More than a year into America’s great work-from-home experiment, many companies have hailed it largely as a success. So why do some bosses think remote workers aren’t as committed as office dwellers? Recent remarks of numerous chief executives suggest the culture of workplace face time remains alive and well. At The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit this month, JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said remote work doesn’t work well “for those who want to hustle.” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has called it “an aberration that we are going to correct as soon as possible.”
These comments demonstrate that for some organizations, gathering daily at a centralized, commute-in office (CCO) is an integral part of their cultures that cannot be easily erased in a single year. But it should be borne in mind that while CEOs have a large degree of influence on their organizational culture, it’s not absolute. Cultures are defined by all their members.
Now that their staff members have been freed of the personal time burden of daily commuting, many are understandably reluctant to reassume it. Knowledge organizations are now having to redefine their cultures for the post pandemic world going forward. They’ll undergo a sorting process as some staff depart for more virtual organizations while others who prefer working in a CCO align with CCO-based organizations — most likely those who live close by.
Certainly working in a CCO has its advantages, such as the social contact and in person communication with colleagues. But as commutes grow longer as metro areas sprawl and housing costs rise, the daily trip to and from a distant CCO becomes impractical where it might not be in small towns and less congested areas where knowledge workers can commute to the office by foot and/or bicycle. These less populated locales have also proven popular as CCOs closed down over the past year and knowledge workers sought more affordable and less congested settings, some in other states and countries.
Some knowledge CCO-based organizations may become the office equivalent of teaching hospitals where senior staff and managers closely interact with and supervise more junior staff and inculcate them in the cultural ways of their organizations. Others such as boutique consulting shops won’t have CCOs and attract as they have in recent years experienced people who can work as location independent team members and don’t require close supervision.