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Dell or 3M?

Do we miss our ‘work people’? 

Prior to March 16, 2020, we used to commute to work on a daily basis.  We interacted with the same people every day.  We commonly saw our ‘work people’ for more waking hours than we saw our spouse and children.  And for the most part, we liked spending time with our coworkers.  It was our routine; it was our work life. 

And then it changed – COVID!  We were told by our work leaders and our government to stay home and isolate.  We created our ‘health bubbles’.  Some employees were designated as Essential Workers based on their industries or roles.  People in manufacturing and varying service positions had to go to work.  Others could stay home.  There were fewer traffic jams (rush hour changed substantially).  Parking was plentiful.  But we were isolated from what had been our routine.  And we adjusted.  ‘Zoom’ was our new word.  Wifi was a discussion topic at home.  Where we worked at home was a family discussion as well because we were all at home – for work, school and social interaction (Zoom happy hours and varying social gatherings). 

Fast forward to Q1, 2024

March 25, 2024: 

Will one approach win over the other?

I had this debate recently with a long-term employee of 3M.  He happily works from home and will likely never (or rarely) see his office again.  He believes that Dell will change its policy and not penalize those that work remotely all the time. 

We will never go fully back to the office. 

Being at home for part of the pandemic taught us that we can work from anywhere as long as we have good Wifi.  That said, being part of a company culture takes more than an e-mail and Zoom relationship (in my opinion).  There is a lot of space in between . . . . . and Hybrid is a popular term and concept.  Companies (other than 3M – and I don’t know about Dell) are creating reasons for people to want to come to work.  Zoom-free days were initially popular.  Today, it is more of the cohesive and collaborative atmosphere that companies work to create.  (Two weeks ago, I toured a company that had fresh fruit in all its ‘common’ areas and had a workout facility and a pickleball court inside.  People want to come to work for multiple reasons.  Their culture was alive and vibrant!) 

Being in the office all day/every day may not be necessary but being together as a company to meet/work together formally and informally is something that leaders still seem to desire.  The experts are saying that one key to getting people to want to go to the office will be to focus on the ‘why’ – why are we wanting people on-site.  The ‘how’ will be important as well – focusing on how being in the office can enhance the collaboration and cultural development that is sought. 

My bet (with my 3M friend)

3M will become the minority.  Dell, while penalizing people who work from home (so it seems), will likely be the minority as well.  The company with the great workspace and culture that makes people want to interact (the companies that zero in on the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ – not just the mandate) will be the desired standard. 

Watch the evolution over the next few years.