At the Coppola-Cheney Group, we have been waiting for workers to get back into the office since the start of COVID….and now here it is. Companies are making employees come back to the office to work. This isn’t a shock to us because we talk to owners, CEOs, and leaders every day. They want this. Why?
— The economy is scary.
— Productivity is down with remote workers (read the article below to see why—hint: everything is back open).
— There are fewer jobs for every worker, creating a more competitive work environment.
— Leadership wants to build teams and culture and they can’t do it remotely.
We do agree, office space will not be what it was pre-COVID. Change is here but we see companies urgently needing their people back in the office and in many cases, they need them back in order to survive.
PS: My latest podcast was with Mo Bina on Purpose Driven Wealth, where I talked about simple concepts to take you toward living a Fantastic Life. I had a great time talking with Mo and hope you can find a few pieces of value in it. Click here to listen to the podcast!
Why Bosses Who Praised Remote Work Sour on Productivity From Home
Some companies now see flexible work setups as a liability in a slowing economy
By Callum Borchers
March 23, 2023 12:01 am ET
Trim the travel budget, reduce head count and…crack down on remote work?
Companies trying to run leaner and more efficiently in a cooling economy are deploying familiar strategies from past downturns. (See ya, catered lunches.) Some are also taking new aim at their employees’ work-from-home arrangements.
The latest back-to-office push reflects bosses’ renewed sense of control and their concern that employees’ at-home productivity is falling to unaffordable levels.
“There’s a lightning-in-a-bottle effect that rallies people together,” says Allan Jones, founder and chief executive of Bambee, a human-resources software and consulting firm in Los Angeles. “But lightning strikes and then it dissipates.”
Mr. Jones says he and most executives in his professional network have concluded that the initial success of remote work is unsustainable. Facing a global crisis that threatened to drive companies out of business—and often did—a lot of employees cranked up their effort. They worked well on Zoom and Slack with colleagues they already knew. Sure, there were a few distractions in the house, but no one was sneaking off for a round of golf or a leisurely lunch at a restaurant during the workday because everything was closed.
A couple of years on, things are different—and less efficient in the eyes of managers like Mr. Jones. He says he recently told his roughly 175-person staff that he’s tempted to require five in-person days a week but will preserve two remote days and add a third in the summer if the team’s output doesn’t lag behind.
So far, it doesn’t look great. Alone in the office when we spoke by video, he picked up his phone to check how many clients were signing up for Bambee’s HR software and management service.
“Our new subscribers today are half of what they normally are at this time,” he reported, adding that a 30% drop is typical when everyone is at home. It isn’t principle or personal preference that sours him on remote work, he says. “It’s in the numbers.”
He didn’t say how long he would give his team to close the gap before mandating more office time, but some companies, even in the ostensibly remote-friendly tech sector, are running out of patience in the face of a potential recession.
Meta Platforms Inc., a leader in remote work, recently told employees that it is pausing new applications to work from home. Salesforce Inc. executives said on an earnings call this month that remote hires took too long to get up to speed and that increasing sales representatives’ in-person schedules to four days a week was part of the company’s renewed focus on efficiency, along with layoffs.
Three days in the office is now the standard at cybersecurity firm Rapid7 Inc., which until a few months ago didn’t have set requirements. The company says it studied employees’ in-person and at-home performance to arrive at that number.
“We experienced the benefits of workplace flexibility,” says Corey Thomas, Rapid7’s CEO. “We also saw the long-term strain on collaboration, cross-team communication, and especially development for emergent hires and new managers.”
LinkedIn reports that about 12% of job listings on its platform are for remote positions, down from 20% around this time last year. Jennifer Shappley, LinkedIn’s global vice president of talent acquisition, says people who are determined to work remotely might have to consider freelancing, trading some job security and company-sponsored benefits for flexibility. Postings for independent-contractor roles are growing four times as fast as full-time openings on LinkedIn, as businesses continue to need labor but balk at commitment.
Such a trend could favor companies like freelance marketplace operator Upwork Inc. Perhaps you’ve seen the company’s TV commercials, featuring a zombie who implies that traditional office work is dying.
Yet Upwork included its own remote employees on a list of operational risks in an annual securities filing in January, cautioning investors that managing, training and motivating people “can be more difficult with a remote workforce.”
Upwork says it remains committed to remote work because the benefit of being able to hire the best candidates, wherever they are, outweighs the risks.
Some startup founders and investors are weighing facetime and technical skill differently.
Andra Capital, a Silicon Valley venture firm, is pushing portfolio companies to require at least three office days a week. “To generate what I call the drive for excellence, you really need to be there,” says managing partner Haydar Haba.
At artificial-intelligence startup Prodia, co-founder Mikhail Avady says he and his partners are debating how to get the most out of precious venture capital as they prepare to make their first hires. Do they go for top-flight remote talent or people they can work with side-by-side in the company’s home base of Atlanta?
“I would probably push harder for an Atlanta person, even if they’re a little bit worse,” Mr. Avady says.
Such careful deliberations are new to many companies after years of relatively easy fundraising, says Tate Hackert, co-founder and president of ZayZoon, which has attracted $25 million of equity investments. The company partners with other businesses to offer their employees cash advances ahead of regular payroll cycles.
Mr. Hackert is convening teams at offices in Phoenix, and Alberta, Canada, more frequently these days, though not on a rigid schedule. People are good at what he calls hands-to-keyboard tasks when they’re at home, but he says employees collaborate better in person. Time wasted in clumsy virtual brainstorming sessions (“You’re on mute!”) was tolerable when money was flowing, but suddenly seems unaffordable.
“As we head into a year of efficiency, trust and human bond will be needed more than ever,” he says.