Who is calling shots about how many days you end up working in the office? It slowly dawned on the bosses that it wasn’t them. Real holders of power? The elusive “top talent” that every firm tries to attract.
Raj Chowdhury, an economist at Harvard Business School, argues that throughout history, the most sought-after candidates have ultimately determined what our work looks like. For example, in the early 90s, using email on our phones was a luxury reserved exclusively for CEOs. However, it wasn’t long before the best people in companies demanded it, and as a result, we can’t avoid email anymore.
Today, Chowdhury’s spider-sense is troubled by the need for ultimate flexibility: top talent doesn’t just want hybrid work, they want to work from anywhere. “There are two types of companies,” Chowdhury explains. “One is going to accept work from anywhere and the other is in denial – I feel these companies are going to lose their workforce.” He argues that “companies trying to turn back the clock will lose some of their best talent, and this dynamic will force these companies to catch up.”
This may come as a revelation to workers who are currently facing a top-down 3/2 pattern in their workplaces. This “three days in, two days out” model was expected to become the norm when we first imagined what life would be like after Covid during the pandemic. But since we’ve stepped out of our bedrooms and kitchen tables, we’ve realized that we’re not at the end of this story – we’re still at the beginning. Data from Stanford economist Nick Bloom confirms this: in June 2020, most companies expected employees to work from home about a day and a half a week, but over the next two years, the expectation of working from home grew with each subsequent month. firms now expect workers to be home for nearly half the week.
Nimble start-up firms have a strong advantage due to this cultural shift. Indeed, in 2023 we will see how startups move to remote work. On the other hand, more established firms will be faced with a choice: whether to keep expensive real estate and slow-moving managers, or simply jump into the new trend.
This will not be an easy transition. For example, according to a report by research firm Leesman, office work was most popular among only one group—CEOs who owned their own offices (or private meeting rooms). As a result, in 2023, veteran corporate managers are likely to take advantage of the economic downturn to make a last-ditch effort to get employees back in the office. It’s implausible to imagine these more traditional managers rubbing their hands over the prospect of a short-term economic downturn, but using a softer labor market as leverage to get employees back into the office could prove to be a popular strategy. It may be too late; The best talent has already made up their minds. There may be a conflict ahead, as it will resolve itself.