Lack of control over trust?

“Remote work is here to stay.” It has been one of the most repeated phrases during the pandemic, a crisis that has forced the generalization and improvisation of remote work, without adequate preparation. Now, 4 years later, this has been confirmed Incarceration has changed business models foreverBut not in the sense that seems to be imposed once and for all.

It is the so-called “return to the office” (RTO), a global trend over the last couple of years that is gradually being implemented to a greater or lesser extent depending on the professional sector.

Latest data in Catalonia indicate that 19.4% of employees work remotely During the year 2023, a number that includes those who did this sometimes or more than half of the days of the week. The total represents a decrease of 2.4 points compared to the previous year.

More graphical data: approx Half of the remote workers who emerged during the pandemic They are back to working exclusively face-to-face.

Ironically, the “return” policy did just that imposed even in great technologiesIt is one of the sectors that most benefits from a remote working format that seems to require less presence, such as Google or Zoom.

Human contact is irreplaceable

Companies like Amazon announced their returns policy a year ago. It stipulates that all office employees must work in person 3 days a week and can work remotely up to a maximum of 2 days.

The administration defends attendance again because it confirms that he will go It is associated with commitment, creativity, interaction and learning From the template.

Andy Jassy, ​​Amazon's president, emphasized this in an internal post before the measure was implemented and predicted that the change would be difficult for the workforce to accept: “It is easier to learn, model, practice and reinforce our culture “When we are in the office together most of the time, surrounded by our colleagues.”

In economics, they are called “spillover”, which are effects that are not directly related to a phenomenon. In the case of remote work, it has been shown that productivity is not directly affected, quite the opposite in some cases, however The negative effects are indirect and come from lack of interaction Personally at work.

It was studied by Carles Mendes, professor of economics and business studies at the University of Auckland: “There are interactions and ways of working with other members of the team that you cannot do remotely. In person, yes, and that It generates positive impacts in terms of productivityBut indirectly.”

“New projects, new lines of work, and new ways of approaching certain problems can arise if your colleague is physically next to you, which would not arise through email.”

The benefits of communication between team members have an impact on indirect productivity, which is difficult to quantify (ACN/Marta Casado)

Mendez believes that the decline in remote work is widespread, but less pronounced in sectors such as programming and communications. According to him, there are two main factors behind this transformation: Sense of belonging and control.

“The fact of always being at home, not communicating and working for goals, for milestones that you have to achieve, It has a negative impact on the sense of belonging To a company with which you are not directly connected.

False sense of control

With telecommuting, many effective computer control mechanisms have also been implemented for the actual working hours performed. However, home-based workers have less sense of control than management.

“However, a person's work is not appreciated Companies can actually exercise more control over remote workers And when he goes to the company, and wherever he is in front of the computer, that does not guarantee his productivity.”

Mendes realizes this The need for control disappears if you work towards achieving goalsIt is a model that can also mean an increase in the working day if the milestones to be achieved are not adjusted properly.

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study Eurofound Business conditions in Europe are more alert than they were in Spain during the pandemic A third of regular remote workers have skipped the workday To be able to achieve the goals required to replace the control mechanisms in the first wave.

Cut costs

Unions add another factor to explain the return to the office: Saving costs resulting from the remote work lawIt has been in effect since the fall of 2020 and covers workers who work remotely for at least a third of their working day, that is, two days a week. Prove it The company must agree on remote work with the employee The necessary materials must be provided to carry out work remotely.

Nuria Gilgado, union policy secretary for the Catalan Workers' Confederation, believes they are Wrong reasons to force a return to the office: “Apart from the culture of attendance, one of the main issues to limit remote work is the law requiring compensation for the costs of remote work.”

“Having to pay the cost of remote work has made many companies refuse to give this possibility.”

Many employees reluctantly accepted the forced return to their offices (CMMA)

Back with frequency

Abandoning remote work causes more dissatisfaction and complications among employees than its sudden implementation in light of the state of emergency due to the Corona virus, according to what he says. A study of the 500 largest companies in the United Stateswhich concludes that managers demand face-to-face action to reassert their control despite this Not showing a decline in corporate profitability.

In general, the study says:These mandates hurt employee satisfactionFurthermore, it does not improve financial results or company value.

Thousands of workers at Europe's largest software company, Germany's SAP, have signed a letter to management informing them of this “I feel betrayed” by the “radical change in administration”. Despite the increased profits, the software company has also committed to returning to the office, at least 3 days a week.

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The template not only reveals that it is against it but that He threatens to leave the job. This is also a trend that is strengthening. According to another A survey on remote work conducted by the Eada Business School in Barcelona, More than half of the participants are ready to change their jobs If their company does not allow them to work remotely. Younger generations and women in particular will do so, for distinctly different reasons.

Failed expectations in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley has also noticed the effects of returning to the office. Even before the pandemic, software designer Bernat Forteit settled in San Francisco, where he founded with other collaborators In conjunction witha An application for remote work but specialized in small teams. The goal was to recreate physical proximity in a remote space, a feature that big apps like Zoom or Google Meet don't offer.

With the pandemic, the company achieved strong growth in the number of users, but with the subsequent trend of increasing attendance, they could not meet the startup's expectations and had to abandon the project.

After strong growth we stagnated. We were unable to examine the growth prospects of a Silicon Valley startup. This is how our programs have evolved, as returning to the office becomes a clear reality.”

Bernat Forteit, founder of Tandem.chat in San Francisco

Hybrid model, intermediate point

As a result of the spread of remote work with the pandemic and its gradual decline after that The hybrid model, which appears to be “here to stay”. The most popular formula among professionals is Work remotely 2 or 3 days a week, This is a system that some companies encourage and others are forced to accept reluctantly.

What experts are saying is that it is no longer possible to work exclusively remotely or be 100 percent present, because this It hurts companies' competitiveness when it comes to attracting talentEspecially among young professionals who no longer accept strict models.

a lot Catalan public administrations have taken over the hybrid model and made it official Among workers, 20 to 30 percent of the day works remotely.

At Diputació de Barcelona, ​​in certain jobs, you can work from home up to 3 days a week and the goal is to maintain this streak.

In the Generalitat department, one in six workers can work remotely, but a maximum of two days a week and on a voluntary basis.

Remote working at ICAM has led to service saturation. (Unsplash/Alex Kotliarskyi)

100% new flexible fittings

The hybrid model, which combines face-to-face and partial remote working, has been imposed but in very different ways. Some companies take it to the extremeA philosophy based on “trust and responsibility”such as the pharmaceutical company Ferrer, has chosen a 100% flexible working day.

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Each worker chooses which days he goes to the office and which days he stays at homeAnd at any time. Christina Kiskere, Head of Talent and Culture, emphasizes that this freedom benefits both: “We have neither set a minimum nor a maximum for attendance at the office. We understand that people are responsible and that we must give them confidence so that they can organize their daily lives according to their need.”

“It's important to find moments to be together, and this happens naturally. People also don't want to work in isolation and what they do is come frequently to meet the teams.”

After the pandemic and with 100% remote work, It was difficult to bring people back to their offices voluntarilyKeskari admits. That's why they promoted “commitment and connectedness” activities and events that encouraged attendance at headquarters, as well as health and wellness suggestions, such as yoga or Pilates. Now, he says, the habit is already in place, and the system is “naturally” balanced.

Teamwork in companies, not at home or in the company

The hybrid solution requires new solutions, especially with regard to space. With integrated remote working Companies saved themselves the costs of renting offices Which now requires flexibility.

Following in the footsteps of other European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, Coworking solution for companies The “short cost” option, a cross-company hybrid environment, suggests:

Written by Carles Mendez, Professor of Economics and Business Studies at UOC, Coworking in companies is characterized by “flexible and dynamic”.“, means saving costs for the company and does not force the remote worker to stay at home: “All of this allows you to adjust the number of workers in the short term, whether you increase or reduce the workforce.”

In any case, academics, unions and companies agree The pandemic has forced us to overcome our unique business modelIt is valid for everyone, and it has accelerated the need to take into account the specificities of every workplace, every company, and every person:

“Every situation, every individual and every company should be studied from a global perspective. There are more productive people working remotely and others in the company or in a coworking space.”

It happened in a post-pandemic reality and the turmoil of the world of work, That after proper adaptation must now be adapted to factors that can no longer be overlooked, such as real and long-term productivity, beyond appearances, and employee satisfaction, Which not only affects their happiness.

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