Even though post-pandemic era companies committed to flexible work models, contributors have demonstrably proven their unwillingness to return to office regardless. If companies are to successfully employ their hybrid work models, they will have to develop incentives that will motivate employees to come to the office on their own account, say industry experts.
“The overarching question companies should be considering is: Why, as a contributor, should I be inclined to return to the office?” said Marcela Domenzain Carmona, Human Resources Director Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, BASF.
The initial transition to remote work was turbulent, requiring constant communication between employers and employees to develop the optimal remote work model. This social experiment established that remote and hybrid work models could be equally productive, if not more so, than full-time presential work. The observed results and benefits from this exercise have consequently transformed the worker’s perception of flexible work models from nice-to-have to a firm expectation in the labor market. While these truths have not been negated by companies, remote work models are not free from risks such as loss of social capital, decreased collaboration and a loss of identification with company culture.
To circumvent these risks, most companies have opted to implement flexible hybrid models that take the benefits of both remote and presential work and give contributors the autonomy to come into the office when they want to. The response of employees has been mixed, ranging from enthusiasm to resentment. Nevertheless, it is clear to employers that contributors require incentives to ensure their response is closer to the former. Furthermore, “rules and guidelines regarding presential work must reconceptualised, considering the inherent organizational function of the company and specific roles within it,” said Domenzain. This is the immediate challenge of companies during this initial phase of the transition back to the office, an adaptation process that will likely continue until the end of 2022.
With the looming threat of a massive labor reshuffle, where employees are more than ever willing to leave their current positions in search of other opportunities, employers are being careful about explicit demands. In a labor-led market, the carrot has never been mightier than the stick. In turn, companies are in the middle of developing incentives centered around networking, facilitated collaboration and free-flowing creativity, which in turn helps “reinforce company culture and its value proposition,” said Ena Torres, PBP Director, Mercado Libre. During this process, leadership will play key role in demonstrating that there is flexibility outside of remote work and that there are substantive benefits to reap from presential work, emphasized Domenzain. However, this is not to say that leaders should be expected to take on the full weight of this transformation, especially considering that that this work model has only just began to unfold.
Furthermore, “physical office spaces have yet to be adapted to transmit and accommodate the needs of a flexible, hybrid work model,” according to Mario Espinosa Guzmán, Vice President of Latin America & Caribbean, MillerKnoll. Office spaces need to be curated around daily operational needs, as well as the comfort of a company’s contributors, the company’s values and ultimately the added value it could provide. This is work in progress, as many companies are still trying to gauge where they should start. So far it has manifested in a range of approaches that include the depersonalization of workspaces, the creation of specialized work spaces and dynamic spaces that can be constructed and deconstructed on demand. Overall, the reconfiguration of work spaces needs to provide functionality, support social cohesion and provide the added value to draw collaborators in.
Companies in expansion have the added concern of ensuring that their spaces can grow along with their enterprise. This is the case for Mercado Libre, which announced the creation of 14,000 additional jobs in Latin America. Current proposals consider the value in campus spaces similar to Google, which constructs specialized spaces according to functions like collaboration, learning and creativity. “The end goal is to create spaces that make people want to go to work,” said Torres.