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The Great Shift: How are all those “back to the office” plans going?

As the pandemic subsides, we’re going back to flying, back to theaters, back to restaurants. But back to the office? Well, yes … and no.

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Ryan Williams is the founder and CEO of Cadre, a real-estate investment firm in New York City. His employees work are back in the office three days a week. “We believe the time is now to bring folks back into the office, to bring them together,” he said. “I do think that there’s no replacement for in-person mentorship, training, guidance for younger employees in particular. I don’t think you can replace that virtually. You don’t get that serendipitous sort of brainstorming, talking about an idea, and then white-boarding it virtually.”

The Great Shift: How are all those “back to the office” plans going?

Ryan Williams is the founder and CEO of Cadre, a real-estate investment firm in New York City. His employees work are back in the office three days a week. “We believe the time is now to bring folks back into the office, to bring them together,” he said. “I do think that there’s no replacement for in-person mentorship, training, guidance for younger employees in particular. I don’t think you can replace that virtually. You don’t get that serendipitous sort of brainstorming, talking about an idea, and then white-boarding it virtually.”

On the other hand …

Jeremy Stoppelman is the CEO of Yelp, the business-review service. As the pandemic ebbed, he gave his 4,400 workers the option of coming into the office. But, he exclaimed, “They didn’t show up! It was something, like, one-percent utilization in all these beautiful offices that we had set up.”

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“And nobody came in?” asked correspondent David Pogue.

“Which makes sense – they save on commute, they have more flexibility in their day, they can spend more time with their family, have more time for activities.”

Now, Stoppelman said, “We are fully remote, and have decided that this is gonna be our posture going forward. We feel very strongly that it is simply the future of work for a lot of knowledge workers out there.”

Like a number of other big businesses, Yelp gave up most of its office space around the country, and that wasn’t the only benefit to the bottom line: “What we’ve seen from our employees is productivity has sustained at least as good, if not better, and in fact our revenue is now higher than it was pre-pandemic.”

Pogue said, “Here’s where I get stuck – there are other companies, as you know, who’ve looked at the same data, and drawn exactly the opposite conclusion: Everybody’s gotta come into the office.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s very confusing to me,” Stoppelman said. “We’re suddenly able to tap into, and hire, employees in all 50 states, for example. In fact, we do now have employees in all 50 states. That was impossible in an environment where we were trying to get people into offices.

“In my mind, if you’re not going remote, or seriously thinking about it, you’re missing out on one of the greatest free lunches in business.”

It’s true: Remote workers get to live anywhere; they can adapt a more flexible schedule; and they get to avoid the commute, the office politics, and some of the childcare headaches.

But it’s also true that meeting in the office can be better for spontaneous collaboration; mentoring; building a corporate culture; and cultivating a social life.

Maybe that’s why some companies have gone virtually all-remote (including Airbnb, Deloitte and Dropbox); some require your full-time presence in person (Goldman Sachs, Netflix and Tesla); and others request your presence a few days a week (Apple, Starbucks, and JP Morgan).

Steve Cadigan, a workplace consultant and author of “Workquake: Embracing the Aftershocks of COVID-19 to Create a Better Model of Working” (Amplify Publishing), said, “I think we’re going through a phase where I would call it an ‘experimental phase.’ There is no major in any MBA school that I’m aware of that has a, How do you have to change your culture, your recruiting strategy, your supply chain, all at the same time?

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