While there are companies and businesses that can’t wait to get their employees back to full-time offices, after over a year of forced social remoteness and work from home, Synchrony Financial, the U.S. largest issuer of retail credit cards, is not one of them.
The company, also known by the acronym SYF announced this week that it will not allow employees to return to offices for five days a week even after the plague has disappeared. According to the company announcement, almost all employees, including the most senior executives, will work from home at least a few days a week.
The company, which provides credit cards to Amazon among others, said 85 percent of its employees said in a survey that they would prefer to continue working from home even after the plague. In the past the opposite was true. “One of the lessons we learned from the epidemic is that flexibility leads to a more involved and productive workforce,” a Synchrony spokesman said. “Flexibility at work has become a major issue in the way we conduct ourselves.”
The company, which was once part of General Electric’s empire, told its employees in the US that they would have three job options: online (work from home), from home but with some presence in key activities, and hybrid (office work about 3-4 days a week). Only a few “very small” officials, such as security guards, will be required to come to work five times a week.
“This is the company’s new way of working from now on,” a company spokesman said. “Before the plague, we believed that there were certain roles that could only be fulfilled under the conditions of a traditional ministry. Today we know that was not true.”
Many companies have discovered to their surprise in the past year that while employee productivity is not cut sometimes even rising, there is another big benefit to working from home: cost savings. Synchrony estimates it will be able to save $ 250 million in expenses this year in this way.
The move, first reported by Bloomberg News, shows how companies in the same industry sometimes take different approaches to online work. Unlike SYF, there are banks that seem to be in a hurry to get their employees back to offices. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said last week that he would be “very disappointed” if employees did not return to offices by Labor Day, which was celebrated in September.
In contrast some banks like UBS and other European banks demonstrate a more inclusive approach. UBS plans to allow up to two-thirds of global workers to regularly adopt a hybrid work week, which involves working remotely and returning to offices. This is after it was determined there that this does not harm productivity.
Uber: A sharp change of direction
Less than three months after announcing that employees will be forced to return to the office for at least three days a week, Uber withdrew from it. The travel-sharing company will give its global office workers the option to apply to work remotely or choose from a list of other offices at the office where they worked before the epidemic, company chief of staff Nicki Krishnamorti said in Uber’s official blog on Tuesday.
For those who choose to return to the office, the company asks that they spend at least 50% of the time there, but also offer more flexibility as to how that time will be structured. “It can be three days a week, and two days next week, or five days a week and zero next week, depending on what works best for employees and their staff,” Krishnamurti said.
This is a sharp change of direction that may also point to the challenges facing the largest companies in Silicon Valley, who themselves built the products that enabled remote work for many households around the world during the plague. They are now looking for the right balance between office work and remote work.
Uber is not the first to back down from a public (and well-reasoned) decision. Google did the same when it announced a few months ago that its employees would be required to return to offices for a few days a week, but not long after, it eased policy and allowed employees to ask to work remotely on a regular basis or change their office location.
Facebook: Zuckerberg leads by personal example
Facebook is also no stranger to the trend and gives its employees more flexibility to work outside the office. The world’s largest social network has announced that it will allow employees at all levels to apply to work remotely if their job allows them to do so. Meanwhile, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is leading the company’s approach by personal example. Facebook’s CEO announced earlier this month in a memorandum that he plans to work remotely for at least half of the next year.
“I found that working remotely gives me more space for long-term thinking and also allowed me to spend more time with my family, which made me a happier and more productive person at work,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Jack Dorsey has not been left behind either: Twitter has given its employees the option to work remotely on a regular basis if their job allows it.