Why do businesses keep pretending that hybrid work is amazing?

A little over a month ago, I was asked by a recruiting team to put together a blog post on why their employees loved working in a hybrid workplace. I suggested that we make this feel genuine and include employee voices and was promptly provided with a short list of “friends-of-the-hybrid-workplace”: employees who would give any number of unused body parts to never return to all-remote again.

The piece, however, still isn’t written. None of those hip-hip-hurray-hybrid employees actually felt that way.

Okay, that’s not entirely honest: one worker was willing to contribute but after the recruiting team saw his quotes, he was deemed too hostile to hybrid to include. Oh, and he’s on the HR team, too.

Each time I talk to the recruiting team about this, they tell me the same thing: we just aren’t making the employees understand the purpose of this blog post we’re trying to create. “The employees don’t understand why it’s important,” they tell me. But the problem is that the employees DO understand the post, its goal, and how it will help the company’s recruiting efforts. They just can’t get past the fact that contributing would mean lying, and that they themselves would jump ship for remote in a heartbeat — no raise or promotion required.

Years ago, I worked in ergonomics, a field that says jobs should be designed to fit the worker rather than the other way around. Those keyboard, chairs, and standing desks, that’s their goal — to make jobs feel more natural for the worker. Herman Miller has made billions with this concept. And worker’s backs, arms, brains, and retention rates are far better off because of this.

So why aren’t all businesses willing to take this same approach to where we work, too?

My theory is that the pro-hybrid employer is driven less by the need for face-to-face time and more by saving face amidst long-term lease contracts.”But we still have another 60 months on this bargain lease!” reverberates through my brain. I say this because I’m not willing to believe that after all we’ve been through over the past few years that any business out there isn’t sure that their employees are productive at home or that they’re not capable of collaborating via Zoom. Stats are showing that workers are. If you haven’t read the June 2022 Bloomberg interview with economist Nick Bloom, who indicated just how much more productive workers are at home, you should. It’ll clear everything up for you.

Continually telling workers — and in this case, job candidates, too — that they should love “hybrid” when they’d really rather work remote smacks of the same logic that pushes people to talk louder rather than find a better way to communicate with someone who obviously doesn’t speak the same language. It’s instinctual, yes. But it’s not effective.

The end result is the same, too: the message falls flat. And as the person who keeps yelling the same thing over and over, you look like an jackass for trying.


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