The CEOs of companies including Yelp, Airbnb, Spotify and the 3M (a long-standing Fortune 100 company) found out that hybrid does not work. Fully physical or fully remote is better than hybrid. However, fully remote helps the company save tons of real estate costs while enabling employees to be more productive and happier.
It looks like fully remote work is going to be the standard future of work and is becoming more attractive to more companies. If that is the case, companies need to have a platform to manage and engage remote employees effectively. However, not all companies can be fully remote but its good to know what learnings can be adapted and applied to suit each company and its workforce.
Stoppelman, who described hybrid work as the “worst of bothworlds” and even dubbed it “hell”, said physical offices in major cities in the US, including New York City, Chicago and Washington, DC, would close. Yelp is only keeping its San Francisco headquarters and Phoenix, Arizona outpost, transitioning to a 'hotelling' model where desks can be rented for the day. “Over time we came to realise that the future of work at Yelp is remote,” he wrote in a blog post.
Other companies are similarly doubling down on remote work. Airbnb, 3M, Spotify and
Lyft have all enshrined permanent home-working set-ups. Some firms, like Yelp, have also closed office space: in May, worker-for-hire app TaskRabbit completely closed all its offices, including its headquarters in San Francisco; in April, PayPal shuttered its San Francisco presence.
There can be huge upsides to moving in this direction, including meeting the desires
of workers who want to stay at home permanently as well as saving costs. But experts also say that banking on remote work in this way carries risk – especially since no-one is entirely sure if it will work, or what will happen next.
Frustration and strategy
“Hybrid work is really hard to manage,” says Frances Milliken, professor of management
at Stern School of Business, New York University. “There's a lot of scheduling complexity with hybrid work."
As some workers have returned to offices, the downsides of in-and-out hybrid schedules have started to become clearer, from awkward Zoom calls in conference rooms to emotional exhaustion for workers and logistical headaches ensuring team members are in the office at the same time.
Hybrid has been "a little bit of a mess", agrees Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, associate professor of organisational behaviour and human resources at Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, US. He says it's been a pain not only for companies trying to organise the hybrid schemes, but also for workers, who are experiencing whiplash after two years of working from home, when they had more autonomy than ever before.
A large portion of workers don’t want to lose this autonomy, companies know, so
doubling down on remote work may be a tactic to fight attrition and boost
worker engagement. After all, data shows a clear worker desire for remote work; in Yelp's case, 86% of respondents to an internal survey wanted to work remotely all or most of the time; only 1% are currently going into the office daily. Companies that double down are simply following the numbers, making sure their employees won’t leave for other remote-first jobs.
Milliken argues this is a primary reason some companies are shifting approaches – and
why fully remote set-ups may stick. Because while closing offices might seem like a point of no return, "I don't think this move is non-reversible –they could just go back into the cities and buy real estate,” she says. “I would think that it's non-reversible [because] workers won't want to go back into the office.”
If there are lots of interest, we can organize a CARROTS webinar or in-person talk to have a more in-depth discussion with other companies.