The Phantom of Flexibility
The evening of ghouls and ghosts draws near, yet many of us are already held in the icy grasp of despair. A palpable dread hangs in the air, saturating unfortunate souls within an impenetrable shadow. Since even before the advent of the fall equinox, shivers and trembles swept through many a workplace following the shrill banshee cry: Return to office!
Depicted in bone rattling pieces such as this by WSJ, the leverage workers once seized during the Great Reshuffle has since slipped away. Though the need for flexibility and work-life balance hasn’t vanished, employers continue the eerie howl for in-person collaboration. It’s a gloomy tale worsened by PEW Research Center’s findings of numerous organizations clawing away at promised hybrid policies—leading to the horror that BambooHR aptly calls the Great Gloom.
In some cases, policy reversals have spawned out of tax incentives attempting to recapture traffic into cities, hoping to prevent the transformation of once-bustling downtowns into ghost towns. Indeed, city centers are arguably the most challenged by newfound gains in worker flexibility, as illustrated in this video on the plight of San Francisco.
Though San Francisco is a dramatic example, we cannot ignore reports such as this from the US Census Bureau that delineate the increasing siphoning of our time each year by daily commutes, like the wrath of an insatiable vampire. Daily commutes, parents not being present for children, the squeeze of money on childcare, vehicle maintenance, and other branches of this petrified forest, are further discussed in this video by psychologist Liane Davey.
In the midst of tax incentives and demands of commercial landlords, environmental fears of surging vehicle use and the terrifying impact on our societal carbon footprint are tossed to the wind. Yet, as conveyed in this episode of Bloomberg’s Big Take podcast, doom and gloom aren’t inevitable. By listening to and respecting each other’s needs in the pursuit of mutual benefit, we can arrive at policies that cast the veiling darkness aside.
We can satisfy in-office needs and still provide flexibility by empowering teams to arrange their own meetups without sweeping policy changes, allowing for family obligations or simple avoidance of peak traffic hours. We can identify which roles and which individuals favor specific office models to help create a thriving culture. A policy of flexibility brews productivity.
Ultimately, empathy is the torchlight guiding us from the fog wherein nightmares prolong and to the radiant sun, where we truly belong.
“Horror is like a serpent; always shedding its skin, always changing. And it will always come back.”
– Dario Argento
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