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The war for the return to office could finally reach a compromise

After a lot of back and forth, both camps seem to be getting closer and closer to an agreement. The latest data from WFH research by Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom and Steven J. Davis shows that employees want to work remotely approximately 2.7 days a week. That was the case for much of 2021, swinging higher during the spring and early summer of 2022 as new variants of the coronavirus gripped the nation, before turning lower again in July.

Employers have made a little more of the shift. As of July 2020, companies planned to allow remote work only 1.5 days a week. They’ve since dropped this position, allocating more and more days for workers to work from home, now down to about 2.3 days a week as of October. It could be the beginning of a compromise, where neither party is going through with just remote or in-person work, but instead chooses the middle ground.

While companies spent much of the pandemic at the behest of employees during a tight job market, they were ready to put their foot down as threats of recession loomed. Many used corporate culture as a substitute for the office, ensuring that in-person collaboration would be better for productivity and for business. Look no further Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who said Fortune in February that an organization’s secret sauce is collaboration between younger and more experienced employees.

“For Goldman Sachs to maintain that cultural foundation, we need to bring people together,” he said as he ushered everyone into the office, one of the first CEOs to do so. Some companies have followed suit after Labor Daywith employers like Apple and Pelotone issue official mandates.

It worked at first. Security firm castle systems found that after the first September mandates, more workers are back in their cubicles than ever since the pandemic began. But the initial increase in office traffic dropped from 47.5% to 47.3% in one week.

Maybe it’s because many workers feel discouraged from going to the office when the office is, well, empty. And why employers were wrong about the connection between office and corporate culture. “It’s easier to be a manager in person and it’s easier to go back to what you know,” said Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at the Great Place to Work Institute Fortune. “But there wasn’t a beautiful heyday three years ago where everyone felt included and connected to a culture.”

So it appears that hybrid work is emerging as the clear winner, as WFH Research suggests. Hybrid workers report stronger loyalty to their employer than fully remote or in-person employees, plus they are happier and more productive. Meanwhile, companies continue to see employees wherever they want, at least a few days a week.

No wonder hybrid work is shaping up to be the ultimate compromise. Bosses just need to make sure they do implement it correctly.