Can we have the best of both worlds?
June/July 2021 Footnote
Editor's note: Updated May 27, 2021
A return-to-office date for many of us may be in sight.
While some companies have taken bold moves to permanently move to 100% remote and others have already set dates for a return to a pre-pandemic office environment, the majority of companies appear to be leaning toward a hybrid model, allowing employees to split time between the office and their homes.
The hybrid model makes a lot of sense for employees and employers. A lot of employees have embraced the flexibility, and the past year has shown many can still work effectively away from the office. Employers like the hybrid model because productivity hasn’t dipped with remote work, and flexibility opens companies to a wider talent pool. Downsizing space, of sorts, also allows companies to be more strategic about their office design.
That said, some employers and employees like having the in-person option to facilitate collaboration, create and form deeper connections, and strengthen the office culture.
The market for accounting and finance talent is tight. Employees will have choices if they don’t like their current work arrangement because new employment opportunities are just a few clicks away. Having a hybrid approach could be the key to being competitive for the best talent.
But nothing is absolute in this world. There are complexities that come with the hybrid approach:
- Technology needs to be updated to allow for greater virtual collaboration for a mix of people onsite and offsite.
- Companies may need to rework their offices to fit competing desires for collaborative and individual workspaces. Many companies are moving to hoteling (having workspaces available to reserve instead of traditional permanent seating).
- Training will need to be provided to develop new skills for managing and leading hybrid teams.
- How do you build, maintain and create culture when the workforce is split? How do you engage those who are remote while others are in the office?
- A hybrid work environment needs to be defined. Will your office implement a staggered schedule for office and home? Will there be more flexible hours for work to be done at nontraditional times?
My team has discussed when it is best to come together physically versus when remote is more effective. I am sure it will be a bumpy transition, but we will find our way. We’re eager to bring forward best practices from working remotely combined with the energy and collaboration that comes from being together as part of a team in the office. One of my clients has proposed the idea of having “energy days,” where leadership encourages everyone to come into the office to help feed the need of those who are desperately craving more human interaction.
I’m certainly looking forward to being in person with people. I also expect to move forward with having at least one day working from home each week. Hats off to those who are planning their return-to-work efforts. There are a lot of complexities and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Katie Gabriel, CPA
Chair, MNCPA board of directors