Right now, every company is trying to figure out whether to bring their employees back to the office, and if so, how. Companies like Amazon have said they want to get as many people back to the office as possible, as soon as it’s safe to do so. Google, Microsoft, and Apple have all said they want to get back to the office, though they’ve pushed those plans back in the last few months.
For the most part, companies seem to be moving towards a hybrid approach where employees work remotely part of the time, and come to the office the rest of the time. The thing is, many employees don’t want to come back. Many people have become accustomed to working remotely and the idea of going back to an office just isn’t very exciting.
A good number of people have decided they would rather resign than be stuck in a cubicle for eight hours a day.
If anything, the last 18 months have shown that a lot of the work we thought required having everyone together in an office, simply doesn’t. It’s been bumpy, for sure, but companies big and small have shown that they’re able to adapt to the massive challenge of staying productive even if you can’t be together in the office.
Now, as the world continues its hopeful march to some version of a return to normal, the reality is, a lot of companies and employees realized that the office isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Figuring out what work requires being in the office, and what is just as well suited to remote work is a real challenge.
That’s what I love about Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy’s perspective. “Instead of specifying that people work a baseline of three days a week in the office, we’re going to leave this decision up to individual teams,“ Jassy wrote in an email that the company shared on its blog.
Those last seven words are worth a closer look. Jassy says Amazon plans to “leave this decision up to individual teams.”
Honestly, that’s not even that profound. It makes sense that the people who would be best able to determine whether work can be done remotely or in an office setting, are the people closest to that work.
Especially at a company the size of Amazon, there’s no way a one-size-fits-all approach could possibly work. Team leaders and managers have a far better read on what makes for the best work environment based on the people on their team, and the work they do.
The thing is, in so many cases, companies have tried to dictate that employees return to the office for a certain number of days each week. The most popular number seems to be three. Both Google and Apple had previously announced that they expected that most employees would be back in the office that many days this fall, though Google has sense said that it would reevaluate.
Apple has faced pushback from its employees, and has moved its plan back to January at the earliest, but still seems to expect that there will be a point where everyone comes back at least part of the week.
Figuring out the best return to work plan requires balancing the needs of the business with the individual circumstances of your employees. Amazon’s approach recognizes that different teams have different needs based on the work they do. Even more importantly, employees have different needs and circumstances.
Giving individual teams the flexibility to make this decision means that those different issues are kept in balance. There are definitely going to be teams where it does make sense for everyone to come back for three or five days a week, but that shouldn’t be based on some arbitrary attempt to build a hybrid model. Instead, it should be based on finding the right balance balance between the work, and the people you hired to do that work.