The new non-mandated hybrid workplace

Post-pandemic workers are looking for very different things from their employers and offices. Progressive companies must embrace this new reality rather than trying to put the mandate genie back in the bottle.

Employees want to retain more flexibility around how and where they do their work. (Credit: Getty Images)
Employees want to retain more flexibility around how and where they do their work. (Credit: Getty Images)

After a few months of trialing back-to-the-office policies and hybrid arrangements the people have spoken - and it’s time to use that knowledge to build a sustainable future workplace.

We know talent has always been a top priority in the PR industry but the market now is hotter than it’s ever been. Recruiters quoted in last week’s PRWeek analysis by Chris Daniels painted a picture of record pay raises, generous bonuses, working from home, flexible work options and red hot demand.

We also know significant numbers of people have reassessed their priorities during the pandemic and simply decided to change their lives and do something different: hence the Great Resignation.

And a poll PRWeek and Campaign reporter Sabrina Sanchez ran on her LinkedIn profile provided fascinating insights into PR pros’ views on returning to the office. Almost 600 people voted and 84% of them stated they didn’t want a fully in-person or mandated hybrid environment as their ideal working situation. Only 4% want to go back to fully in-person and 12% favor a mandated hybrid arrangement.

A report released this week by commercial real estate services and investment company CBRE showed 60% of large companies are redesigning their headquarters, with one in four of those doing away with private offices, 69% having onsite coffee shops, 58% building auditoriums and 31% having outdoor spaces.

The CBRE report’s lead author Susan Wasmund notes: "People are choosing to do their heads-down work at home. They want to come back to collaborate, and they want to come back for team events."

In an op-ed on PRWeek.com this week, Edelman’s Jonathan Jordan says we should flip the narrative around the Great Resignation and start seeing it as a positive development. It is the new reality and it’s time to embrace it and accentuate the positive.

He suggests many of those resigning already had one foot out the door and that flexibility, empathy and opportunities for professional growth must be top of mind.

“Companies must reestablish their employer brand narrative across all channels and answer the wakeup call of the ‘Great Resignation,’” adds Jordan.

In the comments appended to Sanchez’s LinkedIn survey, Wells Fargo’s Nicole Dye-Anderson says she favors a non-mandated approach, believing companies that enforce remote or in-person mandates will continue to see “escalated attrition.”

“Companies that try to impose 100% in-person or mandate 2-3 days in office will continue to lose top talent to companies that understand times have changed,” she says. “Folks no longer simply want work/life balance. People want a life, and a job where the only mandate is for a job well done.”

LinkedIn’s Michael Kaye favors a hybrid model because “in-person collaboration and communication results in higher efficiency and productivity,” but likes the flexibility to be able to exercise in the morning instead of commuting and take breaks to read a book in the comfort of his own home – both of which he wouldn’t do in the office.

Others like being able to drop off or pick up their kids from school in and amongst their daily work commitments. Nearly everyone appreciates the opportunity to have more control over their work schedule and not be constrained by old-school traditions and habits.

Smart employers will look to construct an engaging new-world working environment that works for their talent and – ultimately – for their organizations.

The genie is out of the bottle - there’s no sense trying to put it back in.

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