A survey of 158 US managers reveals that the overwhelming majority have put return-to-office policies on the back burner, with only six considering them important.

Some 27% of managers considered maintaining hybrid work a priority. In another survey, this one conducted by Deloitte, 65% of finance executives said they expected their company to offer the possibility of hybrid work arrangements from this year.

Distributed work, contrary to what many believe, is growing in the United States. Between 20% and 25% of people work from home for at least part of the week, down from 47% during lockdown, but up from 3% before the pandemic.

For an increasing number of managers, having their teams in distributed environments who do not come into the office every day is now the norm, and in no way entails a loss of productivity (in many cases the opposite), making it easier to attract or retain talent, particularly younger people.

The nostalgic managers who, after the pandemic, insisted above all else on forcing people to return to the office, citing productivity losses that could never be proven and that, in reality, only existed in their heads, have done a lot of damage to the normalization of distributed work, which, in today's technological environment, makes perfect sense.

Offering workers the freedom to choose whether they work from home or come to the office, via hybrid models that seek to empower people rather than constrain their choices, is increasingly the most reasonable option for companies that understand the changing environment. The progressive availability of bandwidth and technology makes it easier than ever to coordinate work, and was perfected during the pandemic. In the face of this, a generation of old-fashioned managers unable to give up micromanagement have insisted, in many companies, on returning to the situation before the pandemic, and lied when they said that they were perceiving productivity losses derived from the new situation.

These back-to-office mandates met with a very interesting reality: in functional labor markets, many people simply decided to leave those companies that tried to force them back to the office, with the consequent loss of talent. In other cases, workers resigned themselves to returning, but their productivity suffered. In some cases, the reputation and culture of companies that most radically demanded a return to the office took a big hit, and tools like Glassdoor and the like are proof of this: word went out that they had become much less interesting companies to work for.

Increasingly, the differences between the conservative management caste in denial about distributed work and the post-pandemic generations that see it as logical and natural will become a problem, forcing those companies to look for better managers, more prepared for the new environment and with more capacity to adapt to the ongoing changes around us. If as a manager you are determined to have all your workers in the office, where you can see them, know this: you are a throwback to another era, and none of your negative perceptions about distributed work are supported by real productivity data. People work better when they feel they have choices.

Distributed work is second nature to most of us. Obviously, not all work can be done remotely, but pretending to keep people who could be performing their jobs in a fully satisfactory manner from home tied to a desk in the office, as if they were living in the 19th century, is anachronistic and absurd.

In short, distributed work is increasingly the success differential in business, just look at the data.

(En español, aquí)