Finance teams balancing worker desires and corporate needs favor hybrid models, but the details are a work in progress.
Companies’ timelines for returning to the office vary widely, according to assistant treasurers at recent meeting of NeuGroup’s Assistant Treasurers’ Leadership Group. Some are scheduling returns imminently while others only tentatively plan to return next fall. There was consensus, however, that requiring everybody to come back all at once is probably no longer feasible.
- Still, remote work’s advantages are likely outweighed by the disadvantages for most companies.
- Now the issue appears to be how to provide the work-from-home flexibility employees have come to appreciate while retaining the clear benefits of interacting in the office.
Tipping point. Members agreed that enough major companies have decided to provide employees with work-location flexibility that mandating that everyone return to the office is unrealistic.
- “Otherwise, they’ll stick out like a sore thumb,” one member said.
- Another said her company’s CEO and HR chief were adamant about everybody returning to the office until a few months ago, when an employee survey strongly suggested that taking a hard line would harm recruiting.
- “Now, if you work in the corporate office, hybrid will be supported and we’re open to fully remote possibilities as well,” the AT said.
Ownership blues. Companies that own their office properties face harder choices.
- “We own a very large corporate campus,” said one member. “It’s hard for people to agree to more of a remote situation when you see this huge facility sitting empty.”
- Another member whose company owns its office in pricey San Francisco said the technology company had started to reconfigure a few of its floors to accommodate a “hoteling” model, in which employees dynamically schedule their use of workspaces.
- “We may do that with the rest of the building to accommodate a hybrid approach—two or three days in the office each week-type scenario,” he said.
Remote concerns. A common concern about remote work is onboarding new employees, especially recent college graduates.
- “There’s really something to be said, especially for people early in their careers, for being in a room where you can see people’s reactions and body language,” one member said, adding, “I would like my team to be in the office a couple days a week to foster that development.”
- Commoditization of jobs may also emerge for purely remote hires, since they never make a physical connection, another member said. “When the next opportunity comes up, are they more likely to take a peek at it and dip their toes in the water?”
- One way to foster that connection may be to schedule meetings without an organized agenda, said a peer at a company that’s going 100% remote, to discuss career advancement and other employee-related topics.
Honing the hybrid. A hybrid approach can provide benefits of home and office work, but the concept is still very new and will likely require some trial and error.
- One member said two or three days in the office each week would be ideal, as long as her entire team could coordinate to meet up in person at least one day, probably in the middle of the week when flexibility is less important.
The fully remote argument. A member said that finding talent in the Bay Area can be very difficult, and by offering a fully remote position she was able to hire a senior analyst.
- “The talent pool just expands,” she said, “And we couldn’t be happier with the hire.”
- Another peer noted that hiring based on remote interviews may be no more risky than hiring people you meet face-to-face, given that good in-person impressions don’t always translate into success. “I’ve had enough people where you think they’re superstars until they show up” at the job.