WE Brief

This Brief’s topics include:

Kate Lister‘s insight:
  • Research shows virtual brainstorming trumps in-person
  • Tax and legal risks of ‘working from anywhere”
  • Arguments about location-based pay heating up
  • The debate about whether meetings should start on time
  • Traffic and congestion returning to many cities
  • Insight from 2022 coworking trend report
  • Micro-aggressions—what they feel like
  • What Buffer learned from its 4-day workweek trial
  • You can’t cure burnout with yoga
  • The latest data from Pew Research on WFH
  • Flex time and place the new norm at Microsoft
  • A sneak peek at what working in the metaverse will be like
  • Blackrock CEO doubles down on sustainability
  • Survey of 40,000 reveals why people quit

Global Workplace Analytics and Isaac Mamaysky, Partner, Potomac Law Group teamed up on this peer-reviewed paper, “Working from Home: Employment Law and Tax Implications of Remote Work.”

Kate Lister‘s insight:

It’s incredibly boring, with six pages dedicated to the footnotes alone, but it’s also incredibly important that employers understand that a rat’s nest of archaic laws can make working from anywhere a lot harder than it sounds.

Research shows meetings that start late are not only irritating and rude. They’re also significantly less productive than meetings that start on time.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

This article argues that meetings should always start on time. While I will admit to being a bit impatient with the 10 minutes of chit-chat at the beginning of a meeting, I also think that time of off-topic or social conversation is valuable, especially in light of remote working. So maybe what we need are meetings that officially start at 5 or 10 minutes after the hour. If you really want it to be all-business, that’s when you join. Others, who enjoy the informal connection time, can join at the top of the hour.

We asked and you answered. In the Coworking Trends Survey, most coworking spaces were optimistic about the new year. However, their economic situation continued to be severely affected by the pandemic. Meeting spaces in particular have been in high demand recently. Read the most important results in this article.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

I’ve been following DeskMag’s coworking reports for many years. It’s always worth a full read but here are some stats that caught my eye:

– More coworking operators are losing money (41% of global – down from 44% in 2019, 31% in N.A.) than making a profit (30% globally, 27% in Europe, 35% in N.A.)

– Operators with 5 or more locations were far more likely to be unprofitable (44% saying they were unprofitable) than those with 2 to 4 (34% unprofitable)

– 21% of survey responds in the EU and 13% in N.A. said business was bad.

– Optimism about the next 3 months was significantly higher in N.A. than EU (83% vs 46% saying they expect business to be better

– Only 23% of global respondents felt they were limited by insufficient demand but 44% said attracting new members was a challenge

– The demand for various types of spaces—meeting spaces, individual spaces, private offices, etc—varied significantly by location—urban, suburban, rural—and by region. The highest demand in both places was for meeting spaces, but demand for individual offices was far greater in N.A.

Survey information: 326 valid responses were gathered in Nov/Dec of 2021.

“What started as an experiment during the pandemic has now become company policy.”

Kate Lister‘s insight:

Buffer went all-virtual in 2015 so their 85 employees were ahead of most when the pandemic hit. But stress levels were still high and the company decided to try a 4-day workweek. The experiment was a success with 91% of workers saying they were happier and more productive. So Buffer made it permanent. Here’s what they learned along the way:

1) Having everyone choose the day they wanted to be off didn’t work. They have since settled on Fridays off.

2) At first, everyone tried to squeeze everything into the shorter workweek. That proved impossible so they cut down meetings and encouraged more async communications. That however, led to a drop in engagement which they attributed to the reduction in social element of meetings.

They’ve now added social events and encouraged people to connect more. So far, so good. Rather than reversing course when they encounter problems, management is committed to making the 4-day workweek work.

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly six-in-ten U.S. workers who say their jobs can mainly be done from home (59%) are working from home all or most of the time.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

There aren’t any big surprises here, but the rigor of Pew’s research (see below) makes their data especially valuable.

The highlights:

(1) 39% of employed adults say their job could be done at home

(2) 12% of employed adults worked fully or mostly at home prior to the pandemic

(3) About 70% (of #1 above) worked fully or mostly at home at peak pandemic compared to 60% in January of 2022

(4) Among (#1 above), 35% would like to continue to WFH full-time after the pandemic, 25% say mostly, 28% say some of the time. The frequency with this group wants to WFH has increased since the peak of the pandemic.

(5) In terms of major reasons (#4 above) want to do so: The majority (76%) say it’s because they prefer it, 42% cite fear being exposed to Covid, 17% because they have relocated, and 14% cite childcare responsibilities.

(6) Among (#1) who WFH rarely or never, 60% say it’s because they are not allowed. For the remaining 40%, the majority (60%) either prefer or feel they are more productive at the office. Only 20% say the major reason they don’t WFH is because they don’t have space and 14% say it’s because they worry about advancement opportunities.

(7) Among those who rarely or never worked from home prior to the pandemic:

– 64% say they find it easier to balance work and life; another 20% say it’s about the same.

– 60% say they feel less connected to coworkers. 36% say connection is about the same.

– Only 10% say they find it harder to meet deadlines; 44% say it’s easier to do so.

– Only 13% say it’s harder for them to advance in their jobs.

Pew’s latest survey was fielded in late-January 2022. Panel size = 5,900. Results are weighted to be representative of U.S. adult population in terms of gender, race, political affiliation, education, and more.

“Our approach to hybrid embraces schedule flexibility as standard for most roles and provides employees with the opportunity to determine how and where they work best, while making sure an individual’s plans align to the team agreements set with their manager.”

Kate Lister‘s insight:

This and earlier communications from Microsoft point to substantially increased flexibility in where and when people work. This article suggests decisions about individual flexibility will happen at the team level. It will be interesting to see how this behemoth provider of remote work technologies and tools makes the transition to hybrid.

Virtual meetings that feel real, new ways to build and teach, plus jobs you haven’t heard of—soon it won’t be science fiction.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

Full confession: The Matrix (movie) kind of creeped my out and I’m that video game avatar that spends the whole time bumping into the same wall so, let’s just say I’m not likely to be an early adopter of Metaverse meetings. Still, I was fascinated by this WSJ article and video about a reporter who spend a full day living and working in VR. Ready or not, here it comes.

Why are people quitting jobs during the pandemic, and what does it mean for rethinking the workplace.”

Kate Lister‘s insight:

The survey conducted by DISQO reveals better pay, less stress, and better work/life balance are top reason people quit, but there were significant difference by gender. Women are more likely to quit to reduce stress and improve worklife balance. Men were more likely than women to make the move for better pay but pay still topped the list for both sexes. Top three reasons cited for men were better pay, possibility to work remotely, and career advancement.

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Not only is it more fun, it also produces more novel ideas.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky’s research and that of others have concluded that when done right, virtual brainstorming produces better results than doing it in person. Primarily, that’s because it’s more inclusive of introverts, pessimists, and junior employees. Introverts and pessimists respond more slowly than extroverts and younger team members are often too intimidated to contribute during in-person settings. Unlike traditional brainstorming, the research shows the virtual equivalent actually increases both innovation and works even with a large group of participants. The author maps out specific tools and processes to optimize the process.

Startups like Outschool, Gympass and Foursquare don’t cut workers’ pay when they move to a cheaper city. But they do let their new location inform their future pay increases. The approach helps companies stay competitive in an increasingly decentralized talent market, where tech workers can command high salaries from just about anywhere.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

Several geo-differentiated policies are emerging here:

1) Geo-neutral—people are paid the same wherever they work. The article indicates Reddit, for example, has declared they are geo-neutral.

2) Salaries are maintained when an employee moves, but future increases are defined by local pay bands. The article indicates Foursquare is using the model.

3) Salaries are adjusted to local pay rates immediately upon moving. The article indicates Google is using this model in certain markets but says it will continue to offer salaries at the top of local market levels. Unions disagrees with this policy..

No doubt the trends here will be shaped by the market so stay tuned for updates.

Note: The policies regarding the companies mentioned here are taken from the articles and have not been independently verified.

There’s less congestion during the early morning commute, but some cities are seeing an 11 AM rush

Kate Lister‘s insight:

One of the hopes for remote/hybrid work has long been reduced vehicle usage and thus reduced greenhouse gases (GHG). Data from TomTom shows US congestion levels were 14% lower in 2021 than 2019. But in some cities like Philadelphia, NY, New Orleans, and Las Vegas congestion is almost back to pre-pandemic levels. In NY, which earns the distinction of being the most congested city in the US, drivers lose the equivalent of 3 days a year due to traffic. Sad to say, NY is far from the worst. It’s the only US city in the top fifty (No. 43) most congested in the world. In Istanbul, for example, drivers spend 6 days a year playing in traffic.

If remote and hybrid work are to reduce GHG, we’re going to have to adopt very different driving habits.

This new short film from director Meena Ayittey takes a closer look at the toll taken on one man after a series of race-related micro-agggressions. 

Kate Lister‘s insight:

If you’ve never been on the blunt end of a bias-fed micro-aggression, it’s almost impossible to understand what it feels like. Let this film put you in someone else’s shoes for a few minutes and it will open your eyes and heart to the reality of many.

Well-intentioned but misguided efforts miss the mark for truly having an impact on employee burnout.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

Burnout became an official diagnosis by the World Health Organization in 2019 and cures flooded the market. But this article suggests that while yoga, exercise, meditation and similar interventions may be good for us, they won’t reverse the cynicism, exhaustion, and detachment that many are feeling. That’s because burnout is more likely to be an organizational problem, rather than an individual one. What needs to change is the root cause which typically stems from one of the following:

– Unsustainable workloads

– Perceived lack of control/autonomy

– Insufficient recognition or rewards

– Lack of fairness or perceived injustice

– Mismatched skills and values

– Community or relationship issues

Yes, increasing resiliency can help people cope, but fixing the fundamental problem is the real solution.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman who lost her job after moving from St. Louis to New York to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic should receive unemployment benefits, a Missouri appeals court ruled.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

We are just beginning to see challenges around remote work find their way into the courts. With little precedence to go on, many employment law questions have yet to be answered.

Amazon, Pinterest, Intel and PayPal acknowledged they could risk losing tech talent to competitors who offer more appealing job benefits, such as remote work.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

Public companies are required to reveal risks inherent in their business model to investors. Some of the tech giants are now including the risk of losing employees if they don’t allow remote work in those disclosures. Is anyone else humming Dylan’s “The times they are a changin” as they read this?

The BlackRock CEO’s annual letter points to how the $10 trillion asset management fund will push the markets in the next year. This year: Climate action isn’t work, it’s capitalism.

Kate Lister‘s insight:

Fast Company summarized the annual letter to shareholders from Blackrock’s CEO in 8 paragraphs. I can do it in one word, ‘sustainability.’ From Net Zero to Carbon Targets to ESG Reporting, Fink makes it clear Blackrock’s $10 trillion fund is putting its money and influence behind a more sustainable future.

You’ve advised clients worldwide on reframing the way they think about work, and in recent years the mainstream conversation has finally shifted from a singular focus on maximizing occupancy to what Workplace Evolutionairies have long preached: offices should serve as collaboration hubs that foster strong company culture while facilitating flexibility.

According to the Verdantix Future of the Workplace survey, 63% of companies plan to keep their office real estate the same while rethinking the types of spaces they provide. Amid this climate, the workplace management software market has exploded, making it more difficult for organizations to determine the right solution for their needs. Share this Space Management Buyer’s Guide to help clients develop evaluation criteria and demonstrate the business case for software to enable their future workplace.