All variations of the hybrid workforce are emerging as employees head back to the office--or not. Many high-tech companies have granted flexibility for workers to continue to work remotely. For example, Twitter and Facebook have announced that employees can continue to work remotely forever, while Google has proposed that "around 60 percent of employees come to the office a few days a week, while another 20 percent will work in new office locations and 20 percent will work remotely. Apple asked all employees to come back to work three days a week and received pushback from employees who said, among other things, that they felt the company's request was "dismissive and invalidating" and that they were "unheard and at times actively ignored."
On the other hand, many old-school CEOs are expecting all employees to report back to work as in pre-Covid times. Goldman Sachs's CEO required all employees to return to the office by June 14. Many on Wall Street cited the need for collaboration and learning--especially of younger staff members--that they feel can only occur at the office.
I know of one company that divided its employees into "A" and "B" groups and is asking that each group report to the office on alternate days, which I guess was a compromise of sorts. One thing does seem clear: It's difficult to legislate a generic policy over a wide array of individual circumstances.
Absolutely unacceptable is when an executive proclaims: "If I allow one person the flexibility to work from home, I need to grant that to all employees." Where is that written in stone? Why is it so difficult for some executives to allow flexibility? This is not to say that anything goes, but rather, when circumstances permit, deserving (i.e., high-performing) employees will be allowed greater flexibility given they have "proved themselves." If others want similar flexibility, they need to demonstrate similar results for them to be considered a high performer.
It reminds me of when I was recently presenting for a group in Albuquerque, and heard about a company that had just hired a new CEO. That person was "all business" and on his first day declared that "All employees need to be at their desks at 8:30 a.m. every day." When a woman in the back of the room raised her hand and said "I'm sorry, can't do that," he barked "Why not?" She went on to explain that she was a single mother who had two children that she needed to drop off at school each morning and pick up each afternoon. She went on to explain that she also had an aging, ailing parent and, if called, would need to take her to the hospital or doctor's office on short notice since she didn't have anyone else to do that.
The CEO responded: "If you expect to continue to work here, you will be at your desk at 8:30 a.m."
The next day the woman quit--what alternative did she have? It turned out that she was the company's top revenue producer. She was successful because she had a job that allowed her to meet the demands of her personal life. She'd put her kids to bed and spend hours planning the next workday to maximize her efforts.
She promptly got a job with another company--and many of her customers followed her to the new job. Moral of the story: It's easy to create a policy for better or for worse, but the real skill in management is achieving the goals of the company while meeting the needs of your employees. It's really not that difficult if your heart is in the right place.