Covid is still affecting the work place and what other trends might we see in 2024. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn Discusses when he expects most people will be back in the office. (Click here for the video.)
Rob Artigo: Welcome to the Tough Things First podcast, your indispensable source for business, leadership and life advice with the longest-serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. And he’s Ray Zinn. Good morning, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey. How you doing there, Rob? Good to be with you again.
Rob Artigo: Good, good, good. Good to see you.
Ray Zinn: Thank you.
Rob Artigo: Well, COVID is mostly in the rear view mirror now, but the fallout apparently lingers. We still have-
Ray Zinn: Oh, man.
Rob Artigo: We still have a lot of people working from home, remote working. And I know that there is… I mean, some big companies, Facebook and Apple and other companies. It’s a big push to try to get a lot of people to get back into the office, in some cases requiring people to get back into the office. And some people are still balancing a little home, a little work. What do you think, Ray? In 2024, are we going to see more work-from-home? Or is it going to start tapering off?
Ray Zinn: Well, it’s tapering off now, actually.
Ray Zinn Cont.: My prediction is that most companies that had a work-from-home policy during the COVID pandemic are now going to scale that back to them coming into work. So most companies now are at least three days in the office, two days at home. Let’s say Monday and Friday at home and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in the office. So that’s going to then I think going to go, in either latter part of 2024 or in 2025, it’s going to go to two days and then ultimately down one day, and then… I mean, not two days. One day in 2025 to no days in 2026. So in other words, by 2026, all companies will be back to 100% in the office.
And the reason for that, of course, this is part of our discussion today, is that the employees are just not as efficient working from home. Now granted, they’d like it. I mean, most employees, I’d say 95% of them, love working from home because they have more flexibility. They don’t have the commute time and the commute costs. They don’t have to dress up. They don’t even have to comb their hair. They can just jump on their computer and go to work. So the pandemic coincided beautifully with this internet capability working from home with Zoom and Team and other software devices has allowed these employees to work from home and they think quite effectively. So if I look at it introspectively, I think that probably a good 80% of the employee workforce would prefer working from home. They’d like to do it 100%. Maybe one day a week going into the office, but by and large, they want to be at 100%. In fact, that leads us into this coffee break thing.
Rob Artigo: Coffee badging. Coffee badging.
Ray Zinn: Oh, coffee. Yeah, coffee badging. So coffee badging, I forgot the term of that thing, but coffee badging is basically going into work, clocking in and then walking around the office and maybe shooting the breeze with some people and then after they’ve done their coffee, had their coffee, then they say, “We’re going to log out,” or…
Rob Artigo: Check out.
Ray Zinn: Check out. They checkout.
Rob Artigo: Just leave.
Ray Zinn: And then go home. But the companies, they’re aware of that and they’re wise to it and they’ll put in the capability to monitor that. So my view again is really reducing the number of times at home to two in 2024, one in 2025 and zero in 2026. The employees are fighting it like crazy. In other words, all the employees that love to work from home are going to fight it tooth and nail. They will lose some workers. So there’s some people are going to quit and try to find some way to work from home. This pandemic has caused a lot of bad habits to occur, and working from home is really a bad habit. The employee efficiency by and large is pretty bad. I mean, it goes to the 80/20 rule where 80% of them… 20% are good at working from home. In other words, they’re effective. 80% are not. And 80/20 rule applies of course there.
So here we go. It’s going to be a big battle between the employees and the companies. And that’s going to be a perk actually. That’s another perk that some companies will offer to get the employee to come to work for them or leave their current company and going to work for them is by offering them the opportunity to work from home. So there’s going to be a lot of trading going on. However, at some point, even those companies that are using that as a lever to attract good people, they’re going to still cut back the hours you can work from home and it’s going to be back to the office again.
So you got all that real estate out there that’s being currently empty. That’s going to be to fill back up again. And that expense, those companies that have that expense… Now granted it’s less expense because they don’t have all the cleaning issues, the other things that go along with having the employees back in the office, again, parking lot issues and that sort of thing, but the efficiency is just killing the companies. Okay? So they want the employees to be back in the office again.
Rob Artigo: Yeah. You mentioned the bad habit part. So you went right into something that I was going to ask you about it, and that is we talk about how easy it is to start a bad habit and how hard it is to get rid of it and start a good habit. Good habits are hard to come by. Is that from a leadership or management perspective to understand the process of getting people back in is to figuring out a way to help them break a bad habit even if they think it’s just a preference and it’s actually just a bad habit by now?
Ray Zinn: Yeah. Yeah. Remember, we talked about that coffee badging. Okay. That’s the employee’s way of faking out the company. “Okay. I clocked in.” So they see them clocking in, but then they’ll leave in a couple hours and go home, dodge the traffic and all that sort of thing. So as you pointed out, and I’ve written about a number of times, a good habit is one that’s very hard to start and very easy to break. Okay? A bad habit is very easy to start and very difficult to break. And so that’s why every year about in January, we talk about New Year’s resolutions because we have to go back to those good habits that we call New Year’s resolutions. Those are typically good habits, right, Rob? Yeah, those are-
Rob Artigo: Supposed to be. They’re supposed to be. Yeah.
Ray Zinn: Yeah. Exercising more, eating more healthy, just studying harder, whatever it is that you wanted to do to improve yourself as a New Year’s resolution, those are hard. Those are very difficult and hard to keep going. In other words, it takes a lot of work to keep a good habit underway. But what the companies do or what they will do is by pushing the employee back to work again, into the office, I should say, is going to cause them to have to develop good habits again. And so the company is going to force these good habits, but it’ll take time. I mean, just like the pandemic lasted a year and a half or two years, I guess, year and a half, let’s see, yeah, a little over a year and a half the pandemic lasted, it’s going to take about three or four years to get that good habit back again. So even if they get the employees back to work, they’re not going to pick up the efficiency right away. It going to take a little while to break those bad habits that occurred or got indoctrinated because of the work-from-home issue.
So anyway, it’s going to be a challenge. I mean, the companies will work it out. The companies can encourage this back to work effort by making it pleasant to be back to work. So there’s things they can do to make it more pleasant for the employee, maybe a shorter work day, maybe just good morale boosting meetings and so forth that they can have. They have to make it pleasant for the employees to come back. So good habits are not necessarily pleasant. Bad habits are very pleasant, mostly. And so people tend to respond to good, pleasant, happy things. And so the companies will figure out what they got to do to make the work environment better. And so I think that’s going to be good in a way because these companies that are on ball and really knowing this issue will work hard at making work a happier place. And so that’s the key.
So to all of you out there who run companies and who have influence in this area of getting employees back to work, try to make it a happy place, try to make it a pleasant place to be. At Micrel, that’s what we did. We tried to make work a happy place. And so we were diligently to make it fun for people to come back to work. Maybe you have to improve the parking. Maybe you have to put more charging meters out there for people who want to bring electric cars to work. Maybe it’s just better breaks and time in the workday. And maybe it’s better software technology, just making it a pleasant place for them to be. Once they get back into the habit of returning to work, then I think things are going to improve. The efficiency is going to get better. But I don’t see that happening at least over the next year or two. So I mean, they’ll get them back to work, but I’m not sure the efficiency is going to improve much.
Rob Artigo: Well, Ray, this is along the same lines. I mean, it’s employment related, but I saw this and I thought we’ll close this podcast, this video podcast, out with a… Just get your take on this. So I was reading this blurb about this employer in Australia, and he has this speaking of coffee badging. So it relates in that respect because there’s coffee related here. He evaluates candidates who are applying, does an interview. When the person comes in for the interview, he offers coffee or I’m assuming that any hot beverage in a mug will do. So somebody who doesn’t want coffee but would rather have tea fine. But what he does is the interviewer or the employer sits there and the person has their hot beverage sitting in front of them. They do the interview and they talk and they do their regular conversation. When they wrap up, he checks to see if they take the mug with them, go to the break room, rinse the cup out and put it back. And it’s like that’s a big way that he evaluates whether he wants to hire the person or not.
Give me your take on that. I mean, to me, it’s revealing, but I don’t know if I’d rely all of the hiring on that.
Ray Zinn: Well, sometimes they don’t use a coffee mug. They just use a styrofoam cup. But did they take the styrofoam cup with them, throw it away? Or did they just leave it on the desk? That’s another way of evaluating what kind of employee they’re going to be. So you can use a styrofoam cup. You don’t have to use a coffee mug. You can use a styrofoam cup. And if they just left it there and walked out, then that’s a bad, that’s a no-no. But if they take it with them and dispose of it or dispose of it while they’re there, that’s a good sign. So I think that’s a good idea actually. Whether it might be a soda pop can, whether it’s a coffee cup or a styrofoam cup or whatever or even a napkin with a hot roll on it or donut or something, you can find out if they just leave the paper there, the napkin or whatever it is you gave them. Or did they clean up after themselves?
Rob Artigo: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s it, is the clean-up after themselves. And I think it probably has a lot to do with just attention to detail and awareness of what’s happening there. I mean, if you have the wherewithal to clean up after yourself, then it means that you are confident and you have [inaudible 00:14:18]-
Ray Zinn: Well, good habits. You got good habits.
Rob Artigo: You have a good habit and you’re showing that you’re put together well. Well, as always, Ray, you can… Well, I should talk to the audience. You already know this, Ray. For the audience, you can reach out to Ray Zinn with your email@example.com, continue your education and the conversation with all the podcasts, blogs and the links to information about Ray’s books, Tough Things First, the Zen of Zinn series one, two, and three. Appreciate it, Ray. This is a great podcast and I’m glad we could do it on video.
Rob Artigo: Yep. Get Tough Things First, the book. Great conversation, Ray. Really appreciate it.
Ray Zinn: Thank you very much, Rob.