives.

    1. t

      These types need fawning and flattery in person, at any cost.

      There’s a scene in an old book about organization men and gray flannel suits where someone trying to rise up fumes for days when another toady manageds to be the one to carry the boss’s hat.

      Literally, a scene about being thwarted in you efforts to kiss ass.

  6. EarlyGray

    My employer (in Tokyo) has taken the opposite tack than a lot of others in that it has decided that it will not be renewing the lease for the office when it expires this autumn. It has found that working from home has not led to a huge decrease in productivity, and has deemed the rent it is paying to be a waste of money.

    I actually have mixed feelings about this. While I don’t want to return to going to the office 5 days a week, like most of the survey respondents, I would like to go in a few days a week. I do miss the casual encounters with co-workers who I may not be working with directly and it’s not just the social aspect. Sometimes these conversations have led to good ideas and advice which helped my work directly.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Never thought about it but this must have been what it was like when telephones were introduced over a century ago. Before then, you either met face to face or you exchanged letters. But when telephones were introduced, you were talking to the same person but could not see them! And the voice did not quite sound like them and there may have been static on the line. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for people to get use to talking to people like this? It must have totally disrupted office work. Here is an early doco showing the early days of the telephone- (25:56 mins)

      1. juno mas

        Pre-internet , working as a state official, conversing over the phone with other unknown (federal, state ) officials was often the prevalent interaction. It’s possible to gain insight (trust, or not) in phone conversations. There are ways to discover the (in)competence of others through a phone conversation. (Easy to be distracted by visual appearance.)

  7. KLG

    I don’t know. This is a PMC thing if I ever saw one. If you want to work at home, work for yourself. If you work from home for someone or something else, that is just another tentacle of the neoliberal work/consume 24/7 world wrapping itself around your neck and squeezing a little more life out of you. And really, what about those without the space or the required peace and quiet? I live in a relatively large house in flyover country that has room for anything I can imagine. But I cannot imagine working from home on the table in the breakfast nook/dining room of an apartment in the city.

    I’ve also asked this before: Your employer sends you a new laptop, docking station, and monitor. You are now your IT person, too! Yay! Increased productivity that goes straight to someone else’s bottom line. While carrying the monitor down to your basement workspace you trip and fall down the stairs. The monitor wrapped in it styrofoam cocoon is fine, but you have a broken shoulder, a severely sprained knee, and serious contusions about the head and neck. Other than that you are fine. Your employer-based healthcare (sic) sucks, with the usual high hurdles and deductibles. Are you covered by Workman’s Compensation?

    1. SusanS

      I live by myself. I like going to work and find I am more productive at work when I can talk with people in person.

  8. lyman alpha blob

    I am probably in the minority here as with many issues, but I can’t wait to get back to the office.

    My company had a good percentage of people who worked from home prior to the rona, but I was not one of them. My commute is five minutes – I have always made it a point to decide where I want to live and then get a job nearby. Commute is a little longer if I take the bus instead of carpooling with my spouse, but then I get to read a book on the way to work.

    So sick of being home all the time – I don’t know how people do it voluntarily. As soon as they let us back to the office normally, I will be there with bells on. I don’t care who is vaccinated or not or how close they get to me.

    If however they open the office and try pulling some safety theater with plexiglass and floor arrows and social distancing requirements and everyone worried about their neighbor not having washed their hands enough, I will be staying home.

  9. Ook

    Some of this makes sense to me. Other parts don’t.
    For example, I keep hearing that “Workers don’t want to go back to ‘hard pants’”, an attitude and phraseology that strikes me as childish. I work in an area that has a high percentage of fashionably dressed people, and that is one of the pleasures of being there. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing: certainly some Americans think it’s a point of pride to dress like they’re homeless.

    As far as meetings go, it’s important to watch body language and quick micro reactions that are gone in an instant, and none of this is caught on Zoom.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I have regular Zoom meetings with a lady who dresses to the nines. Hair perfect, just like her makeup. Oh-so-fashionable attire — at least from the waist up. And jewelry — lots of jewelry.

      So, if you want to be a fashionista, you can still do that via Zoom.

      1. Yves Smith

        Worse than that. Apparently during Peak Covid, sales of high end jewelry boomed (we are talking Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels level) because rich ladies were determined to look their best!

        1. Arizona Slim

          In this case, the lady is also a jewelry maker. (She’s good, BTW.) In her case, a Zoom meeting is a chance to show off some of the pieces in her collection.

          And, Yves, it’s nice to see you back around here, just one week after your surgery. I hope your recovery is progressing at warp speed!

      2. Ook

        Nahh… As with all things zoomish, dressing up for a zoom call has about 20% of the effect.

  10. Glossolalia

    I haven’t seen a breakdown by age of who wants to go back to the office. The mid-size software company where I work hires scores of recent graduates across all departments. The sales and marketing floor where they are concentrated is like a sorority or fraternity house. My guess is those kids are desperate to get back to the office. In your first job you work long hours and your coworkers are often your friends, your dating circle, etc. Add to that the fact that most kids right out of college are either living at home or with multiple roommates who are also all working from home.

    Anecdotally, I have a friend who is a partner at a big Silicon Valley law firm. He’s telling me that the junior associates are being very vocal about being allowed back in to the office and they are actually losing staff to companies in states (mostly in the south) where offices are open and in-person.

  11. Sutter Cane

    Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs” was published in 2018 and was remarkably prescient. I wish Graeber was around to comment on the post-pandemic work from home situation.

    Even if they don’t consider their own job to be “bullshit,” most Americans keep it a secret how much (or how little) actual work they do in any given week. It is common in any job to have periods of more intense activity interspersed with slack periods of downtime. A good employer understands this and gives employees a long leash so long as they get the work done when needed.

    Most US employers are not “good”, however, and make people keep up a pretense of being perpetually busy even during slack moments, and this is often more exhausting than doing the actual work.

    Working from home allows people to drop the facade of constantly appearing busy for micromanaging supervisors, and most people are going to resent returning to their gaze.

    1. cocomaan

      Exactly. Most office jobs involve specialized routines that take a long time to understand. As a result, a lot of people are “on retainer” in their own office, getting paid a fee to engage in downtime as well as uptime.

      Office workers act more like consultants than like factory workers, who need to be engaged in production constantly.

      I’m a huge fan of Graeber, and this does make many jobs look like BS jobs, but on the other hand, most people accept a level of bureaucracy in their lives, ostensibly in order to encourage fairness. And there’s no bureaucracy without bloat and specialized functions.

    2. neo-realist

      Yes, it is important to keep the facade of being busy, on rare occasions when you’re not, for those managers who like to sternly glare at you while you’re working as if you are barely earning your keep.

      Man, I’m going to hate dealing with those “social animals” and lonely hearts, who will likely talk your ear off when we come back to the office–“how ya doing, what have you been doing with yourself, how do you like being back”; the small talk nonsense I’ve been spared while working remotely.

      At the very least, even if I did not have much to contribute to my firm, I would not consider my gig bullshit if only because employment, outside of retirement with a pension, is the only way to get decent health care in our system.

  12. Anthony Stegman

    What will all this working from home do to serendipitous romantic relationships? Over the years I’ve known many happily married couples who met in their respective workplaces. The workplace is a terrific place to meet a potential love match, despite all the caveats.

  13. Peter from Dallas

    I met up with some coworkers for a happy hour a few months ago. I’m in the software industry. The talk turned to when we were going back to the office. (My company is going to allow people to come back to the office full time on a voluntary basis next month.) A couple of people had spouses in HR at other companies. Their recruiters were telling them that if they demanded their workers come back to the office, they could expect to lose about 50% of their staff.

    For me personally, I don’t mind going back to the office once a week or once every other week if the day is mostly going to be filled with meetings. If I had my own office at work, I’d be ok going back more often. However, since the software industry went to open space everywhere, I really don’t want to be around that all the time. I was OK with it before we were told to work from home. Now I look at my desk in the wide open with people everywhere around, it just sucks the life out of me. I would definitely be in that group looking for a new job if I had to go back more than once a week.

  14. sd

    I’ve seen a shift in my industry going the other way. The employer has identified several positions that work easily from home saving the office space and expenses for those who actually need to be there in person. So are starting to insist they work from home.

    Large meetings are easier on zoom by virtue of the fact that half of us are just there to take notes. Instead of traveling to get to the meeting from wherever I am that day, I just jump on a zoom. Rushing back to the office for a meeting to take notes for my Department was a big time waster.

    We added a daily zoom call for our department during last years project
    that seemed to improve communication. Employees with weak technical skills who were using their social skills to get along got quickly exposed.

    I think a balance can be struck rather than just an all or nothing.

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