Companies consider the wellbeing of employees in America

Photo by Luke Peters on Unsplash

Ten years ago, a big system integration firm, Unisys, employed more than 10,000 IT workers in Toyosu, a district of Tokyo Olympic Village. To get there from home, I commuted more than three hours in both ways with packed trains in the morning and at night. It was just a grueling experience to consume a lot of energy in uncomfortable ride to Tokyo.

To beat the traffic and save energy, I applied for a work-from-home program as a voluntary home-working experiment from the personnel department. With a quick application to submit a document to certify the broadband network to communicate with co-workers of the research department of Unisys, I worked from home in the fiscal year of 2009, at least three days a week. It was not a good experience for both company and me.

A recent story of the Economist, “The future of offices (1), A hybrid new world”, reminds me of my experimental attempt to measure the productivity of my work, engagement, and work-life-balance. The debate in the story is clear enough to address the speed and the scope of work-from-home in the post-pandemic work style. In the survey of human-resource executive in Mar-Apr 2021 edition, 40% of workers in America are expected to return to their offices in the third quarter of 2021.

Another survey in Mar to May 2021 period in WFH Research shows that more than 70% of U.S. workers prefer working from home at least two days a week. Among them roughly 30% of them don’t like commuting and prefer staying at home to work five days a week. What do these surveys mean?

For one thing, corporate executives mandate their employees back to the home office in the third quarter or as soon as possible to readapt to a new normal. The other side of two surveys indicates that a certain category of knowledge workers in U.S. would rather stay home to work as long as the safety measure is in effect to combat with short-term controversies. Baring unvaccinated workers from the office may hinge into the human rights issue for some workers in the industry. So what do chief executives do?

They will do two things in three months. For the timing of the return to the office, chief executives will decide on employees will be back to the physical location by the end of this year. Another issue of flexible location is leading to friction between executives and the staff. Executives need to validate the effectiveness of work at office in convincing matter, not to enforce the required office hours during the paid work amid fears of present risk of infection with Covid-19. Which will win in this debate?

A rise in work from home is inevitable. The post-pandemic era continues to warn the management that the roll-out of vaccination spread into the entire nation of the United States. At the outbreak in early 2020, a New York Times correspondent in Berkeley, CA reported that it takes four years until the risk of infection settles down, which implies that workers see the disappearance of serious infection in 2024. People have rights to choose between vaccination and unvaccination for health with side-effects.

With a sudden spread of Covid-19, the pandemic forced most companies to confine workers to homes at working hours last year. My involvement in work-from-home experiment was simply a response to cut commuting hours with packed trains and to save the extra energy for a daily work. Health was not a concern at that time. Commuting for three hours a day was not a fun. Not to mention running a risk of getting infected in public transport.

Taught marketing @ universities in Tokyo for a decade, ex-I-banker & mgmt consultant @ Kurt Salm (Accenture Technologies now), Georgia Tech educated