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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey

    Returning to the office

    My large, multinational, pharma company has publicly announced that office staff (not scientists, production workers, etc.) will return to their respective sites in September, but will be going to a hybrid approach for the foreseeable, if not definite, future. It has announced a new flexible working model which purports to blend remote work with on-site collaboration and greater flexibility. According to the company literature, colleagues will be empowered to design their workday so as to maximize productivity, enhance work-life balance, and support a more agile way of working. Managers are being asked to work with their reports so as to allow greater flexibility in order to promote work-life balance rather than demanding on-site work. As a manager and an employee who spends a significant amount of time commuting, I'm cautiously optimistic, but I appreciate that my company is ahead of the curve on this issue and attacking it directly. I believe this will be a defining and deciding factor for office workers of all types around the country as a result of the social experiment caused by the pandemic.

    Case in point, I have a NJ friend who works at a large investment/financial firm in NYC and is being required to go back to the office 4-5 days each week. She's decided that the thought of going back to train commuting so often where investment houses in other states are now allowing more flexibility does not make sense. She's now interviewing for jobs outside of the NY/NJ area and is willing to move, but is no longer willing to spend the amount or type of time necessary to commute to NYC after successfully working from home since March 2020.

    Here is a Harvard Business Review article that addresses this topic and concludes that some form of in-office interaction is important even if companies go to a more flexible arrangement.

    https://hbr.org/2021/03/what-a-year-...nships-at-work

    In sum, a culture of kindness, fun, and cooperative collaboration is just as important to the bottom line as your daily to-do list. Organizations should understand that being nice to each other, chatting, and goofing around together is part of the work that we do. The spontaneous, informal interactions at risk in hybrid and remote work are not distractions or unproductive. They foster the employee connections that feed productivity and innovation — these interactions are the soil in which ideas grow.
    I'm curious how others and their organizations are treating the "new normal" that will most assuredly come as a result of pandemic working, particularly office work. What do you think the future brings in terms of work/life balance and flexibility? On a broader scale, is this the beginning of the end of the big city and commuting in general?
    Rich
    "Failure is Not a Destination"
    Coach K on the Dan Patrick Show, December 22, 2016

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    A few of us have traded posts on this in the LTE.

    Multinational chemical company here (pandemic hire with promise of post-pandemic remote flexibility).

    Hybrid work schedules commenced in July with goal of 3-days per week post Labor Day. Mandatory for people managers, individual situations to be discussed with manager. I’ve been in 3X in July and it’s been a ghost town still.

    The biggest issue I see is a lot of handshake arrangements were made and now corporate HR policy has overridden them. I know several director-levels who moved to different states and now are being told that not only do they have to be in 3X week, the company will not pay for their new commuting and hotels.

    With a record number of job hoppers, I fully expect a period of high turnover in the coming months as people hunt $ and situations. My “remote flexibility” is built into my hiring papers so I’m feeling good for now.

    On site, non-vaccinated people must wear masks and we have all had to take training on discrimination in the workplace based on vaccine status.

    I like being in the office for camaraderie and building relationships but enjoy the days it makes sense to be at home.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vermont
    With the new surge by Mr. Delta, a lot of back to the office plans are being reconsidered...Very complicated situation for lots of companies now.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Quote Originally Posted by budwom View Post
    With the new surge by Mr. Delta, a lot of back to the office plans are being reconsidered...Very complicated situation for lots of companies now.
    Yeah, I’m waiting for new guidance assuming current trajectory continues

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by budwom View Post
    With the new surge by Mr. Delta, a lot of back to the office plans are being reconsidered...Very complicated situation for lots of companies now.
    Oh, yeah. Occurring at an individual level also. A close contact from work tested positive a little while ago. They are a breakthrough case, but positive nonetheless. After avoiding the virus for 16 months, I'm hoping I didn't catch it myself.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by bundabergdevil View Post
    A few of us have traded posts on this in the LTE.

    Multinational chemical company here (pandemic hire with promise of post-pandemic remote flexibility).

    Hybrid work schedules commenced in July with goal of 3-days per week post Labor Day. Mandatory for people managers, individual situations to be discussed with manager. I’ve been in 3X in July and it’s been a ghost town still.

    The biggest issue I see is a lot of handshake arrangements were made and now corporate HR policy has overridden them. I know several director-levels who moved to different states and now are being told that not only do they have to be in 3X week, the company will not pay for their new commuting and hotels.

    With a record number of job hoppers, I fully expect a period of high turnover in the coming months as people hunt $ and situations. My “remote flexibility” is built into my hiring papers so I’m feeling good for now.

    On site, non-vaccinated people must wear masks and we have all had to take training on discrimination in the workplace based on vaccine status.

    I like being in the office for camaraderie and building relationships but enjoy the days it makes sense to be at home.
    My son... in network software development, says that he's heard that there will be a lot more "moving around" of employees... mainly because of the work-from-home, hybrid, or office work requirements.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Forest Hills, NY
    FWIW, here’s a LinkedIn article I wrote on some impacts of remote working on my profession (public accounting) especially from the human capital perspective.

    We may never go back to 100% in the office (or client’s office), but some face-to-face interaction with colleagues or clients (to me) is necessary. But flexibility by employers will be necessary in order to attract and maintain talent. Forcing a behavioral change on employees after 17 months will not come without consequences.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/audit...-chain-mba-cpa

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vermont
    Quote Originally Posted by duke74 View Post
    FWIW, here’s a LinkedIn article I wrote on some impacts of remote working on my profession (public accounting) especially from the human capital perspective.

    We may never go back to 100% in the office (or client’s office), but some face-to-face interaction with colleagues or clients (to me) is necessary. But flexibility by employers will be necessary in order to attract and maintain talent. Forcing a behavioral change on employees after 17 months will not come without consequences.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/audit...-chain-mba-cpa
    anything that helps me cheat on my taxes has to be considered a good thing, right?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Quote Originally Posted by duke74 View Post
    FWIW, here’s a LinkedIn article I wrote on some impacts of remote working on my profession (public accounting) especially from the human capital perspective.

    We may never go back to 100% in the office (or client’s office), but some face-to-face interaction with colleagues or clients (to me) is necessary. But flexibility by employers will be necessary in order to attract and maintain talent. Forcing a behavioral change on employees after 17 months will not come without consequences.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/audit...-chain-mba-cpa
    Nice article, thanks for sharing. If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to marine geology?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    North Carolina
    Multinacional here in NC. We started going back 25% in July, 50% in August and plan to be 100% in September. Our desks are quite close together so we can’t social distance with those that are not vaccinated. It’s an impossible situation that the company has no answer for at the moment. During July I have seen non vaccinated employees violating the mask policy.
    lots of employees are stressed about September. Something has to give.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Forest Hills, NY
    Quote Originally Posted by bundabergdevil View Post
    Nice article, thanks for sharing. If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to marine geology?
    No problem at all. Actually was in a PhD program at UMass-Amherst when I decided that I didn't want to spend my life either teaching (ironic as I am now, among other things. a professor in Accountancy at St. John's) or in a desert, or on a derrick. Additionally, it was a year or so after the Arab oil boycott (OPEC) and I had the lingering suspicion that being a Jewish kid from NYC might be career limiting if working for Big Oil.

    So...I left the program and then ran into the woman who ultimately became my fiancée then wife. (We'd known each other since we were 4.) She suggested that I consider an MBA program. Always tested well, so was admitted into Wharton grad and then started at Haskins & Sells...now Deloitte. Was there for 38 years (27 as audit partner) until mandatory retirement in 2015. Perhaps by fate, many of my clients were in the commodities business so the geology background turned out to be helpful, albeit in a different way than I imagined.

    Enjoyed the days in the basement of the Art Museum on East.

  12. #12
    We (large law firm) are still struggling with how best to implement RTW. It is less an issue for the lawyers (each lawyer has their own office), though there are different perspectives across our offices (12 domestic and 5 Int'l). The primary concern are the staff who generally sit in cube groupings. The office has technically been open since June, 2020 and we never came close to the self imposed limit of 20% occupancy. The official RTW date is the Tuesday after Labor Day, with the idea being that even if people held off on summer camps - hopefully kids will be back at in-person school full time.

    Among lawyers, our biggest hurdle right now are the junior associates who are fighting RTW tooth and nail. I'm not sure we will ever go back to pre-pandemic in-office levels, but we still generally believe a material portion of work time should be spent at the office to help attorneys grow and develop the soft skills as well as the basic skills necessary to succeed over the long-haul. That said, we are trying to rethink what that means. We may only have one or two days a month that are "everyone at the office days." However, each of the different practice groups is working to establish set time when they will be in the office (we are calling them "practice group anchor days"). We are also trying to think of hybrid not just in x-out-of-5 days a week, but also a subset of hours in the day (e.g., rather than a day at the office being 8-6 now it may be 10-3:30, where we start and finish our day at home and can miss rush hour).

    Of course, if Delta continues this all may go the way of the dodo.
    My Quick Smells Like French Toast.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Forest Hills, NY
    Quote Originally Posted by Channing View Post
    We (large law firm) are still struggling with how best to implement RTW. It is less an issue for the lawyers (each lawyer has their own office), though there are different perspectives across our offices (12 domestic and 5 Int'l). The primary concern are the staff who generally sit in cube groupings. The office has technically been open since June, 2020 and we never came close to the self imposed limit of 20% occupancy. The official RTW date is the Tuesday after Labor Day, with the idea being that even if people held off on summer camps - hopefully kids will be back at in-person school full time.

    Among lawyers, our biggest hurdle right now are the junior associates who are fighting RTW tooth and nail. I'm not sure we will ever go back to pre-pandemic in-office levels, but we still generally believe a material portion of work time should be spent at the office to help attorneys grow and develop the soft skills as well as the basic skills necessary to succeed over the long-haul. That said, we are trying to rethink what that means. We may only have one or two days a month that are "everyone at the office days." However, each of the different practice groups is working to establish set time when they will be in the office (we are calling them "practice group anchor days"). We are also trying to think of hybrid not just in x-out-of-5 days a week, but also a subset of hours in the day (e.g., rather than a day at the office being 8-6 now it may be 10-3:30, where we start and finish our day at home and can miss rush hour).

    Of course, if Delta continues this all may go the way of the dodo.
    Spot on. Apt description for any professional services firm. Bonding, culture, development, role modeling - all require some measure of face to face interaction. And with clients as well - as young staff learn how to interact with clients, especially when hard decisions must be made.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Quote Originally Posted by duke74 View Post
    No problem at all. Actually was in a PhD program at UMass-Amherst when I decided that I didn't want to spend my life either teaching (ironic as I am now, among other things. a professor in Accountancy at St. John's) or in a desert, or on a derrick. Additionally, it was a year or so after the Arab oil boycott (OPEC) and I had the lingering suspicion that being a Jewish kid from NYC might be career limiting if working for Big Oil.

    So...I left the program and then ran into the woman who ultimately became my fiancée then wife. (We'd known each other since we were 4.) She suggested that I consider an MBA program. Always tested well, so was admitted into Wharton grad and then started at Haskins & Sells...now Deloitte. Was there for 38 years (27 as audit partner) until mandatory retirement in 2015. Perhaps by fate, many of my clients were in the commodities business so the geology background turned out to be helpful, albeit in a different way than I imagined.

    Enjoyed the days in the basement of the Art Museum on East.
    Cool/interesting career progression!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Word in today that we expect to return to mask-mandatory at HQ in Maryland by next week based on rate progressions. This is regardless of vaccine status.


    Interestingly, more employers announcing mandatory vaccination for workers withTysons becoming the most recent.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    North Carolina
    Quote Originally Posted by Furniture View Post
    Multinacional here in NC. We started going back 25% in July, 50% in August and plan to be 100% in September. Our desks are quite close together so we can’t social distance with those that are not vaccinated. It’s an impossible situation that the company has no answer for at the moment. During July I have seen non vaccinated employees violating the mask policy.
    lots of employees are stressed about September. Something has to give.
    our 100% has been moved to October. 50% in September. Everyone needs to wear a mask at the moment.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Furniture View Post
    our 100% has been moved to October. 50% in September. Everyone needs to wear a mask at the moment.
    I'm curious if people are seeing companies actually enforcing this. In my admittedly small sample size of 3 companies, I've see very little (if any) mask wearing.

    I admit it perhaps does get awkward as to who becomes the "enforcer." I am going into my office this Friday and we expect a larger group for the first time since COVID really. I also expect no mask wearing. (There is no company policy on it.) They did take an (optional) vaccination status poll which showed 90% of respondees are fully vaccinated. I admit to being a bit "nervous" perhaps but need to rip off the bandaid eventually and really looking forward to seeing people.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluedog View Post
    I'm curious if people are seeing companies actually enforcing this. In my admittedly small sample size of 3 companies, I've see very little (if any) mask wearing.

    I admit it perhaps does get awkward as to who becomes the "enforcer." I am going into my office this Friday and we expect a larger group for the first time since COVID really. I also expect no mask wearing. (There is no company policy on it.) They did take an (optional) vaccination status poll which showed 90% of respondees are fully vaccinated. I admit to being a bit "nervous" perhaps but need to rip off the bandaid eventually and really looking forward to seeing people.
    Yes. If/when the mandates return, security will not let you on site without a mask. There is a strong contact tracing culture, too, and our leadership made clear if you cannot produce a vaccination card if asked after you’re caught not wearing a mask or otherwise violating protocol, there will be consequences.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluedog View Post
    I'm curious if people are seeing companies actually enforcing this. In my admittedly small sample size of 3 companies, I've see very little (if any) mask wearing.

    I admit it perhaps does get awkward as to who becomes the "enforcer." I am going into my office this Friday and we expect a larger group for the first time since COVID really. I also expect no mask wearing. (There is no company policy on it.) They did take an (optional) vaccination status poll which showed 90% of respondees are fully vaccinated. I admit to being a bit "nervous" perhaps but need to rip off the bandaid eventually and really looking forward to seeing people.
    The very small company I work for is enforcing it very seriously. HR and People Managers are enforcing.

    At large, we came back two weeks ago, with a more broad work from home policy, but still nothing that truly recognizes that the business functioned without a hiccup for 17 months while we were fully remote. We've already had three defections by people with offers including more flexible work from home arrangements, and there's a TON of grumbling about our policy, which includes mandatory on-site time for people managers. I was in the office yesterday, for example, as required by senior management, and none of my direct reports where. Such a damned waste of time. We're going to have to evolve from our current policy -- which is very pre-pandemic and kind of dated even for January of 2020, I'd say -- or we're going to lose a lot of talent we don't want to lose.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Chicago 1995 View Post
    The very small company I work for is enforcing it very seriously. HR and People Managers are enforcing.

    At large, we came back two weeks ago, with a more broad work from home policy, but still nothing that truly recognizes that the business functioned without a hiccup for 17 months while we were fully remote. We've already had three defections by people with offers including more flexible work from home arrangements, and there's a TON of grumbling about our policy, which includes mandatory on-site time for people managers. I was in the office yesterday, for example, as required by senior management, and none of my direct reports where. Such a damned waste of time. We're going to have to evolve from our current policy -- which is very pre-pandemic and kind of dated even for January of 2020, I'd say -- or we're going to lose a lot of talent we don't want to lose.
    Yeah, job hopping/talent drain I feel like has only gotten worse since the pandemic. In many industries, it is a TIGHT labor market and people can easily hop for more $$$. There is even less loyalty than there used to be as harder to forge relationships/have the "culture" of a company be a differentiator. Certainly, seeking more money has become the primary driver. (It was always a major factor of course, but now I feel like has an even more excised role now that geographic constraints are more limited than they used to be and the camaraderie in the office doesn't matter as much anymore.)

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