Google’s announcement that it is planning to give employees a three-day “flexible workweek” when they return to the office next September raises as many questions as it answers. If the company wants to encourage collaboration, how will it manage which three days people come to work? And if workers choose to live further from the office, will three days a week allow sufficient flexibility? Kudos to the Googleplex for trying to provide some clarity. But the future of work remains hazy.
To cut through the haze, Fortune is hosting a series of virtual discussions in partnership with the Future Forum by Slack. A few takeaways from yesterday’s:
—Work-from-home has helped democratize the workplace, according to Jenny Johnson, CEO of Franklin Templeton Investments. Everyone’s box is equal on Zoom.
— “Sense of belonging” is where work-from-home falls short, according to Future Forum’s Brian Elliott. The problem is most pronounced among middle managers. You can read the Future Forum’s research findings here.
—A key issue is “watercooler” type interactions. But Prithwiraj Choudhury, an assistant professor at Harvard who has studied companies that work remotely, says that problem can be addressed with what he calls “planned random interactions.” More on Choudhury’s work here.
—Transparency is key to making work-from-home work. “Many organizations are set up not to be transparent,” says Gitlab’s Darren Murph. “There are gaps and silos. And you feel like you belong less.” It’s important to make goals and project updates available to all.
—Burnout is a real problem. “Most of what we have done during the pandemic we need to keep doing,” said Tracy Layney, chief human resource officer at Levi Strauss. “We will continue to focus more on burnout, well-being, and mental health.”
One thing that’s clear is the new normal will be very different from the old. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” says Murph. Whether companies allow work-from-home “is going to massively affect their ability to attract talent,” he believes. “This is peoples’ lives.”
More news below.