Most CEOs Won’t Priorities Return-to-Office Policies, Survey Finds

The pandemic may have proved to employeers that remote and flexible-work arrangements were viable — and changed the way we work forever. Axios writes:

Just 6 out of 158 U.S. CEOs said they’ll prioritize bringing workers back to the office full-time in 2024, according to a new survey released by the Conference Board. Executives are increasingly resigned to a world where employees don’t come in every day, as hybrid work arrangements — mixing work from home and in-office — become the norm for knowledge workers. “Maintain hybrid work,” was cited as a priority by 27% of the U.S. CEOs who responded to the survey, conducted in October and November. A separate survey of chief financial officers by Deloitte, conducted in November, found that 65% of CFOs expect their company to offer a hybrid arrangement this year.

“Remote work appears likely to be the most persistent economic legacy of the pandemic,” write Goldman Sachs economists in a recent note. About 20%-25% of workers in the U.S. work from home at least part of the week, according to data Goldman cites. That’s below a peak of 47% during the pandemic but well above its prior average of around 3%.

“The battle is over,” said Diana Scott, human capital center leader at The Conference Board. “There are so many other issues CEOs are facing.” Headlines about CEOs determined to get butts in seats get attention, but they are the exception, says Brian Elliott, the cofounder of Future Forum, a future of work think tank. “There are a lot more CEOs that are actually quietly becoming more flexible….” Though the labor market has softened, employers still do care about keeping employees satisfied — and they don’t want to fight with them. “It’s not worth the fight,” says Elliott.

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Will Remote Working Lead Millennials to Buy Homes in Affordable Remote Suburbs?

An anonymous reader shared this report from Fortune:
For eight years now, as millennials have entered their thirties and forties, also known as “homebuying age,” Bank of America has surveyed over 1,000 members of the generation once a year for its Home Work series. And for 2023’s edition… older millennials (age 31-41) are almost three times as likely to move into a house than an apartment, the survey found…

Migration patterns during the pandemic have clearly established that most homebuyers have wanted to flee big cities, with some “zoomtowns” such as Boise benefiting in particular. But the survey reveals something even more drastic. In a section called “suburban nation,” BofA reveals that 43% to 45% of millennials — of every age — expect to buy a house in the suburbs. “We expect the ability to work from home to remain an incentive for young families to seek out more remote suburban and rural markets where housing may be more affordable,” wrote the BofA team led by research analyst Elizabeth Suzuki. And remote work is still robust, they added.

Millennials are also looking toward the suburbs for wealth-building. A majority (two-thirds) of them believe that they’ll buy a home in the next two years, citing a return on investment as the number one reason for purchasing. The interest is pervasive across the generation, and maybe means that the suburb is in for a new and better revival. And a 2021 study from Pew Research Center found that one in five adults preferred city life, compared to one quarter of adults in 2018…

Millennials reported to BoA that the pandemic increased their likelihood of buying a home…

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Did the Pandemic Change Our Attitudes About Work?

Through 2020 America’s professional lives “had taken on the overtones of a secular religion,” argues a writer in the Washington Post, with jobs forming “a primary way to find meaning in the world and a crucial part of our identity…. Even precarious, low-paying gigs were valorized as ‘hustle culture,’ representing freedom to perform labor on our terms.”

But then…

Fast-forward to fall 2022. The number of people quitting, while down from the peak, remains at the highest level since the 1970s. White-collar workers don’t want to give up working remotely. Low-paying sectors such as the hospitality industry can’t find enough people willing to work for the wages on offer. Union organizing and strikes have been on an upswing…. [W]hat’s increasingly clear is that the March 2020 decision to partially close down the American economy shattered Americans’ dysfunctional, profoundly unequal relationship with work like nothing in decades. And even if there was great discomfort in a shutdown that severed almost every one of us from assumptions about how we earn a living, we also found an unexpected opportunity: to remake our relationship with the labor that fills our days….

All of it — the lockdowns, the disease, the sudden change in household functioning and how or whether we worked at all — amounted to a massive psychological shock, leading many to ask why labor looms so large in our psyches. “It really was an opportunity — an unwelcome opportunity — to take a look at the mad scramble that many of us have just assumed was normal,” said Kate Shindle, who as president of the Actors’ Equity Association represents a particularly hard-hit industry. Then, when the economy unexpectedly boomed back, Americans were poised to pivot. As many had recognized, it was one thing to seek meaning in work but another to see our lives subsumed by it — and for what? A less-than-adequate paycheck? A job that could literally kill you? “Maybe the poor safety net really kept people from analyzing the role of work in their lives,” David Blustein, author of “The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty” and a professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, told me. “Maybe the American work ethic was a form of survival….”

Over and over, when people spoke to journalists, including me, about why they made changes in their professional lives since March 2020, they told us they liked receiving better wages when they switched employers. But even more, they wanted greater control over the terms of their labor…. An increased level of remote work, likely in a hybrid format, is almost certainly here to stay, says Nick Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, who has studied the topic for decades. Employees want it, technological advances continue to make it easier, and companies that forbid it completely are likely to find themselves at a disadvantage….

The past two and a half years brought immense upheaval, and we’ll be struggling to process the resulting changes for years. But it’s undeniable that some of these shifts were long overdue. Workers are highly unlikely to forget what we learned: namely, that our jobs are much more flexible than we thought.

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Gartner Predicts ‘Digital Immune Systems’ and Virtual Metaverse Workspaces

Gartner, the prestigious tech research and consulting firm, has released its annual predictions for “strategic tech trends” in the coming year.

Forbes offers a summary. Some highlights:

Digital Immune Systems. [A]ntiquated development and testing approaches are no longer sufficient for delivering robust and resilient business-critical solutions that also provide a superior user experience. A Digital Immune System combines several software engineering strategies such as observability, automation, and extreme testing to enhance the customer experience by protecting against operational and security risks. By 2025, Gartner predicts that organizations that invest in building digital immunity will increase end-user satisfaction through applications that achieve greater uptime and deliver a stronger user experience.

Applied Observability. The path to data-driven decision making includes a shift from monitoring and reacting to data to proactively applying that data in an orchestrated and integrated way across the enterprise. Doing so can shorten the time it takes to reach critical decisions while also facilitating faster, more accurate planning. Gartner notes observable data as an organization’s “most precious monetizable asset” and encourages leaders to seek use cases and business capabilities in which this data can deliver competitive advantage.

“By 2025, Gartner predicts that 50% of CIOs will have performance metrics tied to the sustainability of the IT organization,” Forbes writes. But they also note that Gartner is predicting platform engineering — “a curated set of reusable self-service tools, capabilities, and processes” to speed up and optimize development. “Gartner predicts that by 2026, 80% of software engineering organizations will establish platform teams.”

They’re also predicting “adaptive” AI that can change after being deployed. But Forbes summarizes Gartner’s related prediction, that AI leaders “increasingly must bake governance, trustworthiness, fairness, reliability, efficacy and privacy into AI operations” to improve adoption and user acceptance. This will include tools that “make AI models easier to interpret and explain while improving overall privacy and security.”

PC Magazine offers this summary of a related prediction from Gartner: “By 2025, without sustainable AI practices, AI will consume more energy than the average European country, offsetting any environmental gains that AI creates by 25%.”

Gartner also predicts a phasing out of marketing that uses social media sites’ data about individuals — and that fully virtual workspaces “will account for 30% of the investment growth in metaverse technologies and will ‘reimagine’ the office experience through 2027,” writes PC Magazine:

[Gartner Fellow Daryl Plummer] said people need to reimagine how work will be done. He said that few people want to go back to the office full-time, but that virtual participants in calls often feel like second-class citizens. A fully immersive world is an answer to this, he said, with the interactive experience more important than information exchange. He believes metaverse experiences will be where people collaborate in ways they couldn’t do in the office, blurring the line between home and work.

By 2025, “labor volatility” will cause 40% of organizations to report a material business loss, forcing a shift in talent strategy from acquisition to resilience. Plummer talked about revamping the way talent is valued. He said people don’t want to do just one thing, but want to be “versatilists,” which makes them more valuable to the company and less likely to leave.

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Newest Remote Working Trend: Nobody Wants to Be in the Office on Fridays

The Washington Post reports on a “widely adopted, even codified” trend in recent months: people aren’t coming in to their offices on Friday.

“The drop-off in office work, particularly on Fridays, has led coffee shops to reduce their hours, delis to rethink staffing and bars like Pat’s Tap in Minneapolis to kick off happy hour earlier than ever — starting at 2 p.m.”

Just 30 percent of office workers swiped into work on Fridays in June, the least of any weekday, according to Kastle Systems, which provides building security services for 2,600 buildings nationwide. That’s compared to 41 percent on Mondays, the day with the second-lowest turnout, and 50 percent on Tuesdays, when the biggest share of workers are in the office.

“It’s becoming a bit of cultural norm: You know nobody else is going to the office on Friday, so maybe you’ll work from home, too,” said Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Even before the pandemic, people thought of Friday as a kind of blowoff day. And now there’s a growing expectation that you can work from home to jump-start your weekend….”

Some start-ups and tech firms have begun doing away with Fridays altogether. Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and online consignment shop ThredUp are among a small but growing number of firms moving to a four-day workweek that runs from Monday to Thursday. Executives at Bolt, a checkout technology company in San Francisco, began experimenting with no-work Fridays last summer and quickly realized they’d hit a winning formula. Employees were more productive than before, and came back to work on Mondays with new enthusiasm. In January, it switched to a four-day workweek for good.
“Managers were onboard, people kept hitting their goals,” Bolt’s head of employee experience tells the Post. “And they come back on Mondays energized and more engaged.”

An adviser at the Society of Human Resource Management tells the Post that employers are trying new inducements to get people to return to offices on Fridays. “If you feed them, they will come. Food trucks, special catered events, ice cream socials, that’s what’s popular right now.” And the Post adds that other employers have also tried wine carts, costume contests and karaoke sing-offs — “all aimed at getting workers to give up their couches for cubicles.”

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Keychron’s Q3 Gives Mechanical Keyboard Fans Everything But the Numpad

An anonymous reader shares a review: In its early pre-pandemic days, Keychron made a name for itself with its series of affordable mechanical keyboards — including a few low-profile ones that remain a rarity to this day. Those boards didn’t necessarily appeal to enthusiasts, but were more than good enough for most mainstream users who wanted a different kind of keyboard. Last year, Keychron upped the ante with the launch of the Q1, an enthusiast-level, fully customizable hotswap keyboard with a 75% layout that had more than a few similarities to the heavily hyped GMMK Pro. Since then, Keychron has expanded this series with the 65% Q2, which received pretty rave reviews at the time and now the Q3.

The QMK-compatible Q3 clearly follows in the footsteps of the Q1 and Q2. It uses the same double-gasket design that should make for a relatively bouncy typing experience (though in my experience, there’s less bounce than I would’ve expected), and the overall design is pretty much the same, with the exception that it’s a tenkeyless (TKL), so you get a full keyboard with standalone arrow keys and a full row of function keys, but without the numpad. The body is made from aluminum and the whole unit weighs in at a hefty 4.5 pounds. In part, that’s because Keychron opted for a steel plate here. You can opt to get a bare-bones version where you supply your own switches and keycaps for $154 (or $164 if you want to get the optional volume knob), or a fully assembled version with keycaps and your choice of Gateron Pro Red, Blue or Brown switches for $174 (or $184 with knob). For the extra $20, I think getting the assembled version is a no-brainer, given that the keycaps and switches will cost you significantly more and even if you want to replace them, you could always reuse them in another project (because who only has one keyboard, right?).

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