Remote isn’t going away

Rishi Sunak’s recent urging to get people into the office isn’t going to be enough to reverse the trend to a hybrid work environment.

My (small) workplace did a staff survey last year to get some feedback on whether/how much people wanted to be in the office in the future. The general consensus was for some hybrid with a couple of days a week in the office. Similar patterns seem to be playing out in many other companies.

In general, we saw that younger staff wanted more time in the office and older staff wanted less. Simple explanation: If you’ve got a young family and moved out of town somewhere with a longer commute but more space then you’ll be perfectly happy spending more time at home. If you’re quarantining in a small flatshare with little outside space and not much chance to meet other people then you will crave time away from home.

As many industries move towards a more hybrid onsite/remote working pattern, how big of a problem is this for younger employees? Do older staff have a moral duty to be in the office to help develop younger staff?

I fully understand that people of a certain age have fond memories of chatting to someone far more senior in the smoking room and that people of certain industry backgrounds will have fond memories of working long days in the office and then going out all night with their co-workers.

But even in the office a lot has changed over the last 20 years. There was a time when people would be regularly talking to each other, either face to face or on the phone. Now it’s common for people sitting next to each other to message each other. I have to keep reminding myself that when someone says “I spoke to X”, they usually mean “I sent X an email”. Not to mention how many kids are comfortable building relationships with each other over Discord rather than meeting face to face.

Even before the 2020 lockdowns began, people were relying on virtual forms of communication more and more. The lockdowns accelerated and broadened a trend that was already happening.

Insisting that people go back to the old ways of working simply because people in authority have fond memories of the past is not going to cut it. While there is obviously value in physically meeting face to face, there is also value in working remotely. The world has moved on and managers need to adjust to handling hybrid/remote teams.