The Future of Work: No Take Backs



The current job market is one experts will likely be picking apart for some time as it presents a major shift in the dynamic between employers and employees. According to The New York Times, this change in the balance of power began during the years leading up to the pandemic, when unemployment was much lower, and is likely to persist for quite a while. This is not good news for today’s managers as navigating labor scarcity is a challenge for which low unemployment has not prepared them.. For instance, one mechanism organizations almost immediately employed, that rarely disappoints, is money. Yet, despite the offers of sign on bonuses having doubled since 2019 and overall wages making historical gains, millions of working-age adults continue to abstain from the labor force1.

This reality negates arguments that the underpinning catalyst of the Great Resignation is as simple as paying people what they are worth. Instead, this indicates that money is but a single factor among many that employees are now considering as they ponder reentering the workforce, with flexibility being the most important. This is evidenced by a recent petition submitted to the National Labor Relations Board by 300 employees of Hearst’s magazine-publishing division (encompassing titles such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health, etc). The petition protests the company’s mandatory return to the office, the protocols of which employees argue should have been negotiated in good faith first, ABC News reports. Moreover, another petition, which was submitted to Hearst management, demanded options for remote work2.

In a recent interview with The Washington Post, former research scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center and founding director at MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, Thomas Malone, author of “The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style and Your Life,” states that those organizations insistent on a return to the office will do so to their own detriment3.

“We learned over the course of a few weeks in March and April last year that we really could do online a lot of that which we used to think we had to come to the office or go to a customer to do. There are many jobs where physical presence is required, of course. But where it isn’t, I can’t see any reason we’ll be returning to a traditional office,” he says. This predicament is something Malone’s aforementioned book, published in 2004, predicted. It describes a decentralized business world made possible by advances in digital communication3, which is pretty much exactly the foundation of 2021’s evolving hybrid business model, enabled by innovations such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

The sentiments of Malone’s commentary and his book, published almost 20 years ago, are now echoed by today’s HR experts. According to CNBC, the option to work remotely is such a sticking point among today’s workforce that companies with in-office mandates risk alienating between 50 – 70% of candidates4. These considerations are especially important when hiring professionals in sectors such as technology, finance, insurance and management, according to a recent report by McKinsey which found that many organizations operating in those spaces are already planning to close smaller facilities, allowing those employees to continue working remotely instead of returning to the office.

Is your organization planning a return to the office or having trouble staffing in the current environment? Log in to MICPA Connect and exchange your stories, strategies and concerns with fellow members facing the same challenges!

  1. Irwin, Neil. “Workers Are Gaining Leverage Over Employers…The New York Times 20 July 2021. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.
  2. Thorbecke, Catherine. “Hearst’s Magazine Workers Protest Mandatory Return…ABC News. 9 Nov. 2021. Accessed on 11 Nov. 2021.
  3. Zeitchik, Steven. “MIT Expert on Work Says Any Boss Who Thinks…The Washington Post. 26 Oct. 2021. 11 Nov. 2021.
  4. Liu, Jennifer. “HR Experts: Companies Requiring In-Office Work Could Lose…CNBC. 2 Nov. 2021. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021. 

Source: MICPA

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