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Companies aim for hybrid office by September

Many firms are setting September as a return-to-the-office month, and a majority of workers will be in a hybrid office environment. Three days a week may be the hybrid standard.

In New York City, 62% of workers will be back in their offices by September. And, for the most part, they'll be returning to a hybrid office, according to new data from the Partnership for New York City.

Indeed, September seems to be the month for a new way of working for many employees, from five days a week in the office to a hybrid model, which enables employees to work some days at home and other days in the office. Many firms, such as Apple, have announced a hybrid return-to-work plan; others, such as IBM, have been a little more opaque.

IBM this week said it is planning to resume office operations in September. It credited its decision with the "improving U.S. clinical conditions and broad access to COVID-19 vaccines," Nickle LaMoreaux, IBM's chief human resources officer, stated in a memo that was released by the firm.

"Our current policy requires masks at IBM locations, regardless of vaccination status. Over the coming weeks, we'll be working towards an updated policy and protocols where fully vaccinated IBMers can work onsite without masks," LaMoreaux stated in the memo. "Client-facing IBMers will need to follow client preferences when on their premises."

For work travel, "vaccination may be required for some destinations. If you haven't yet been vaccinated or received the second dose of a two-shot vaccine, we strongly encourage you to get fully vaccinated now," LaMoreaux said.

Hybrid a permanent fixture

But LaMoreaux's memo didn't outline whether it will operate a hybrid office schedule, other than to note that "IBM has long-established practices and policies supporting work-life balance which will continue as we return to the office."

IBM has long-established practices and policies supporting work-life balance which will continue as we return to the office.
Nickle LaMoreauxChief human resources officer, IBM

Nonetheless, IBM's 2021 CEO Study, based on interviews with 3,000 CEOs and released in February, advises customers to prepare for the hybrid office.

"Remote work will be a permanent fixture as part of a hybrid workforce that blends in-person employees with virtual colleagues. This will shift organizational culture and demand new management approaches and upgraded executive capabilities," the IBM report stated.

A hybrid office with at least three days in the office may be emerging as the standard. The Partnership for New York City, which says it represents employers of more than 1.5 million New Yorkers, found that 71% of employers in its survey plan to adopt a hybrid schedule, and 63% plan to have the workers return three days a week.

The business surveys, however, may be in contrast to employee sentiment, as illustrated by a one-day work stoppage by Washingtonian staff after its CEO published an essay in The Washington Post that was dismissive of remote work.

Apple's three-day-a-week hybrid office plan was first detailed by Bloomberg. In response, some employees wrote a letter expressing their unhappiness with this decision. That letter was first reported in The Verge.

"Over the last year, we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored," the letter by Apple employees stated. "Messages like, 'we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,' with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating. Not only do many of us already feel well-connected with our colleagues worldwide, but better-connected now than ever."

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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