Apple’s three day return to the office recently came under scrutiny when their Machine Learning lead Ian Goodfellow announced he was leaving Apple stating
“I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team.”
The question many are not asking is, is this part of the company’s strategy to add control back or is it a test to work out whether hybrid can work?
Or is this part of a company-wide strategy to add more guardrails (less chance of interviewing, harder to organise interviews etc) to control the great resignation from impacting their business?
Apple is a notorious company for keeping projects secret and it is well documented their internal secrecy around new projects. Brand and products are a huge competitive advantage for Apple.
Is this really the reason for Apple’s non-flexible stance? Unlikely.
There is often an argument and firm belief that the best talent leaves first, especially in a market that is weighted towards candidates.
To be clear, this is not the first or last example of talented individuals leaving however it is the first that publicly suggested working styles and returning to the office is the main factor.
We will see many more high calibre individuals leave for the same reason, whether they are in the same position to make this statement we will have to see.
Loyalty Doesn’t Work Both Ways?
Is this today’s CEO loyalty test, is it suggesting to employees this is the way you show your loyalty to the company by working within the office environment?
Most likely yes, however, only certain companies would be brave enough to try this approach, Apple, Google and very few others have the brand equity, stock options and base salary to do this.
Especially in a market where Uber, Meta and other previous powerhouses have hiring freezes and only backfilling essentials.
With high wages being paid by cash-rich companies and from the web3 space, we are seeing a systemic shift towards flexible work and companies that understands the demands of modern work.
Many businesses are allowing managers to set their own working schedules with their teams and in some rare situations at individual basis, this always comes under scrutiny, however, with most large businesses setting the tone for other businesses who blindly copy, the one rule of returning to the office three days per week, is likely causing cracks and creating sub cultures within your business.
Google’s it’s ok manifesto received huge support across LinkedIn in 2021, however, Google has been clear about the move back to the office and its continued investment into the likes of London Kings Cross is clear their long term future is in person first.
Rename Home To Workplace
Right now the best thing any business can do is rename home to workplace, remove the conditioned work that happens in the office and remove the pandemic PTSD around forced work from home is the same as working from home in a more open work world.
The questions many are not answering:
- Is three days the right amount?
- Why do we need teams in the office?
- How do we adapt our office for hybrid working?
- Does collaboration actually happen effectively in person?
- When most work is in real-time (in meetings) and over zoom is being in the office offering the best work experience?
- How do we improve our hybrid tools?
- What is the best possible hybrid work experience?
The other issue many are encountering has allowed poor management practices like internal policing from bad and middle management. Proximity bias is slowly killing companies inside out.
Digital First & Work From Anywhere Movement
Airbnb has been bold to suggest in the US you can work from anywhere and your salary won’t be affected, is this a PR play or does the Airbnb management team truly believe they learnt enough and listened to feedback to suggest this is the best way to keep talent happy and attract talent.
The answer is both, it is a PR play and it is a move the management team back, so the winners are those who want flexibility and those who believe in their vision of the future of work.
In a recent Forbes interview, CEO Brian Chesky suggested Airbnb had over 800000 visitors to the career pages. Airbnb famously went over and above in 2020 for the teams they had to lay off and opened up their careers hub to help their employees find new work.
Slack’s digital first approach is winning over many, it centre’s around enabling a change of thinking around what identity is within a business and in person is the old way of working.
Twilio announced they are approaching work as a remote first company, potentially this way you can improve the way people interact and consider working from different workplaces like “home” and other offices.
Slack’s parent company Salesforce is now listing job roles by timezone, not by location emphasising the importance of flexible approaches.
Dropbox has redesigned its offices and rethinking what in-person work looks like is a good reminder of what smaller companies are doing to improve work and stay competitive.
Easy Question: Simply ask your teams why they used to work from home in 2018/2019/early 2020?
It is most likely they worked from home to get their heads down and get their work done.
If you couldn’t make the office environment work before 2020, you will struggle to make the office work in 2022 and beyond.
It is time to rethink, reshape and rebalance the office/work environments.
Other ways to consider reshaping work are to: consider satellite offices, hiring workspaces based on the commute of your employees, hiring workspaces based on the projects they are working on and moving to asynchronous work versus real-time work.
Will 4 Days Per Week Work Better?
In the next hotly debated topic will a move to four day work weeks help? Unlikely, however, smart companies like front have tested and rethought what 4 days per week might look like and why flexible Fridays at Front are working.
4 days per week only work if you can work in a new constraint and have rethought what work works like and what success looks like in 4 days, not 5.
Consider, is it 40 hours of work per week you can rethink rather than working a set 4 day week (like Wednesday are non-work days), as logistically this will be a much harder shift in mentality.
The Future Of Work Is…
It is clear the future of work has evolved past even the smartest business operators and past the way many conditioned leaders can envision the future. The future of work is what we make of it, so make it better, make it flexible and create environments where output is valued more than location and hours worked.