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WFH, WFA or in office? Stop the confusion and commit to flexibility.

As the world “re-opens” post-pandemic, CEOs and business leaders have been causing confusion, anxiety, frustration, and even anger as they look to rush people back into offices. These policies range from Tim Cook’s hybrid approach to James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, and his hardline tact that “If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office.” 

Similar stories are experienced daily by business leaders navigating the confusing post-pandemic world. From the employee’s perspective, the uncertainty of their bosses’ intentions and general fickleness are confusing. Still, the evidence on their preference is clear — most people want to continue working from home, or at the very least, have the ability to decide on their own accord. Surveys show anywhere from 25% to 40% are willing to quit their jobs if forced to return to the office full-time.

During the pandemic, we all quickly moved to remote work. Working from home became the new reality – the only reality – for most companies. We all had to make adjustments and learn to navigate the set-up that had previously seemed acceptable only in rare circumstances. Concerns about productivity went out the door; time and time again, teams rose to the challenges encountered, and the pandemic was no different.

So why are business leaders trying to implement strict policies now that the pandemic is subsiding? Why is “hybrid” becoming increasingly about counting the days in the office? When we were forced to be remote, business leaders adjusted, but biases and insecurities never left. As we come out of the pandemic, we are looking for ways to get back to our comfort zones; this attempt cannot come at the expense of our employees’ comfort zones.

However, business leaders and managers must learn to evolve. 

The pandemic forced everyone to take a step back and restructure. Let’s use the learning we garnered during the pandemic to relook at the workplace and the best structure for success. As we move forward,  leaders should look to sign a new pact with our employees — that of unconditional and unconstrained trust. Some individuals and teams will perform the best working from home consistently; companies and business leaders should provide them with that opportunity. However, if someone requires office space, we should give that too. 

Business leaders should build a strategy that allows their employees to have flexibility in the way they are most productive and happy. Companies should also be relooking at their technology and their processes and procedures to ensure that they have a strategy to implement best practices in their organizations. That may require investments in technology; but they, and their employees, will reap the rewards of those investments. 

Now is a time to partner and learn from our successful and loyal teams, who have collectively helped during one of the most challenging times in recent history.

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