The office tug of war steps up
ALSO: an in-depth conversation with the world's number 1 remote work expert
It’s almost like politicians like stirring up storms to place themselves in everyone’s attention. There were waves of debate last weekend, triggered by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s note left on desks across Whitehall.
The story likely resonated because offices around the world are seeing similar debates, with pockets of resistant managers putting pressure on their teams, irrespective of official policy. The top civil servant in the UK went as far as speaking to journalists on the record that the pressure on his employees to return to the office was unfair and disrespectful.
There’s been a manufactured culture war bubbling about the return to offices for a long while but when you read the government statement in support of Rees-Mogg it’s hard to see that it would resonate with the majority of white collar workers:
“There is total agreement across government on there being clear benefits from face-to-face, collaborative working… The minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency has written to departments to underline the importance of workplace attendance and request that they review their existing guidance on the minimum number of days staff work in the office.”
My genuine question is whether this stance is intended to appeal to working voters (or maybe to retired voters who aren’t at peace with flexible work). The strange thing about this hardline approach from the minister for government efficiency is that most departments don’t have sufficient desks to house more than a third of their employees.
As today’s podcast guest reminds us, most workers don’t object as much to the office as much as getting to the office. Two-thirds of women say the main benefit of WFH is the saving of their commuting time (60% of men feel the same way).
It raises the question of whether companies who want workers in the office more are willing to allow commute time to count as part of the working day?
I’ve heard a couple of examples of firms taking the register of employees over the last few weeks. It gives a terrible message about the lack of trust. You won’t be surprised to see Goldman Sachs are keeping a spreadsheet on it. Interesting New York Times piece. (Commenters on LinkedIn when I posted it said that this was just standard attendance monitoring, I think there’s more to it than that)
The power of having team lunches - sales people who were paired up with random team members to spend time chatting to once a week saw a 24% increase in their sales figures
Now that we’re in a different stage of the pandemic, this makes a lot of sense: the rise of Working From a Friend’s House - it continues the trend of removing work from the centre of gravity of people’s lives (consistent with this beautiful reflection from the archives that I saw this week by Toni Morrison: ‘You are not the work you do; you are the person you are’)
Consultancy firm Deloitte has announced it is scaling back its London offices after the transition to hybrid working. Much much more of this to come
This NYT article suggests that happiness at work is scheduling your 'me time' and domestic responsibilities in your calendar. Maybe it's a coping mechanism that we’ve all learned to use, but in truth it’s a sign that workplace cultures are excessive
Regular readers will know how much I love the work of Professor Nick Bloom from Stanford University - as featured in previous newsletters - Nick has been researching remote working for over a decade. I’ve been pestering him to talk for the last few weeks and I managed to secure him for this week’s podcast.
Nick is joined by Anne Raimondi is COO of Asana who were smart enough to have started a major piece of research into how work is evolving just before the world turned upside down.
Along the way we talk about how the biggest innovations in remote working are yet to come - and are coming from mind-blowing places. We talk the changing expectations of Gen Z workers, why Nick doesn't believe we should be giving up our office just yet. We hear where the sweet spot of hybrid working is right now and why a little less freedom and a little more co-ordination is the order of the day.