Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Work Flexibility, Popular With Employees, Is Hardly a Holy Grail

Surveys show many Americans aren’t eager to return to the office, but companies have more to consider than just their feelings

By Laura Forman of The WSJ. Excerpts:

"But luring workers with more flexibility isn’t without downside. As president and co-founder of behavioral analytics company Humanyze, Ben Waber has studied team dynamics and work patterns for over a decade. He cautions that companies are taking big swings on remote work based on little to no data. Major effects take many innings to play out.

Mr. Waber’s research highlights how communication is often sacrificed in a fully remote workforce, and the deficit isn’t always perceived. In one survey he ran, the vast majority of employees said connectivity improved or stayed the same through remote work, even while he found a 21% reduction in connections outside of an employee’s core contacts. Among one of his Fortune 500 clients, he notes communication went up by 20% when employees worked in person just one day a week.

Productivity declines also are possible. A paper out of the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at The University of Chicago showed productivity fell by about 20% at a large Asian IT services company during the work-from-home period of the pandemic. While total hours worked increased by roughly 30%, average output didn’t significantly change, the data showed."

"Many companies such as Apple and Alphabet’s Google are opting for something in between. But hybrid structures have their drawbacks, too. Research from Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom and co-authors Jose Maria Barrero and Steven J. Davis shows how hybrid structures could affect diversity within a company. Among college graduates with children, women want to work from home full time almost 50% more than men, the research shows. Mr. Bloom called that differentiation worrying, given a work-from-home study he ran in 2014 showed a 50% lower rate of promotion after 21 months compared with in-office colleagues."

"NYU Stern marketing professor Scott Galloway, who called work-life balance a myth in a blog post earlier this month, noting there are only trade-offs."

Related posts:

Companies Start to Think Remote Work Isn’t So Great After All

Since people feel more disorganized and chaotic when they are at home, should business leaders take this into account when they consider whether to make remote working the norm after the pandemic subsides?

Remote work is surprisingly productive (for now, but what about in the long-run?)  

Does a Raise or Remote Work Sound Better?  

With No Commute, Americans Simply Worked More During Coronavirus

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