The typical daily commute to work in an office may soon be as outdated as the fax machine.

As office workers have become used to doing their jobs from home, many prefer it. According to a Harvard Business School online survey, 81% of workers either don’t want to return to the office or prefer a hybrid work model arrangement. On the other hand, some surveys show that nearly 70% of companies want workers back in person, full time, according to the American Psychological Association.

“In this time in history, employees have the power,” Tsedal Neeley said during an American Psychological Association podcast about the future of remote and hybrid work. Ms. Neeley, professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, spoke about her book Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere.

One survey reported by Human Resource Executive magazine even revealed that employees from top companies like Google and Amazon would forfeit a $30K raise for a permanent remote work option. A possible compromise: the hybrid work model.

A hybrid—or distributed—model offers options for working outside the 9 to 5 setting, offering work-life flexibility. The Society for Human Resource Management says a hybrid work model will likely become the norm. As employers grapple with determining just how many days employees should spend in the office, they must balance differing preferences with a desire for continued productivity and collaboration, according to the Center for Creative Leadership. Here’s what Ms. Neeley says about some of those concerns.

  • Productivity Thirty years of research shows that productivity actually grows with remote work. Companies such as Cisco and Sun Microsystems experimenting with remote arrangements as far back as the 1990s found significant increases in employees accomplishing work tasks. “We need to focus on outcomes after we equip people,” says Ms. Neeley. “So it’s not about [rear ends] in seats; it’s about outcomes, team cohesion and helping equip people to get there.”
  • Collaboration and Culture Culture is defined as the shared norms, attitudes and behaviors companies uphold to get work done. It also includes mentoring, collaboration and team building. Ms. Neeley says company leaders must ask themselves: How do we now take our changed individual needs and preferences and re-create and revise cultures that meet the moment?
  • Opportunities The reason productivity jumps with remote work is because people can enjoy more work-life flexibility, says Ms. Neeley. Before, people wanted work-life balance, which often seemed unattainable. Then the catchphrase became work-life trade-offs, where workers may win in some areas but lose in others.

“Today, we can talk about work-life flexibility by incorporating some remote work in people’s professional arrangements,” explains Ms. Neeley. “Remote/hybrid work can be extremely effective as long as we set the right framework, equip people and move forward with courage.”

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