As workers begin to get used to life with COVID-19, another challenge is set to appear: the inevitable post-COVID-19 culture clash.
For a year now, people have settled into remote lifestyles, with many people getting a taste of the “other side” for the first time. And guess what? They don’t want to go back to the way things were.
In March 2021, a Harvard Business School online survey revealed only 18 percent of workers want to go back to the office full time. On the other side of the remote spectrum, 27 percent of respondents said they hoped to work from home full time. Most workers (61 percent) think a hybrid situation is ideal.
The past year has revealed a lot to people about their preferred working styles and environments, and workers are gravitating toward arrangements that optimize productivity, flexibility and work-life balance.
Now that new working styles have been introduced, we are gearing up for a culture clash. And recent data on productivity is telling us one group needs to adapt or fail.
The clash revs up
At The Wall Street Journal’s recent Future of Everything Festival, WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani said “Those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home” and that people are happier when they come to work.
The comments drew instant criticism, with many people observing how WeWork’s co-working model only survives if the in-office model does. Data even overwhelmingly proves Mathrani wrong, as well. In a KPMG survey of U.S. workers from companies with more than 1,000 employees, 79 percent of respondents said their work quality has improved.
Of the in-person employees that responded to the survey, 83 percent experienced increased job demands and 54 percent said their mental health had declined. Comparatively, remote workers had averaged a 10-point decrease in these categories.
Eighty-three percent of on-site workers reported that the demands of their jobs have increased over the past four months, compared to 74 percent of remote workers, and 54 percent of on-site workers indicated that their mental health has decreased, compared to 45 percent of remote workers.
Still, business leaders want employees in office. Best Practice Institute conducted a survey that found more than 83 percent of CEOs want employees back in the office. And CEOs aren’t being shy about their feelings, either.
Like Mathrani, other leaders from large companies have gone on record about returning to the office. Cathy Merrill wrote “As a CEO, I worry about the erosion of office culture with more remote work” for The Washington Post. Co-chief executive of Netflix, Inc. Reed Hastings said “I don’t see any positives. Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative,” and Harvard Business Review found 38 percent of managers believe remote workers perform worse.