Office Film – The New York Times

The offices of the pandemic in the US are no different from memory. But now many big companies are starting again ask employees to work directly. To understand how things turned out, I called my colleague Emma Goldberg, who is in charge of workplace affairs.

This audience is close to home to us: The Times expects employees to resume face-to-face work this month. Have you been in the office yet?

I went about once a week. I love the energy of the newsroom, I love to see people, and I miss my working friends. My rhythm is like a cross between the conversations I’m having with co-workers and the conversations I’m having with people in different states and professions. I have to keep track of reporting topics that come from what my colleagues are going through. But I do a lot of work at home. And there are aspects of going back to the office that I dread, like having to go to work instead of going for a morning jog.

Some companies have tried to bring workers back, but variations of Covid have derailed those plans. Will those efforts rebound?

Many companies that planned to call people back to the office did so, at least for a few days a week. After the Omicron wave, companies started saying, “OK, we pushed it back, but we really want you back now.” International Workers’ Day 2022 has become a standout moment for companies that sit in the middle of nowhere, with workers in the office one or two days a week.

Others have accepted permanent remote work. For example, Airbnb says its employees never need to return to the office. Some are of the opinion that the office will have less space to work. Salesforce opened a kind of retreat center for nature walks, cooking classes, and various activities for employees to spend time together. Zillow, which says it’s “headquartered in the cloud,” has redesigned some of its office spaces to look more like social spaces.

We are talking about a minority of the workforce that is not on hand, right?

At the height of the layoffs, in May 2020, just over a third of American workers worked remotely at some point during the month, according to the Labor Department. Most blue-collar jobs never became far-fetched, and many offices in small and mid-sized cities have returned since. But in the 10 largest US cities, workers were still working from home about 38% of the time earlier this summer, according to researchers at Stanford and elsewhere.

Why do those workers continue to prefer to work remotely?

Covid still weighs heavily on many people, especially those who are immunocompromised or those with immunocompromised family members. For carers, working remotely means more flexibility; In the past, they may feel pressured to wait until their boss leaves the office before going to pick up their children. Women and workers of color often say they prefer to continue working remotely, sometimes citing violations they have experienced in the office. And some workers feel they are judged more on the quality of their work than on their ability to office politics.

Why do companies want workers back?

That’s the million dollar question coming from the workers right now, because it’s not always clearly explained. Some recruiters use confusing terms like “company culture” or they talk about casual conversation in cool water, the billion-dollar idea that came from a run in the hallway. . Other companies make the case of direct interaction improving productivity. For many, it will most likely come down to the lease. Commercial property leases are often very long, seven or even 10 years, especially for larger companies. Some just have large spaces that they can’t justify not using.

How do employees react to the company’s return plan?

Many people want at least some flexibility. They feel that remote work is proof that they can be productive even when they are not at the office. On the other hand, there is a real sense of lack of friendship at work: the person sitting next to you, the person with whom you chat or vent. And offices have really relied on perks to get people back – Ping-Pong, rock climbing, band. Google even let Lizzo perform for its employees.

If anything derails plans to return to the office, workers should feel empowered to assert their needs, through unions or other groups. A lot of workers have developed a sense during the pandemic that work doesn’t have to run after their lives or come before their families or health. For example, Apple says it wants employees to return to the office at least part-time after Labor Day. But a group of workers called Apple Together have issued a number of strongly worded open letters asking to work remotely. And I talked to workers who had left the company and applied only for opportunities that allowed them to be completely remote.

What will you look for when workers return?

The big question is “Will workers really come back?” and “How far are regulators willing to go to enforce their own rules?” I’m also interested in the quirks of what the return will look like, from wardrobe glitches to commute woes as people adapt to jackets and heels and ride the subway. .

More about Emma: She joined The Times in 2019 and last year published “Life on the road, ” A book about doctors during the pandemic. Among her first introductions to office life, she was hit in the face during a softball tournament as an intern at a Washington consulting agency. The person who broke her nose became one of her closest friends.

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Sunday Question: What legacy did Mikhail Gorbachev leave?

The Financial Times editorial board says a peaceful end to the Cold War, freedom for the former Soviet states and more freedom for the Russians. Anne Applebaum of the Atlantic argues that Gorbachev’s failures to promote democracy, restore the economy, and fully account for the wrongs of the Soviet Union’s past helped give birth to autocratic Russia and corruption today.

According to the Book: Mo Willems thinks you should reread the “Peanuts” collection.

Our editors’ picks: “Diary of a Misfit,” a memoir about a family mystery, and eight other books.

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