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Hybrid Work Could Save Knowledge Workers’ Jobs From AI

TASA ID: 22108

As the world slowly recovers from the pandemic, many knowledge workers find themselves at a crossroads. On one hand, the prospect of returning to the office stirs up a cocktail of dread and nostalgia. On the other hand, the threat of AI-driven job elimination looms large. It's like being caught between a rock and a hard place, or more aptly, between a swivel chair and a supercomputer.

But let's take a step back and examine the situation. The office, despite its occasional inconveniences, offers a unique environment for collaboration, innovation, and social interaction. It's the proverbial watering hole where ideas are exchanged, relationships are forged, and corporate culture is nurtured. That’s how I encourage my clients to frame the conversation in formulating their approach to hybrid work policy.

Governments Lead the Way in Embracing Flexible Work

TASA ID: 22108

It’s a sign of major disruption when governments are ahead of the curve compared to major companies, but that’s exactly what’s happening with hybrid work. Flexibility has become a cornerstone of the modern public sector workplace, as we can see from recent federal government negotiations with workers and New York City's agreement with its largest municipal union. It's clear that flexibility is more important than ever, and private companies would do well to take notice and implement a data-driven, employee-centric approach to hybrid work.

Frontline Workers Gain Remote Work Benefits in Tight Labor Market

TASA ID: 22108

The unemployment rate is surprisingly low, at 3.7%, shocking economists who expected a slowdown in hiring and rising unemployment rate. Frontline work such as healthcare led job growth. Frontline workers are in high demand, and the competition for their services is fierce. Yet wage growth cooled to .3%, the smallest rise since August 2021. That means employers are offering more jobs, but not offering higher wages to attract staff, likely due to fears of a recession, or at least an economic slowdown.

In this setting, non-wage benefits make a crucial differentiator in recruiting and retaining frontline workers. And there’s a surprising benefit that’s cheap to offer, yet incredibly desirable: remote work. In fact, a survey of 1,500 U.S. workers by benefits provider Unum found that after health insurance, flexible/remote work represented the most highly desired benefit. Having consulted for 22 organizations on hybrid and remote work, I’ve seen these benefits boost retention and recruitment, improve productivity and engagement, and cut costs. You might be surprised to hear that my experience applies to frontline settings as well, such as in two hospitals where I helped establish hybrid work programs for frontline healthcare staff.

New Study Shows Shocking Lack of Hybrid Work Guidelines

TASA ID: 22108

As companies continue to navigate the new normal of remote and hybrid work, it is crucial that they establish clear expectations and guidelines for their employees. In addition, unlike Disney and Twitter, it’s very important that they don’t change their minds randomly when the leadership changes.

However, a recent survey conducted by Mercer found that only a third of organizations have formal rules in place for managing flexible work. Mercer assessed 749 organizations and found that 48% rely on informal and ambiguous guidelines to manage flexible work, 17% are completely hands off, and only 34% rely on clear and transparent formal rules. This lack of clear communication and expectations can have a serious impact on both retention and recruitment efforts.

Dispelling the Office Return Mandate Myth:

The True Path to Junior Staff Success

TASA ID: 22108

Picture this: a large tech company decides to bring employees back to the office, believing that this will encourage mentoring and support organizational continuity. For example, consider what Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said in Spring 2023 on the “On With Kara Swisher” podcast: “For our new employees who are coming in, we know empirically that they do better if they’re in the office, meeting people, being on-boarded, being trained. If they are at home and not going through that process, we don’t think they’re as successful.” 

That’s why Salesforce decided to change its policy from its previous fully flexible model: for example, the company’s Chief People Officer, Brent Hyder, wrote in a September 2022 company blog post that “at Salesforce, we’ve never had office mandates, and we never will.” However, in the Spring of 2023, Salesforce demanded that sales and marketing staff come to the office four days a week. We’re seeing many tech, finance, and other leaders make similar claims and adopt similar policies.

Certainly, these changes at Salesforce and other companies represent well-intentioned moves trying to develop the careers and performance of junior staff. Unfortunately, the evidence shows that they are misguided in the post-pandemic world. The result? Resentful senior staff, lackluster mentoring, and a suboptimal work environment. Here's why, and how to fix it.

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