Returning to the office enters the phase of frustration

Manny Medina, CEO of a Seattle-based artificial intelligence sales company, doesn’t mind repeating things. After all, they are the perks of the trade. That stamina served him well this year as he faced the same question countless times.

Let’s see, then why did you tell us to go back to the office?

The engineers reminded him of his journeys from home to work. Working parents remind you of the times your children go to and leave school. Medina responded with arguments they already repeated as if they were personal mantras: Being close to others improves performance. Medina considered the three-year long-distance mission an experiment. His conclusion is that ideas emerge most naturally in the noise of the office.

„When you’re in person you can interrupt the other person without being rude,” said Medina, whose company Outreach now operates in a hybrid way. „In a Zoom conversation, you should let someone finish talking.”

For tens of thousands of office workers, there have been three years of disorganized plans to return to private work: bringing people in, only to regret it, and ultimately allowing everyone to work more or less where they want. Now, for the umpteenth time, companies are seriously preparing.

A wave of companies called workers back to the office this spring and summer: Disney, Amazon tried three times a four-day week (triggering a strike by corporate workers), Meta and Lyft set a September deadline for many of its employees. Others have devised new tactics to ensure compliance with their return-to-office policies. Google has required most employees to be in the office three days a week, announced that long, unexplained absences from the office may be considered performance reviews, and may review company records. Lamont, a company spokesman.

Google employees can work remotely only in rare cases. „We want to see 'Googlers’ connect and collaborate in person, so we limit remote work to rare cases,” Lamont said.

These new policies come at a time when business leaders are accepting that hybrid working is a permanent reality: Leg A fraction of full working days in the country are now done at home, and offices continue to operate half The workers they had before the pandemic. (It should be noted that this 50 percent occupancy rate is on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with offices packed on Fridays, when they turn into ghost towns).

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Enterprise software company Salesforce announced that it will donate $10 a day for 10 days on behalf of remote workers who come into the office (or attend company events). A spokesman said it was natural for the company to want to find moments to „do better by doing good”. But to some employees it may seem like a change in tone, given the company’s previous plans for a future where the majority of its workforce will always work remotely, either fully or partially. (The company insists it still exists.)

„A hyperactive workplace is no longer limited to a desk in our towers,” the company wrote. memo Feb 2021. „The 9 to 5 Workday is Dead.”

Yet the day came to life on a recent Monday at the Salesforce Tower in New York, a 41-story building that overlooks Bryant Park. Desks and conference rooms were packed with employees, some of whom were traveling from San Francisco for the company’s AI-focused day. In the upstairs lounge, workers line up for coffee while the Salesforce catering team prepares shrimp tacos for an office event that week.

Company logos were scattered throughout the office. Brandy Nari represents the marketing area. Astro Astronaut sat at the piano in the lounge on the 41st floor. Cody Bear stood guard next to the developers.

“It’s about the spontaneity of being in person; For example, one day I was in the office, in San Francisco, and I met someone from Chicago: 'Hey, do you have some time to meet and talk about a strategy we’re implementing?'” said Natalie Scardino, director of Salesforce Global Talent Strategy. „Inevitably, a high As a technology company, you have to keep changing to meet the needs of the business, the customer.”

In the past three years, making certain office decisions has become like a parent’s struggle to enforce rules in a rebellious household: „Do this.” „Because?”. „Because I say so”. But now some business leaders say the results of the remote work experiment are clear: They believe you should spend less time in person. After months of layoffs, especially in the technology sector, his next business decisions are particularly important.

„When the economy was a little more stable, executives said, 'I’d like to get people back, but that’s okay because I have some margin for error,'” said Marc Ein, Castell’s president. „Back to barometer work” made her an epidemic celebrity. „Now that things are so tough, they want to dig in and keep their men in office.”

DocuSign, with more than 6,500 employees worldwide, is a prime example of a back-to-office scheduling dilemma. The company expected to call back employees in May 2020, then August 2020, then October 2021, then January 2022. Then the plans completely fell apart.

But this month, much of the company finally returned to the office. Since February, executives have evaluated all of the company’s positions and decided that about 70 percent could be hybrid (meaning part-time in the office and part-time remote), 30 percent should be fully remote and less than one percent. Must be in office full time. Jennifer Christie, the company’s new people director, fielded dozens of questions from concerned employees.

„It can be a very polarizing topic,” he said, adding that he sees this summer as a period of experimentation in which he and other company leaders will assess which parts of its hybrid plan to change. “We have been sending water through pipes that have not been flowing for a long time. So where do we find leaks?

However, he said DocuSign leaders are ready to stop talking about getting people back into the office and start making plans. „We can always debate, we can always speculate about what’s going to happen, but the best way to understand how this is going to affect our culture and productivity and collaboration is to start doing it.”

It’s been a long time since you’ve planned your own adventurous workplace, and companies’ shift toward concrete deadlines has surprised some recruiters. Jasmine Silver, who runs a specialist recruitment firm for mothers looking to return to work, has found that many of her clients have made a sudden transition from fully remote to a hybrid or fully on-site environment in recent months. The change is unsettling for some workers, especially those who have left their offices or are stuck with new habits of working from home.

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And, according to some psychologists, it’s healthy for people to express these frustrations.

„What sounds like a grumble or a complaint is, in many cases, a request for understanding,” said Tracey Mallett, an organizational psychologist. „When you see change, the most dangerous people are the ones who stay quiet, because you don’t know what they’re thinking. You can’t address their concerns.”

The grace period is temporary, now that companies have settled into their hybrid practices. For example, productivity software company Asana is asking employees to come to the office at least on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays starting in 2022.

For months, the return to office, or RTO, for short, has been a big topic of conversation. They all had questions, and they were all directed to Anna Binder, the Human Resources Manager.

„Before RTO was used — and I love that the term is in Webster’s dictionary now — it was a topic of conversation because RTO was theoretical, and tackling the epidemic was theoretical,” Binder said. „Most people came, came back, and are here. Some tried it and said, 'It’s not for me,’ and left.”

Nowadays, Binder continued, that topic is no longer discussed. Returning to the office is not a fantasy scenario. It is your reality. And they have a lot more to talk about.

„Someone in my group had a crush on someone recently and saw her one day and said, 'What’s wrong with your life?’ I couldn’t help but ask her,” Binder recounted. „She got really red and said, 'My whole life has changed.’ It was very emotional to share that moment with another human being.”

Emma Goldberg covers the future of work for the business segment.

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