Working From Home

Is the Debate Over Remote Work Over?

The Hartford

Transcript

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Gene (00:03):

Hey everybody, this is Gene Marks and welcome to The Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead podcast for this week. And you know what I’d like to talk about this week? I would like to talk about work from home. There’s been a lot of coverage about it. I get it. But I just wanna say something. I think this whole debate is soon going to end. I mean, I think we can all agree that for the most part, thankfully the worst of the COVID pandemic is over, right? I mean, people are getting back to their normal lives, but does that normal life mean coming back to the office? It’s certainly being debated. Workers at AT&T say they’re being forced to return to the office. They started a change.org petition to make their company’s pandemic work from home policies…

Gene (00:47):

Permanent. Apple employees are upset with their company’s return to office orders. And they’ve launched a petition to say the firm has risked stifling diversity and staff wellbeing by restricting their ability to work remotely. Meanwhile, a few big name corporate leaders are pushing back. JP Morgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon has publicly complained about remote work, referring to the zoom platform…He calls it “management by Hollywood Squares” which I hope you’re old enough to enjoy that reference. And contrary to the belief of the Apple employees mentioned above, Dimon actually says that returning to the office will aid diversity. Elon Musk has jumped into the debate, telling his employees recently that he’s happy for them to work from home. Just so long as they’ve worked 40 hours in the office. Meanwhile, there’s all these studies that are being done and they’re contradicting each other.

Gene (01:42):

A Stanford economist said that working from home is fueling growth at companies around the world. And other studies do support his claim with one finding that working remotely can increase productivity as much as 77%. And then there are other reports, like a few that are out there that could conclude that those who work full time at home are up to 70% less productive than those who don’t work from home. Who to believe? And what about mental health? Many experts feel that working from home has the potential to reduce stress levels because there’s no daily commute and you can sleep a bit longer and family commitments are easier to manage and you’ll likely achieve a better level of concentration without the distraction of office chatter and telephones. But then again, there are multiple studies, like there’s one recently from The American Psychiatric Association that found that the majority of employees working from home say they experience negative mental health impacts, including isolation and loneliness and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the day. It’s pretty crazy, right? I’m a member of the media and we in the media love to recover these stories because the work from home debate, it drives clicks. And COVID has introduced all these issues that will always be debated. Were lockdowns helpful or harmful? Do masks work or not? Are vaccines…

Gene (02:58):

Effective in the long run? We’ll never know the answers to these questions, but I got news for you guys. There is one answer that we will soon agree on when it comes to work from home and it’s this: All companies will need to let their employees work from home, but not as much as some would like. I’m already seeing a compromise amongst my clients. And that compromise really comes down to just one word and that’s hybrid because let’s face it, the millennials were right. Didn’t they beg us, their bosses to allow them to work from home long before the pandemic struck. And didn’t, we older and smarter resist them. And then COVID happened and what happened? We were forced to send our employees home and guess what? They worked fine. They also enjoyed the benefits of being around family and hanging with their dogs and balancing their daily lives.

Gene (03:47):

I mean, they were right. We should have listened. Now we have no choice, but that doesn’t mean that we should allow our people to work from home all the time or that we forced them to come to our offices all the time. Even the most vocal supporters of remote working, admit that spending some FaceTime is beneficial, particularly for younger people who need mentors around them. Or for people that desire to be around other people or for those that are easily distracted or prone to loneliness or suffer from certain anxieties. It’s also beneficial for groups that need to collaborate. People to share their ideas. And for workplaces whose culture depends on social activities or camaraderie and teamwork, which is why I believe the end of the work from home debate is on the horizon. Workers and business owners know that a compromise is inevitable.

Gene (04:33):

My clients are already agreeing with their employees, that some days in the office are good and a few days at home are also good. It’s called hybrid. So my best clients are allowing their managers to decide what working arrangements are best for their teams. They’re supporting their work from home employees with good technology and security. They’re demanding that workers be available during the work day and that they come to the office when required. Some employees prefer going into the office every day. Others not at all. The choice is up to them. As long as they meet the company’s minimum requirements and their managers are satisfied. So, do you still think we’re gonna be debating work from a home a year from now? I don’t think so. Because contrary to some of the other issues created by the pandemic, a hybrid work environment is already putting this issue to rest.

Gene (05:19):

I just hope that my older clients recognize this because if they continue to resist, they’re gonna lose out on some great talent. Hey, my name is Gene Marks and you have been listening to The Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and got some good information from here. I’m with you every week. So come back and join me next week, and I’ll give you some more thoughts and advice that can help you run your business. In the meantime, if you’d like thoughts and advice on running your business, visit us at SmallBizAhead.com or SBA.TheHartford.com. Again, I’m Gene Marks. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

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