The coming remote work culture clash

Office worker
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The channel must be ready for many new approaches to work when offices reopen, says Billy MacInnes

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18 February 2021 | 0

There have been some interesting stories this month concerning companies and their plans for remote and hybrid working after the pandemic is over. Spotify, for example, has introduced an initiative called Work From Anywhere (WFA), that will allow employees “to work from wherever they do their best thinking and creating”.

Workers will be able to select their ‘Work Mode’, choosing whether they would like to work mostly from home or in the office. Spotify garnished the announcement with some warm sounding statements like “work isn’t something our people come to the office for, it’s something they do” and “effectiveness can’t be measured by the number of hours people spend in an office”.

The latter sits uncomfortably with the statement from CEO Daniel Elk last year that musicians “can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough”, suggesting that their effectiveness can be measured by the number of hours they spend in the office (aka recording studio).

 

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Among the other companies weighing in on the remote/hybrid working future was Google, which warned the process could lead to increased costs. “As we prepare to return our workforce in more locations back to the office in 2021, we may experience increased costs as we prepare our facilities for a safe return to work environment and experiment with hybrid work models,” the company warned in its annual 10-K report.

Google added it could have “potential effects on our ability to compete effectively and maintain our corporate culture”.

That’s an interesting perspective, especially for a company that has built a culture based around onsite perks, such as free, organic, chef-prepared meals, nap pods, video games, ping pong and onsite physicians. This may be why when employees return to offices from 1 September 2021, Google wants them to report to work at least three days a week and live within commuting distance.

Then there’s Salesforce, which has introduced its own work from anywhere model, with president and chief people officer Brent Hyder proclaiming that “the 9-to-5 workday is dead and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks”. Gee, who can he be talking about?

The options available to employees range from fully remote to 1-3 days in the office (flex) and 4-5 days a week (for the unlucky few whose roles require it).

Hyder makes a good point about the company being able to achieve greater equality in its workforce by moving beyond city centres to “welcome untapped talent from new communities and geographies”. The move to more flexible schedules also “removes hurdles that may make it more difficult to be in the office daily – from picking up kids to caring for sick family members.”

Let’s not forget, Twitter has already said it will let some of its people work from home “forever”, which is very generous but could be open to misinterpretation: “Wait, what, I have to work for you forever?”

Mix and match

This tour of several companies and their different plans for workforces after the pandemic fizzles out is a mini-demonstration of what’s likely to happen for a lot of businesses in the future. It suggests that things could become a lot more interesting for channel partners as no two customers will be exactly alike.

Instead of a template where most employees are in the office and a lucky few are outside, there will be a mix and match approach with some permanently out of the office, some intermittently present and others always onsite. The ratio will differ from company to company.

If channel partners don’t get it right for customers, things could go downhill much faster than if something went wrong in the traditional office-based model. On the other hand, if they can deliver the appropriate IT service for every employee, wherever he or she may be based, they are likely to get more appreciation than they currently do.

It’s one thing to provide IT to employees inside the company building sitting at their desk. That’s something they expect as a matter of course. It’s something else entirely to do that when they’re far removed from the corporate environment working at home. Channel partners have a big role to play in giving companies the ability to provide that option to their employees.

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