After two years of remote work, many employers want to see workers back at the office. Employees, however, are less enthusiastic about being forced back into the world of daily commutes and communal bathrooms.
Hybrid work strikes a balance between the wants of both employers and employees. But offering hybrid work doesn’t mean employees will want to return to the office. Companies need to find ways to inspire their people to leave the comfort of their homes, even if it is just for 1-2 days a week.
But how? It might be worth taking a page out of someone else’s playbook.
Like many, Google delayed its return to office in the face of the Omicron variant. Yet since 2020, the company has been public about creating greater flexibility in its working practices. While Google still expects employees to come into the office at least three times per week, the remaining time can be managed remotely.
Late last year, Google announced they were investing $2.1bn on a new office complex in Manhattan that is “biophilic” in design. Biophilic design has been found to support cognitive function, physical health, and psychological well-being.
Supporting commuting efforts
Google has also ramped up its commuter perks. It’s offering its employees a free electric scooter subscription in an effort to bring remote workers back to their workspaces.
Google also plans to experiment with various office designs so they can adapt to changes in work styles.
Microsoft has taken a similarly community-driven approach while celebrating the return to office. Their offices in Redmond reopened in February to a musical treat accompanied by beer, wine, and mocktail tasting. To usher in a new era of hybrid work, the company arranged a whole series of garden games, from life-size chess to cornhole to promote their new office plans.
Focusing on stages rather than timelines
Last year Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President, explained the philosophy behind the new hybrid work strategies they have developed. He revealed a shift in focus from specific timelines to a ‘Hybrid Workplace Dial’ that uses six clearly defined stages as anchors, as an alternative to focusing on specific timelines. This has allowed the Microsoft team to rapidly adjust work sites depending on health needs.
Earlier this year fellow Exec Chris Capossela followed up on the current state of Microsoft’s return to work strategy and revealed they have taken the opportunity afforded by such a prolonged absence to ensure they are making data-driven decisions that will foster inclusivity, collaboration, and community.
Apple doesn’t appear to have created any fanfare around the return to their California offices. Instead of celebrating with a monumental event, they have been easing employees in gently.
Slow and steady
CEO Tim Cook outlined Apple’s RTO plans to employees via email earlier this year with the expectation they would return one day per week initially, and gradually work up to a three-day return.
In-person collaboration is essential
Speaking of the importance of returning to the office, Cook emphasized Apple’s belief that in-person collaboration is vital. Despite the fact everyone has performed splendidly under the forced remote circumstances of the pandemic, it’s clear Apple has no intention of losing the value of collective creativity and innovation, with Cook writing, “For many of you, I know that returning to the office represents a long-awaited milestone and a positive sign that we can engage more fully with the colleagues who play such an important role in our lives.”
Not everyone at Apple is happy with their policies, however, as an open letter from workers recently showed. The letter accuses Apple of having a remote policy that is ‘motivated by fear’ rather than any need to collaborate in person. According to the letter, Apple’s Hybrid Working Pilot “does not recognize flexible work and is only driven by fear. Fear of the future of work, fear of worker autonomy, fear of losing control.“
Meta (aka Facebook)
Meta has fully embraced the shift to remote working and doesn’t seem keen to go back now that people are back in their offices.
A ‘work from wherever’ attitude
While Meta is welcoming the return to office of all those who wish to be back in, and those whose jobs necessitate it, they’re clearly embracing a more remote outlook. Company CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been leading by example, spending much more time away from the office. This has been mirrored by Chief Marketing Office Alex Schultz, Head of Product Naiomi Gleit, and Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram.
Shifting benefits to reflect working from home
Meta announced it will start to cut back or eliminate free services previously offered, like dry cleaning and laundry. This is in response to the ability to work remotely, allowing employees to move to areas less expensive than the San Francisco Bay Area and thus reduce their cost of living.
Meta isn’t alone in this regard, as Google has also said if they can’t successfully encourage workers back into the office, they may roll out pay cuts as compensation has always been set based on a person’s living costs when hired.
Netflix is not rolling out any form of remote or hybrid reshake. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings publicly expressed his reservations about remote work.
During a WSJ interview, he said: “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative.”
Vaccinations are mandatory
Netflix has been proactive in its support of vaccination efforts. They were the first major studio to embrace the new vaccines and issue a blanket statement making it mandatory or all cast members working on U.S. productions to get vaccinated against COVID. The policy extended to those coming in close contact with cast members, who are also expected to get vaccinated.
Amazon did a complete 180 on its return to office mandates during the delays suffered from the Delta and Omicron variants. Initially adamant that all employees would return to the office full time, they later rolled out a hybrid plan that enables employees to work remotely two days a week.
While management was set to decide which days could be worked remotely, Amazon has since changed its mind again and decided that working from the office isn’t a requirement, and a hybrid model is possible going forward.
Ending paid COVID sick leave
That being said, Amazon is shifting its stance on COVID-related absences, having put an end to paid sick leave for anyone suffering from COVID. The company announced they’ve returned to their pre-pandemic policies where sick leave is concerned, and will no longer make allowances for staff being absent due to contracting the illness or waiting for test results.
The shift toward a more remote and flexible attitude is prominent among many of the big brand’s playbooks. It would seem, however, that efforts to create hybrid and remote working policies need to be authentic. If the response of some employees at these global companies is anything to go by, workers are not shy about calling out their own companies on efforts that seem ingenuine.
Learn how workplace leaders are democratizing the workplace experience in this new, hybrid era.