There is a battle raging in corporate board rooms and business owner offices around the country. That battle is over the future of America’s workplace soul. It is a battle that is only likely to get more heated in the coming months, and one that may have no easy resolution. But that’s the way battles often go.
On the one side are thousands of U.S. workers prepared to quit their jobs if their employers do not continue offering remote work options in a post-pandemic world. On the other side are business executives convinced that neither exclusive remote work nor a hybrid model serves company interests well.
Despite relative success with remote work through the first 18 months of the coronavirus crisis, companies are starting to call their people back. Some are even demanding a return to the office. As for their employees, many have decided they like the remote model better. So much so that a survey cited by Bloomberg reveals some 39% are willing to quit their jobs if they are forced to return to the office.
The Employee’s Perspective
One can make the case that employees were not too happy with remote work when the pandemic first ushered in shutdowns. But that could have been nothing more than a combination of resistance to change and the stress of the pandemic itself. Because now, almost two years later, large segments of the American workforce have fully embraced the remote model.
From their perspective, commuting is for the birds. Spending so much time in the car and burning so much gas seems superfluous in a world capable of conducting business by video and email. Employees are also tired of wasting time on in-person meetings that are more social than productive. They are tired of constantly having to balance the needs of their employers with those of their families.
The Employer’s Perspective
The primary reason cited by employers for bringing workers back to the office is the need for cohesion. Company executives believe that social interaction and company culture are paramount to long-term success. They lament the fact that remote work has severed some of the social ties they believe held their employees together.
Some executives and managers also do not like the disparities they believe a hybrid work model creates. They believe that remote workers do not enjoy the same benefits of collaboration and management coaching as their in-office counterparts. It is their contention that the entire workforce needs to be in the office in order for them to all benefit equally.
Technology Is a Hindrance
When you break the battle over America’s workplace soul down to its most basic components, you discover that technology is not the issue. In fact, technology is no longer a hindrance to exclusively remote work or hybrid arrangements. An August 2021 blog post published on the BenefitMall website explains as much. That post details how benefits brokers can utilize technology to embrace remote work and be more efficient in doing so.
One of the final points of the post discusses using remote technology to improve the worker experience. At the end of the day, the worker experience seems to be what the battle is really over. Employees view the experience through one lens, employers view it through an entirely different lens. The question is whether either view is correct to the exclusion of the other.
The battle for America’s workplace soul rages on. It is likely to do so for the foreseeable future. It is yet another effect of a coronavirus crisis experts promised would be over in fifteen days.