Editor’s Note: I’ve written a version of this weekly wrap-up for more than 20 years — from Workforce.com to TLNT.com to Fuel50. Now, I’m doing it here. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THERE HAS BEEN an ongoing debate since the pandemic started to wind down, and it comes down to one basic question: Is remote (and hybrid) work a good thing for employers and an organization’s bottom line?
Last March, The Wall Street Journal threw cold water on the remote revolution with a story titled Why Bosses Who Praised Remote Work Sour on Productivity From Home. It quoted the CEO of a human resources software and consulting firm who said that “most executives in his professional network have concluded that the initial success of remote work is unsustainable.”
Suddenly, a lot of business leaders were making the case that the remote work strategy that got their company through the pandemic wasn’t sustainable moving ahead.
But not everyone was convinced.
Politicizing remote work is a silly idea
My former colleague Lance Haun has been making the case that remote work makes a lot of sense for a lot of people and their companies in his Work Leader Weekly newsletter. Not too long ago he wrote about the silliness of adding a political element to remote work by labeling it as a “woke” idea. He wrote:
“Politicizing working remotely as being a liberal idea is SO silly. With all the talk about freedom and driving real results, dragging your ass to the office every day feels like the participation trophy of workplace accomplishments. Who cares if you are (or aren’t) getting your work done?
Some of the most conservative people I’ve ever known love working remotely. So many union-strong, Joe Biden-voting teachers were miserable teaching remotely. While there may be some preference bias based on political views, it could just as likely be that there is a preference bias for particular types of roles that lean heavily remote or not. And, even then, it just seems like a bad bet.
If you need to be in-person for some roles, you need to be in-person. For everything else, let’s continue to find the right mix of remote and office time for folks. …”
Working remote IS good for many businesses
IT FEELS LIKE THE CASE for remote work has weathered the recent storms from those executives who want to go back to the ways of the pre-pandemic workplace, but just in case the remote and hybrid issue needed more backing, here’s what popped up last week in a Bloomberg News article titled Letting People Work From Home Is Good for Companies’ Revenue Growth.
“Companies that allow remote work have experienced revenue growth that’s four times faster than those that are more stringent about office attendance (emphasis added), a new survey shows, adding fuel to the debate over productivity and performance in today’s workplaces.
The analysis of 554 public companies that employ a collective 26.7 million people found that “fully flexible” firms — which are either completely remote or allow employees to choose when they come to an office — increased sales 21% between 2020 and 2022, on an industry-adjusted basis. That compares with 5% growth for companies with hybrid or fully onsite workforces.
The study, by flex-work advisor Scoop Technologies Inc. and Boston Consulting Group, included companies across 20 sectors, from technology to insurance. Revenue growth was normalized against average industry growth rates so that employers in better-performing areas would not skew the findings.”
Hybrid work is good for companies, too
Those are pretty stunning numbers, and it’s doubtful many business leaders would believe you if you told them that companies that allow remote work see a 400% revenue growth. But even organizations that have gone for a more hybrid approach have seen some benefits, too.
Again, from Bloomberg:
“Among the companies that did require at least some office attendance, those that came in a few days a week boosted sales at twice the rate of those in the office full-time, according to the survey.
The better growth rates for more remote-friendly companies could be due to their ability to hire faster and from a wider geographic area, along with higher employee retention, according to Scoop co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Rob Sadow.
At insurer Allstate Corp., for example, 84% of its new U.S. hires over the past year don’t live near one of its local offices, and remote-friendly jobs receive twice as many applications, according to Lauren DeYoung, who works across departments to oversee the company’s flexible-work arrangements.”
Clear data for WHY remote work is a big positive
HERE MY TAKE: There’s always a lot of research out there, and it’s not always easy to tell what is meaningful and what is not. I can’t tell you how much I get pitched that’s thin, overstated, and not terribly specific.
I wrote this about research here last month — “If you get some survey that seems interesting but doesn’t provide specific methodology, it’s a clear sign that you shouldn’t take it very seriously, because companies that have solid methodology usually want you to know it. And companies that don’t, don’t.”
However, this study from the Boston Consulting Group and Scoop Technologies is pretty solid.
Not only did it dig into three years of data, but it also looked at 554 public companies that employ a collective 26.7 million people. That’s a pretty substantial survey by anyone’s standards.
It also gave a ringing endorsement to companies that embrace remote work — that sales at ‘fully-flexible’ employers grew at a much faster rate than those that didn’t embrace remote work.
Need some tangible data to help make the case in your company? I’ve seen a lot of people try, but rarely do they have supporting research like this.
I know, I know … remote or hybrid work isn’t right for every worker and every company. Lots of jobs can’t be done remotely, but the lockdown made it clear that remote work CAN be a viable option for many people in jobs that can be staffed remotely, and it can actually enhance productivity and employee engagement.
This survey make that crystal clear, and I suspect it won’t be the last.
Another view: CNBC has a different take and seems to think that remote work is slowly going away, as they argue in Why the Golden Age of remote work may be coming to an end.
Other trends and insights …
- NLRB’s Joint Employer Rule Triggers ‘Mess’ Over Court Review (From Bloomberglaw.com)
- FDIC Chair, Known for Temper, Ignored Bad Behavior in Workplace (From WSJ.com)
- Groups sue to stop NLRB joint employer rule (From LegalDive.com)
- The Future of Work needs more apprentices (From Forbes.com)
- New York, California, Alaska among states with highest worker productivity (From BenefitNews.com)
- Loneliness is severely affecting employees at work, study shows (From HRDive.com)
- The Great Betrayal: After Callous Layoffs, Workers Are Done With the Full-Time Work Model (From A.team.com)
- How we created a culture of Psychological Safety (From Chiefexecutive.net)
- What CEOs Need to Know About the Costs of Adopting GenAI (From HBR.org)
- Your Youngest Employees Are Talking Politics at Work. What Leaders Need to Know (From Inc.com)
One more thing …
The first predictions for 2024 have arrived
EVERYONE SEEMS TO HAVE predictions for the New Year. These usually come later in November and keep going until February or so, but I’ve never seen a list of workplace and workforce predictions come out before the end of October.
Well, if this 2024 set of predictions from Forrester, the influential research and advisory firm, isn’t the very first then please point me to one that is.
Forrester’s Predictions 2024: An EX Recession And An AI Revolution Reshape The Future Of Work came out so early — October 26 — that I completely missed it. My sense is that pretty much everybody else who follows annual workplace predictions missed it too.
The eagle-eyed Lance Haun managed to mention it in his November 16 Work Leader Weekly newsletter, and even that was more than three weeks after Forrester published it.
That said, it’s hard to feel bad about missing it because there are so many more predictions to come, but here are a few that Forrester highlighted for 2024:
- Organizational DEI investments will fall from 33% in 2022 to 20% in 2024.
- Employee engagement and culture energy will decline again.
- AI will cause mischief in recruiting.
This version of Forrester’s 2024 workplace predictions is actually a short synopsis of the larger and more detailed version, but unless you’re a Forrester client, an individual copy of the actual report is going to cost you $795 (yikes)!
Just remember — there are a lot more 2024 workplace predictions coming, so there will be a lot more to dig through if you’re not big on paying nearly $800 on this one.
Want to know my favorite comment from the abbreviated version of Forrester’s 2024 predictions? It’s this:
“In 2024, we see more turbulence but also opportunity.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because you could make that prediction just about EVERY year from the dawn of time until today. But you get what you pay for and I’m guessing you’ll get a little bit more nuanced predictions for next year if you spring for Forrester’s $795 version.
That’s MY first prediction for 2024, and it’s absolutely free.