Employers can forget about herding staff back into the dreary and repetitive confines of the office cubicle now that the pandemic is drawing to a close, according to Slack’s chief executive.
“The days of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday are over,” said Stewart Butterfield, the head of the business messaging tool, in an interview with CNN.
Films like Mike Judge’s 1999 comedy Office Space captured the essence of cubicle dwellers’ daily grind, but the pandemic has reshaped perceptions among both employers and their staff.
“That autonomy and flexibility that workers got over the last couple of years is going to be very, very difficult to convince them to give up,” added Butterfield.
In a recent poll by Fortune, CEOs say talent and labor issues are a bigger problem right now for their organization than the pandemic by a 7-to-1 ratio.
Ford’s chief EV and digital systems officer echoed that sentiment earlier this month, arguing there was a primacy of performance over decorum when selecting new engineers.
“I don’t care if they come to work in bunny slippers, we got to have the best people,” Doug Field told reporters last week after the company split its car business into two to bolster agility.
Field himself was a high-profile hire for the century-old carmaker, which poached the former Tesla engineer from his job running Apple’s car program known as Project Titan.
Labor shortages across the board
One company that believes it can tap into this new flexibility is HomeToGo, Germany’s answer to Airbnb. Cofounder Patrick Andrae believes the company will benefit from the burgeoning demand for what he calls “workations,” in which employees rent a vacation home for a month and split the time between holidaying and working remotely.
The true test will be in finance, where junior employees have often heard the expression, “If you didn’t come to work on Saturday, don’t bother showing up on Sunday.”
Wall Street banks have generally been dismissive of its high-paid staff working from home. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman warned back in June, “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office.”
According to Slack’s Butterfield, however, the Great Resignation, labor shortages, and wage inflation are affecting all corners of the economy.
“It’s across the board—it’s software engineers and bankers all the way down to people working in the city, in the fields, people working in factories and warehouses,” he told CNN.
With that kind of bargaining power, no wonder he thinks the days of cubicle life are numbered.
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