- Companies including Spotify, Twitter, and Goldman Sachs have taken different stances on remote work.
- A survey showed that 61% of respondents prefer a fully remote environment.
- Insider spoke to experts to discuss the future of the workplace.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories
As economies prepare to reopen following the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, major companies are starting to reconsider their approach to office working will once the pandemic recedes.
Although it is likely to be some time before social and economic activity resumes to pre-pandemic levels, the mass rollout of vaccinations in some countries has introduced companies to the possibility of reopening their offices – an attractive model for some employers.
Although the remote-work model has gained significant traction throughout the pandemic, it is clear that big organisations do not unanimously embrace it. However, in a recent survey conducted by Growmotely, 61% of respondents said they prefer a fully remote environment.
Companies including Spotify, Twitter, and Goldman Sachs are taking different approaches to their future workforce arrangements. Some are embracing an all-remote workforce, while others are encouraging employees to return to their office desks.
Here's what some of the top employers have said
Earlier this month, Spotify announced its transition to a permanent flexible-work model with its 'Work From Anywhere' policy. The new occupational strategy lets its 6,550 global employees choose how they want to work at the company - in an office, remotely, or at a coworking space that the company will pay a subscription for, as Insider previously reported.
Employees will be given more choice over the town, city, or country they want to work from.
"This is an opportunity to scrap the idea that big cities are the only places where meaningful work can happen because we know firsthand that isn't true," Travis Robinson, the head of diversity, inclusion and belonging at Spotify, told Insider previously.
The company's CEO, Jack Dorsey, sent an email to his employees informing staff they can work from home "forever" if they so wish, The Washington Post reported. The firm made its announcement in May last year.
According to the report, Twitter's shift to a permanent remote work policy was a two-year project, accelerated by the pandemic amid lockdowns.
In 2018, Dorsey sent an email to his employees encouraging them to work from home after experiencing a lift in productivity by doing so himself.
"We've already been on this path, and the crisis just catapulted us into a future state," said Jennifer Christie, Twitter's chief HR officer, in a blog post, as reported by The Washington Post.
The software and cloud computing company adopted similar work from home policies after recently unveiling its "Work From Anywhere" plans. The new guidelines offer employees three options for how they'll work going forward: flex, fully remote, and office-based. The flex option will allow workers to come into the office up to three times a week for tasks that cannot be conducted virtually.
Not everyone is welcoming the remote work model with open arms. Speaking at the recent Credit Suisse Group AG conference, the CEO of the investment bank, David Solomon, rejected the work from home policy, stating that it "is not ideal for us and it's not a new normal," CNBC reported.
He said the remote-work culture is an "aberration" that needs to be corrected "as quickly as possible."
Solomon said the nature of business within the financial sector clashes with the work-from-home model. "I do think for a business like ours which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us."
Solomon is not alone in his views. Back in mid-October, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive officer of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co was very vocal about what he viewed as the implausibility of remote working.
"How do you build a culture and character? How are you going to learn properly?" he said, similarly referring to junior workers as Solomon did, as reported by Financial News London.
According to Dimon, "a lot of work takes place not at the meeting, but before or after the meeting, when people share ideas."
As for the streaming company, co-chief executive, Reed Hastings, told The Wall Street Journal last year that he doesn't see any positives in a remote working environment. "Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative."
For big tech, including the likes of Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, future workforce arrangements look flexible. All three companies extended remote work policies until at least summer.
So, what does the future of work look like?
Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury, a professor at the Harvard Business School and remote work expert, highlighted the key benefits of remote working in an interview with Insider.
He said: "For individuals, the benefit of remote work is that it offers flexibility. Individuals can save on time and live in their preferred location under different remote work models. Remote work also creates a lot of value for companies. As an example, when companies allow workers to work-from-anywhere, talent can be hired globally, even at locations where the company doesn't have an office."
Choudhury respectfully disagreed with Soloman's views on remote working. "Remote work has been around for a long time and organizations such as the US Patent Office and Dell have successfully embraced remote work much before the pandemic," he said.
He added: "One of the models I really like is the TCS 25-25 hybrid remote work model, which I have studied in detail. In this model, all employees spend 25% of their time in the office and the entire team comes to the office on those "in-office" days. The other model I like is 'remote-first', where employees act as remote workers even on days that they are in the office."
John H. Krystal, M.D. chief of psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, told Insider, however, discussed the drawbacks of working from home and implications for public mental health. "The principal challenges associated with remote work are social isolation, poorer communication, and, paradoxically, reduced efficiency."
"Virtual work meetings leave little time for "schmoozing", the informal social interactions that build connection and trust. The resulting work relationships lead to "weaker connections between people" leaving "more room for provocative social interactions that can further erode work relationships," he added.
The sharp divide between companies' stances on remote working is clear, but time will only tell whether the gulf will widen further.