July 18, 2023

Back to the Office: Boiling the Frog

At a recent dinner with a group of medical device CEOs and HR leaders, we spent a lot of time talking about hybrid work and its place in the future. It was an interesting discussion.

Without exception, the CEOs expressed deep dissatisfaction with hybrid work and looked forward with impatience to bringing people back to the office full-time. Most had employees in the office three days a week, with plans to make it four days starting later in the year. After that, they’d like to make it five.

Why aren’t they bringing everyone back right now? There are several reasons. First, they’re afraid of getting too far in front of the pack and losing employees. One CEO said, “I want to bring everyone back full-time, but I’m not leading the charge. I want to be a follower.”

Second, they want to avoid disruption. There was a consensus that abruptly forcing people back to the office full-time and would be too unpopular with employees. So, they will do it in steps.

In short, the plan is to boil the frog. Companies will bring most people back to the office full-time, but they’ll do it gradually. Any softening in the economy that gives employers leverage could accelerate the process.

Yes, there will be plenty of exceptions. Remote work taught us that some functions can be done as well, or even better, remotely, but that’s a minority of jobs. Most employees will be going back to the office full-time. That will be a return to normal for older workers, and a mildly shocking change for young ones.

Without exception, the CEOs expressed deep dissatisfaction with hybrid work 

of Praise

The ZAGENO brand was not widely known. Mike helped sell our vision and delivered top-quality expertise to our company.

— Florian Wegener, CEO, ZAGENO