Peter Cappelli: Why Most Employers Still Haven’t Decided The Future Of Their Offices

For much of the pandemic, a familiar ritual played out in workplaces around the globe. Companies set return-to-office dates, only to repeatedly backtrack & delay them due to health concerns.

Apple, as one example, was set to have employees back in its offices at the start of 2022, but now has an indefinite target date. And, with COVID cases clearly on the rise again, many other companies including JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo & Goldman Sachs have moved their goal posts as well.

But let’s assume for the moment that the worst of the pandemic is behind us & returning to our workplaces has suddenly become viable. Can we assume companies have firmly defined how many days a week they’ll expect employees to be in the office? Have they decided how they’ll specifically manage people differently in the post-COVID era? And, overall, do they know all the ways they’ll pivot at this unprecedented #leadership inflection point?

Well, it may or not surprise you that they haven’t. Surveys of CEOs have shown that most top leaders simply don’t know what the future is going to be like and – just like the rest of us – are still trying to figure it all out. Many CEOs even appear to be deliberately waiting to see what postures their competitors take, meaning the waiting game is likely to continue longer.

Making things even more challenging is the fact that many employees want to continue working remotely at least some of the time, while for employers, the benefits of people working from home or hybrid approaches seem less obvious.

In light of the “Great Resignation,” where millions of workers are quitting jobs every month, workplace leaders have critical decisions to make about how they intend to manage – & they need informed guidance on how best to make them. Truth be told, workers themselves also need informed guidance on what kind of working experience will be best for them. While presently overlooked, there are some very clear downsides to people hoping to work remotely most, if not all of the time, that workers must fully consider.

So, we’ve invited Wharton Business School professor, Peter Capelli to join us on the podcast. His prescient new book is called, The Future of the Office: Work from Home, Remote Work, and the Hard Choices We All Face, where he unveils the surprising tradeoffs both employers & employees may have to accept in order to get what they want.

His research reveals there is no consensus among business leaders. Even the most high-profile & forward-thinking companies are taking divergent approaches. And his research shows that previous efforts at allowing workers to telecommute and work-from-home didn’t work out as expected.

So, what’s the best decision for you and your employer?  We can’t give it to you, of course; but Peter Capelli joins us to explore how we should all think about these choices going forward as well as who wins and who loses in all scenarios.

One Final Point: In this interview, Peter Capelli repeatedly challenges common assumptions about the future of the workplace, and is one of the most informed people on this topic in the world.  Listeners will learn much from this conversation!

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.