Hi There!

I hope you have had a good week so far. Welcome back to another episode of Ask Ash, where I interview WatchMojo Founder & CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan and ask him questions about various topics, ranging from covering the news to asking about career advice for students & entrepreneurs.

Today I wanted to talk about returning to the office for work. As we have been cooped up inside and communicated with each other through a screen, it has been tough to interact with people and has made some people miss being in the office. As things are starting to reopen, and companies are starting to bring their employees back on a hybrid basis, I wanted to get Ash’s thoughts on how he plans to bring back his employees to the office.

Q) What are your plans on bringing employees back to the office?

All factors being equal, human beings will tend to pick a “hybrid” work setup if that was an option. In fact, a Microsoft survey of 30,000 workers found 73% want flexible remote options. Whenever we did similar polls in the past, about 70% of our approximate fifty (50) full-time employees picked such a model, as well. In the most recent poll, just under 60% favored working from home. FWIW, Microsoft is already allowing some workers back.

As you ask this, the delta variant of COVID-19 is increasing case numbers, while some countries are starting to take a “let’s learn to live with it” mindset to avoid shutting everything down, so the situation is more fluid than it was a mere weeks ago. That said, companies that have 100,000 square feet and are locked into 5-10 year leases can allow themselves to say “ok, people can come and go.” Indeed,  

  • Google said it’s moving up reopening plans and allowing workers to return in a limited capacity this month. 
  • Goldman Sachs told summer interns they’re headed to TriBeCa.
  • Wells Fargo told employees it’s eyeing a return after Labor Day.
  • Amazon said it’s bringing Seattle HQ employees back in time for sweater weather. 

But eventually, their accountants say “we have this huge cost item on our books, we have to use it…” so they take this approach, which isn’t necessarily false, but timing and tone matter:

Some execs aren’t convinced full-time remote work is better for the employee or the business. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has warned it causes burnout, and incoming Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said that with WFH, “You just don’t riff the same way,” which hurts innovation. Plus, there are social effects to consider.“ That is from what I read via the Morning Brew newsletter.  Thus, then start to tell employees which only backfires, be it at the NY Times, Hearst, or Apple, where employees complained and the company delayed their plan by a month. It’s like “peeing in the wind.”  

Honestly, I would be perfectly fine if I never saw employees again (that’s a joke, I swear). In fact yesterday some of us got together in person for the first time in a year, it was nice… humans like that interaction. But as we’re fortunate ones to be able to both work from home and not have onerous real estate payments, we have the luxury of time. Whenever any colleague or advisor asks me about it or suggests a timeline, I go “why rush? Why lead on this?” When the pandemic started, I said we’re going to experience a WFH revolution, work is so central that this may be a grand socio-economic event with wide demographic and political repercussions over time. But, there will be a schism as the pandemic affected the world differently depending on your socio-economic reality… that bill will come due, but we can expand on that in a separate article.

Anyway, I am sure that my younger and less tenured staff who don’t know me well think I am rushing to get them back to an office, but it’s the opposite. By and large, the team has more than proven themselves rewarding the trust we put in them. My only concern is that today, most will say they prefer WFH but may have a change of heart in 2-3 years when we have enough herd immunity and the social creatures we crave social interaction and mainly, FOMO. I don’t think everyone will feel the same way about WFH or WFO (working from office) in 2 years. Imagine the paradox and irony of us trying to accommodate people’s wishes to retain our best talent, only to lose people because in 2 years some have a change of heart and want a place to work! And, I assure you, your thoughts and feelings may change. I may have a responsibility for all to know of opportunities and so on, but those inside a common, physical space will always have advantages over outsiders in that regard. 

Lastly, if you would like to ask Ash questions directly, you can do so by clicking the link here: