Is Remote Work or Hybrid Work Better? Utah Business Leaders Mix

The worst of the global lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings caused by COVID-19 are now all but behind us, but the effects of these long-lasting disruptions will be felt by most adults. It continues to influence the workplace, the environment in which we spend most of our time.

And while pre-pandemic versions of where we spend our working hours were largely based on specific physical spaces, that presumption has been thrown out the window forever. For those lucky enough to not get a job on the front line without a job, the climate of a working day has gone from someone enjoying a life completely isolated without ever setting foot on company property, to days and hours. Some even divide the week into several variables. Home and office quotient, and yes, people forced to return to their old cubicle and smash it every day.

But with this grand and involuntary workplace experiment underway, does anyone understand what really works for employees and the companies they work for?

This question was asked before about 20 Utah business leaders during a roundtable discussion hosted by online retail giant and Deseret News this week at Overstock’s Midvale headquarters.

Admittedly, there is no consensus on the best working environment, and Utah businesses are adopting approaches that are as diverse as the products and services they offer.

Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson, who moderated the roundtable, used his own example to illustrate the dilemma managers face when assessing the best place for everyone to do their job well. Did.

Johnson noted that the workdays spent at home are marked by high efficiency and productivity, initiating correspondence, scrutinizing Zoom meetings, and ticking all the boxes on the to-do list for the day. But the days he spends in the office have different, but equally important consequences.

“Sometimes at the end of a day at the office, I look back and think, ‘I couldn’t do anything,’” says Johnson. “But I did, and it’s time spent in relationships.”

At Utah outdoor gear manufacturer Cotopaxi, leaders embraced a shift in workplace philosophy. While this was unexpected, it is now yielding measurable benefits, according to the employees themselves.


Cotopaxi co-founder and CEO Davis Smith poses for a photo at Cotopaxi headquarters in Salt Lake City on March 14, 2018.

Spencer Heaps, Deseret News

Cotopaxi co-founder and CEO Davis Smith said he was a firm believer in the concept of a daily face-to-face workplace before making the shifts caused by pandemic restrictions. In practice, however, the benefits of remote work became apparent.

“I believed most in working in the office,” Smith said. “I had never worked from home before, and when I discouraged employees from doing so, things changed.

“In August 2020, we decided to become a remote-first company.”

Smith said his biggest concern when making the change was getting new staff into the mix who didn’t have the opportunity to build relationships initially in a face-to-face environment that could be brought into the remote realm. A new and highly purposeful way to foster building and connection will be part of Cotopaxi’s revised remote-first modus operandi, and Smith says there’s plenty of data reflecting how well it’s working. said that there is

Not only has productivity increased, but internal research has shown that Cotopaxi’s employee morale is at a level that any business leader would admire.

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Smith shared the latest results of the annual sentiment assessment, saying that 76% of the current Cotopaxi roster of nearly 300 employees has been hired after the company transitioned to a remote-first workplace policy. I mentioned that

• 87% rated belonging as 8+ (47% rated 10).

• 91% rated purpose as 8+ (52% rated 10).

• 78% say working remotely has improved their productivity. 6% report being less productive.

• 50% say they are working more hours than before the pandemic. 37% report no change in workload. Note: Taking into account commuting time, people work less total hours.

• 91% prefer to work from home and 6% prefer to work from the office (0% report wanting to work from the office 100% of the time).

Other Utah business founders and executives who attended the roundtable also found success with the remote-first approach, setting some expectations for coming to the office alongside work-from-home opportunities. Some are working to find balance in hybrid programs.

Indeed, exposure to remote work has fundamentally reshaped expectations for the worker side of the equation. In a poll we conducted, 40% cited workplace flexibility as the top reason to stay at work, just behind 41% of income. In a Gallup survey of employees, 54% of fully remote workers and 38% of hybrid workers said they would look elsewhere for work if their company stopped offering the flexibility to work remotely. increase.

And the worker sentiment revealed by the poll data isn’t lost on companies that see the provision of remote work options as a powerful recruiting tool. This is largely due to the historically tight U.S. labor market, despite continued record-high inflationary pressures, continuing to create more job openings than available workers. because

But some executives are finding a niche audience with policies that run a little counter to employees who have tried remote work and found it a comfortable and compatible vehicle.

Joseph Woodbury, co-founder and CEO of Neighbor, a peer-to-peer self-storage marketplace based in Utah, said his company is fundamentally flexible and requires in-person attendance four days a week. He said he adopted a work schedule. And while the policy met with resistance early on, Woodbury said it proved to be a boon.

“When we embarked on this journey, investors and everyone told us that this was going to be a big disadvantage for hiring. It lasted about six months,” Woodbury said. Over the last 12 months, this has become our biggest recruiting advantage, and it was the easiest 12 months to recruit talent in Neighbor’s history.”

According to Woodbury, Naver has signed a large number of employee contracts through office visits, and new talent has been very busy, responding positively to the energies of the clashing office environment.

While discussions at Overstock’s headquarters reflected new initiatives to create the best workplaces of the future, one veteran entrepreneur said one of the biggest challenges for any business: a workforce. He noted that new areas of flexibility are being set to facilitate positive change in diversity.

Cydni Tetro, CEO of e-commerce platform Brandless and co-founder and chairman of the advocacy group Women Tech Council, noted that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting women.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report released this spring found that labor force participation rates for men and women fell by 3% at the height of the pandemic. But now, more than two years later, men are more likely to return to work than women. As of her April this year, female labor force participation is still one percentage point lower than before the pandemic, meaning an estimated 1 million women are out of the workforce.

But Tetro believes the new world of flexible workspaces will create greater and better opportunities for both women currently employed and those returning to work.

“The impact of COVID-19 has forced everyone to work from home, colliding home life and the world of work, and completely changing our view of workplace flexibility,” said Tetro. said. “The pandemic has hit women unfairly. You can be in the office when things are going well, make time with your family and find that balance.”

correction: Previous versions incorrectly stated that Neighbor required employees to work in the office two days a week. Conditions are 4 days a week.

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