Employers beware: hybrid work weakens loyalty

The real competition for Netflix, according to its CEO, Reed Hastings, is not television or streaming services – but sleep. “You get a show or a movie you really want to see,” he said five years ago, “and you end up staying up late at night, so we’re actually competing with sleep.”

When the hybrid mix of office and remote control emerges as the future of salaried work, could employers face a similar battle? The competition for workers’ loyalty may not be equal in the industry, but friends and family.

After years of rhetoric about the need for staff to have a “passion” for work, it could prove a shock to employers to discover that staff now care much less than they once did.

In pre-pandemic days, flexible work patterns increased employer loyalty because it was a “privilege for the few beneficiaries,” says Alan Felstead, author of a new book Remote work.

As hybrid becomes the norm, such loyalty may diminish. A downside of the trend of four days a week is that work can become transactional and less social in the name of efficiency. The Great Resignation, which describes the high number of job transfers in various sectors around the world, may prove to be the future of salaried employment.

If workers spend less time together, their social ties will weaken, as will attachment to an employer. Meanwhile, the bonds with friends and family are strengthened. Brian Kropp, head of human resources research at Gartner, the consulting firm, sees a potential “shift” as work simply becomes “less important” in our lives.

Before the pandemic, there was a rigorous discussion about life without work, mainly around after work – a future where technology would remove jobs and throw workers into unemployment or liberation, depending on one’s perspective. It drew on anti-work thinking, especially the 19th-century Marxist Paul Lafargue and the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who have been given a boost over the last two years – strikingly enough, the membership of the anti-work Reddit community has grown to 1, 7 mio.

Posts about exploitative bosses strongly argue for a life without work. Felstead reminds me, however, that work “provides individuals with a wide range of benefits in addition to the opportunity to earn a paycheck. A time structure of the day, opportunities to interact with others outside the family, and the means to establish an identity outside the home.”

All in moderation, though. Research from the universities of Cambridge and Salford in the social sciences and medicine showed that “when people moved from unemployment or stay-at-home parents to paid work… Their risk of mental health problems was reduced by an average of 30 per cent. This was achieved by just eight hours of work. found no evidence that work more increased well-being.

It is impossible to imagine an eight-hour work week. In their book, Not in the office, Anne-Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel argue that “work will always be a big part of our lives… however, it should cease to be the primary organizing factor in it: the primary source of friendship, or personal worth, or community. . ”

Some employers will ignore such shifts and force staff back to the office. Encouraged by lively labor market conditions, employees can quit. A report from Microsoft suggested that more than half of UK office workers would leave if forced to return to the office full time.

Other employers will adapt by investing resources in recruitment and alumni networks as well as job creation – changing the scope and tasks of a position to suit employees’ ambitions. They may be trying to create social and emotional connections that are not dependent on the office, Kropp says. He cites the example of an organization with an internal app to match employees with common personal interests.

A founder whose staff works remotely told me they enjoy socializing, peermentoring, and career development from professionals. It just does not always come from their colleagues. “Many organizations would find it threatening.” For those who loosen the string, he says, “it will be scary. It should be.”

emma.jacobs@ft.com

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