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The Paradox Of Choice


How a company goes about implementing its remote work policy will be vital in determining whether that policy — and, as a result, the company — succeeds.

“For a lot of companies, they decided they don’t want to go fully remote, people don’t want to come back in full time, so I guess we’re hybrid,” Humanyze’s Ben Waber said. “Companies need to have a clear strategy, based on data, and say to people, we’re going on a journey, we don’t know exactly what this will look like, but here’s the evidence we’re basing our decisions on.”

Giving people autonomy and choice obviously has a lot of benefits, but companies need to be willing to guide those choices to avoid negative unintended consequences. 

Data from Future Forum has shown that women and people of colour are more likely to prefer to work from home than their male or white counterparts. 

As Stanford economist Nick Bloom has pointed out, research shows people who come into the office most are also the most likely to be promoted. 

Put these two facts together? If companies let staff simply choose which days they come in, there is a risk promotions go to those who don't see flexibility as a life benefit, women and people of colour get promoted at lower rates than they are now, and businesses become even less diverse at the executive level. 

There are further issues to contend with. Humanzyze’s research showed that while working from home, people were able to collaborate with their teams — the people they work with directly. But there were fewer chance encounters with people they don’t work with directly, of the sort much more likely to occur in an office. 

That hinders the “weak ties” between workers in different parts of a company that have a sizable role in fostering innovation and business success. 

“Even coming in one day a week has a big influencing on fostering weak ties,” Waber said. “Everyone feels that they are productive working at home, because they don’t miss those small, infrequent encounters. But at an organisational level, they have a big impact.”

How your tenants implement their hybrid work strategy has a big impact on their business success, and it pays for an office owner to understand the distinctions within the hybrid work and to choose their tenants carefully. A company that looks strong today may not be as strong tomorrow, depending on how they approach the future of work. 

It could be back to square one. 

Even if it goes well, the way that offices are designed and operated in the hybrid world is going to change significantly. Read on …

Don't like where you've ended up? Start over!

Related Topics: Future of work, Nick Bloom, Ben Waber