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Work: Proximity bias, creativity, contractors, hiring advantages, and more

With all the talk of the “creativity” in the office, or an office centric culture.. is it true?    Seems there is little data to support it.    Open concept offices can even have a negative impact – those open floor plans designed to create interactions actually had 70% fewer face-to-face interactions.     

Have you considered proximity bias?    That’s the idea that employees with close physical proximity to their team and company leaders are perceived as better workers – and end up with greater success.    The biggest culprit – hybrid workplaces, which breed inequality.     There’s data backing it up – studies have shown physical proximity to the CEO generally leads to higher salaries, and other research shows lower performance evaluations and smaller raises for remote workers compared with being in the office.  

A potentially overlooked reason for remote work – diversity and safety.    I’m highlighting an editorial about how remote work is one part of a solution to ensuring including and safety in workplaces.    

And contactors?  They may not be included at all in the plans to support workers.      Reporting by the Verge is digging into how many companies are not outlining how contractors are affected… nor answering specific questions.  

Some are using it as a hiring advantage – Facebook’s head of recruiting is leaning into fully remote for anyone who wants it as a competitive advantage.  

Microsoft offered three steps for meetings in hybrid.  First, everyone on a laptop, even the ones in the room, with their webcams on and audio off.  Second, make the easy in room changes, having two screens.. one for faces and one for slides, and a motion or speaker tracking camera.  Finally, design the space so the screen and camera are at table height and ensure a good speaker setup.

Hot desks are in demand – pulling data from the Envoy Desks platform, Desk bookings grew 95% from April to May 2021.   Employees want to plan ahead: 45% of desks are reserved at least a day in advance. 12% of desks are booked further than two weeks out.  Most desks are bookable: 90% of available desks are bookable. Only 10% of desks are permanently assigned.  In case you were wondering, yes, there are favorites – 43% of companies have at least one desk that accounts for 10% of total bookings.    46% of people reserve desks one day per week.   Only 5% of people reserve desks five days per week.

And maybe the answer is a third option – Axios is highlighting “third workplace” options as a growing trend… places like hotels, restaurants, or hourly office space. 

As for that rush back to the office… when VMWare opened back up… of the 5,000 employees in the Palo Alto office… only 99 showed up on that first day back.

Why do we care?

Interestingly the easiest solution to solve the complexity is going 100% remote.    Going entirely back to the office is just a non starter.   Business leaders can easily imagine how that conversation would go.

VMWare’s lesson is that you may declare you’re open, but if no one shows up to your party, it’s no party.     

Hybrid is really hard.    Let’s acknowledge it – you have to solve HR issues ranging from that proximity bias to every issue of in office culture.    It’s going to come with technology investments too to make the technology work, and your office layout may not even be right for it.     Not everyone can have that one cool desk that seems to be getting used.

Some competitors are going to lean into that remote only as a differentiator.   

The good news is all this complexity exposes the opportunity too – helping customers with plans here is of really high value.    I’ll reinforce that I think the sense of urgency is entirely self imposed.       If you and your customers are remote now, making money, and hitting your goals… you can make that change to whatever is next at whatever speed makes sense.  Which is always a smart play.