Data-Driven Decisions to Make Hybrid Work

February 9, 2024

TRANSFORMING
WORK

WITH
SOPHIE WADE

Data-Driven Decisions to Make Hybrid Work

Data-Driven Decisions to Make Hybrid Work

Nick Bloom, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and co-Founder of wfhresearch.com and wfhmap.com, has studied remote work for over two decades. Nick discusses fundamental data issues, sources, and collection as well as understanding macro and firm level productivity. He talks about the demise of RTO (Return To Office) efforts and the stabilization of hybrid models. Nick describes the changing attitudes and demographics of people working from home. He also shares insights about HR’s rising strategic importance as talent management increases in complexity

KEY TAKEAWAYS

[03:02] Born and educated in the UK, Nick starts off consulting and working at HM Treasury.

[03:35] On a speaking engagement in California, Nick is offered a job and returns to live long-term.

[04:42] Nick was interested in management practices early on and, as a child, experienced both parents working from home.

[05:22] One of Nick’s students is a travel agent. Their randomized WFH trial generates much interest.

[04:42] Focused on daily commuting, early WFH data only tracked fully remote or fully in the office.

[06:50] Nick begins bridging the gap and finding multiple sources as government data collection lags.

[07:35] Nick finds ways to collect reliable and more frequent data from many businesses.

[09:41] Productivity is easy enough to measure at the macro level, critical for setting interest rates.

[10:31] At the firm level, productivity is very hard to measure for many disciplines and jobs.

[11:34] Initially surprised at the pandemic’s duration and effect on WFH, Nick then visualizes the tombstone for Return To Office.

[12:35] Nick explains the inherent bias in Kastle’a data for trending upwards.

[14:01] The perception of working from home is much more positive than a decade ago.

[15:28] People working remotely are now more likely to be higher paid professionals.

[16:25] The leisure boom resulting from reduced commuting—why not play golf then?!

[17:57] With hybrid stabilizing, HR is more important to manage more complex talent dynamics.

[20:55] In-person outperforms virtual teaching for now, but Nick expects this to evolve.

[22:11] How important coordination is to improve in-office experiences and activities.

[23:34] MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) learning is likely to improve dramatically with technology advances (e.g. new headsets).

[25:58] Why CEOs tend to have the most negative opinions about remote working.

[26:49] At all levels, most people find no change to corporate culture caused by working from home.

[27:32] A reasonable cadence of in-person connection to build and maintain culture.

[28:49] Nick was amazed hybrid stabilized so quickly.

[29:33] Top human resources pay has risen steeply recently to support new work- and talent-related developments.

[31:10] How work arrangements are best tailored for the target audience, product/service, and talent.

[32:16] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: Your priority should be getting your hybrid model to work. If compliance is low for four days a week in the office, try one or two days and make those a success so people feel it’s valuable time spent in the office (not on Zoom).

QUOTES

“Hybrid’s going to get better in the sense of more coordination, better use of space.”

“At the end of 2022, there's a little tombstone somewhere that says “Return To Office, Rest In Peace.” And since then, work from home levels have been stable.”

“I could easily see a norm being two or three days a week in the office and two, three days. The thing for me is that coordination really matters.”

“Mid-managers tend to actually be relatively positive working from home because they have houses and kids.”

“Meeting up once a month for a day or once a week for one or two days, you can really get a big boost to culture building and there are diminishing returns which is why hybrid is so popular. You just don’t need to be in all five days.”

“There's been a leisure boost. The typical professional is working from home two and a half days a week. You typically save 70 minutes a day when you work from home. If you add it up, you're looking at two, maybe three hours. And you can easily sneak in a game of golf.”

“I think now we have stabilized in hybrid. I know you occasionally read scary headlines from Elon Musk or Jamie Diamond, but in the data I'm looking at, you just don't see that.”