Should I Stay or Should I Go – Companies, Workers Wrestle With Remote Work

(Written by Beast Code Tech Writers, Chris Chatelain & Trisha Jones)

We’ve heard it constantly for months: This is the “new normal.” Today, terms like hybrid work, social distance, tiered reopening, deep clean and sanitize, etc., are tossed around like beads at a Mardi Gras parade. So, it must be true, right? Truth is, this is still very much TBD.

Besides the obvious health crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it a whole new vernacular, new ways of working, and new habits. And, humans are creatures of habit. So now that businesses, states, and countries are reopening, which habits will win out — the new normal or the pre-pandemic ways?

Pre-pandemic life at Beast Code in 2019 was full of camaraderie, creative collaboration, and teams huddling together for morning scrum meetings. Social distancing meant eating all of your fries on Food Truck Friday rather than sharing them. “Masks on” meant keeping your Halloween costume on for photo opportunities. We had team-building lunches, participated in community events, and hosted social events such as Roaring 20s Night and video game challenges such as Super Smash Bros. tournaments. It all served to foster a close-knit group of people who not only enjoyed working together, but also enjoyed each other’s company. 

When the international effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 resulted in a widespread quarantine, it was like the fun police breaking up a wicked awesome college party. Suddenly we were filling out forms to work from home (WFH) and account for the company’s equipment we were taking with us, rather than signing waiver forms for axe-throwing events. The office emptied and we began using video technology to host virtual meetings.

Beast Code and its employees, however, made the transition rather seamlessly. Productivity remained steady and project deadlines continued to be met. Additionally, Beast Code’s new WFH policy allowed several members of our team to relocate out-of-state but keep their jobs with the company. To stay “connected,” we held virtual happy hours and played trivia games on Slack. In the spirit of competition, home offices were tricked out; no spinning rims, but the amount of LEDs is, uh, illuminating.

A year later, the world is slowly reopening as mask mandates are lifted and data shows the vaccine is curbing the virus’ spread. But the genie is already out of the bottle, and companies now have a choice to make: Will they let the genie remain free and allow workers to continue to work from home? Will they try to shove the genie back inside and transition everyone back to offices? Is there a middle ground?

Tech giants Twitter and Facebook informed employees that they can continue to work remotely indefinitely. Apple, however, took a hybrid approach — and promptly saw some staff jump ship.

That’s right in line with research and polls that show some workers feel being told to return to the office is like asking them to choose between their families and being valued as employees. The money workers invested in their home offices is another factor, as one survey shows employees spent $561 on average on home offices and upgrades, which equates to 0.7 percent of the annual GDP. The third piece of the WFH puzzle is lingering fear. People remain wary of being in crowded spaces such as elevators, meeting rooms, and public transportation.

But life isn’t black and white – and neither is a workforce. There are many shades within a workforce, and companies struggle to balance the needs of the many with the needs of the few, especially with work environment policies.

There are, of course, negatives to WFH. At Beast Code, many employees have expressed that they miss having in-person events and face-to-face collaboration. And, not everyone’s home internet and equipment is reliable enough for acceptable sound and video. And bottom line, people just miss being around other people.

Is hybrid the answer?

Beast Code has been slowly transitioning back to the office in recent weeks. At our headquarters, the company now has a “hotel” room designed for workers who prefer to largely WFH, but still want to come in occasionally for meetings or to see their coworkers in person. Employees who have chosen to be in the office three or more days have dedicated desks, while employees who wish to be primarily WFH will continue to be supported with the ongoing use of licensed software, remote IT support, and company equipment such as monitors and docking stations.

With 40 percent of workforce thinking about a job change this year, is it wise for companies to opt out of adopting a flexible work schedule for their employees? As for companies, like Apple, who have chosen to require their employees to work in the office at least three days a week, time will tell whether employees accept that policy or choose to move on to a company that gives them a flexible work choice.

Tips for Heading Back to the Office

  • Truly Transition. If you’ve been working in your home office for an extended amount of time, don’t just rush back to the office full steam ahead. Instead, start off with 1-2 days a week, then 3-5.
  • Communicate openly and often with your manager about your plans to return to the office. Be clear and concise about what you want to do and how you’d be willing to compromise, if necessary.
  • Be kind to yourself. Recognize that returning to the office might feel weird at first, and allow yourself time to settle back into an office routine. Keep in mind that things might’ve changed while you were at home — there are probably conference rooms with new tech, new or added cleaning routines, revolving workstations, and continued use of remote work technology, etc.