Since last spring/summer when this pandemic began to take hold, we’ve all been talking about how its changed work forever and how the “new normal” will most like be a version of what most are calling a “hybrid model.”
We started to see that come to life, officially, last week as Prime Therapeutics announced it’s new model where employees work from home predominantly and visit the office only when they have collaboration opportunities. Prime employees will no longer have their own desks.
Target moved out of a huge office space in downtown Minneapolis, signaling their decision to move to some kind of “hybrid” model later this year when employees return.
It sure seems like the “hybrid model” is going to be the norm. Sure, they’ll be outlying organizations where everyone comes back (or, the company forces them to come back). But, those companies will probably be few and far between.
Our new work cadence will be 3-4 days at home, 1-2 days in the office.
Many of us have been waiting for this for a long time. And the hybrid model certainly offers many benefits for employees–flexibility, less time spent in traffic, even more productivity, as we’ve seen this year.
But, we should also go into this new model with our eyes wide open. Because, there are potential downsides, too. And, if we ignore those, we enter into this new work age at our own peril.
I’m no workplace expert, but I did work on the corporate and agency sides for the first 14-15 years of my career followed by the last 11-12 works remotely completely at home (and coffee shops). So, I have a somewhat unique angle to this.
Here’s what I see as potential downsides to this shift over the next few years:
1 – Loneliness is a real thing
Working at home for a defined amount of time is one thing (even if it is a year). Working at home INDEFINITELY is quite another. Take it from someone who’s done that for 11+ years now. It sounds great at first, but there are drawbacks. Especially if our kids are all back at school. It’s tough to have them around, sure. But, they’re PEOPLE. Once those people go away, then what? Quiet and solitude to get work done, yes. But also: Loneliness. Even working at home 2-3 days a week will be tough. Loneliness will set in quick. And, even some degree of FOMO–what are my colleagues doing at work? I’m missing out on happy hours?
2 – Best friends at work will be tough to find
I’ve been a part of many employee surveys over the years and one theme always comes through: The importance of a “best friend at work.” Now, think about starting a new job remotely, or a job where you only see a portion of the team 2 days a week. How would you ever develop a friendship capable of becoming “best friend at work” level? Those friendships only happen via lunches, happy hours and intense work situations at work. The whole concept of a best friend at work might be a thing of the past now–and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.
3 – Will promotions be given to those who show up more often?
This is where things will get real. Because everyone is going to feel differently about going back. Some will go back full-time. Others will only go back when they have meetings. How will that play out with promotions? The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” comes to mind. I think the people who are in the office more will have a huge leg up on those working remotely more often. I’ve seen it before. And behavior and culture is a hard thing to change. I don’t see it changing after a year of working remotely.
Like many of the rest of you, I’m curious to see how all this shakes out. It doesn’t impact me directly (I’ll still be working at home and from coffee shops)–but it does impact my clients and friends. And that matters a whole lot to me. But, I do think you have to weigh the pros with the cons, just as you would with any other decision. And this one has it’s fair share of pros–but let’s not forget about the cons. Because they can and will show up eventually.