Hybrid working: a question of balance
“However good the technology is, everyone is going to have different requirements and different red lines when they start coming back to the office. It is going to be a bit of a learning curve”, says Susan Freeman, Partner, Real Estate, Mishcon de Reya. Already differences of opinion between some corporate employers and their employees are emerging. While many staff are happy with current remote- and hybrid- working arrangements, some bosses have aired misgivings. David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs has described remote working as “an aberration”. Meanwhile, his counterpart at JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, has publicly stated his own reservations. Most recently, Eric Grossman, Chief Legal Officer at Morgan Stanley, suggested via a client memo that legal service providers returning full-time to the office could enjoy a market advantage. Susan Freeman believes that he may have a point. Tough or adversarial negotiations will likely favour to those around the conference table. New meeting technologies are already in development that aim to close the gap between those present and those calling in.
At its heart, most work remains people-centric. Tech related to payments, internal and external comms, and various HR functions is, by now, well-matured. But tech that enables the cultivation and maintenance of company values remains rare. For hybrid work to truly take, this need must be serviced.
The office – flexibility and productivity
The industry is slowly coming to terms with flexible rather than fixed-term leasing. While uncertainly lingers, flexibility will remain desirable. Many employees are equally opting for flexibility in their work surrounds, flitting between the office, home, and public venues such as libraries and coffee shops. Such freedom, though, should be caveated with the need to ensure confidentiality.
For employers and employees alike, the challenge will be to strike an optimal balance between productivity, wellbeing, convenience and a further range of factors. If the office is to prosper again, it must restate its merits.
“What we really need to think about is the purpose of the office”, says Nikki Greenberg. “It needs to be profitable for businesses and preferable for employees.”