Viewpoint – June 2021

The Future Arrives Ahead of Schedule

by Bob Gershberg, CEO/Managing Partner Wray Executive Search

As we exit what may have been one of the more disruptive periods in recent business history, we are well advised to pay attention to the trends that have moved ahead at lightning speed. The pandemic did not change the future, it accelerated it. In a recent study from McKinsey & Company: “The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that more than 20 percent of the global workforce could work the majority of its time away from the office—and be just as effective.”  McKinsey estimates that 20 to 25 percent of the workforce could work from home three to five days per week without any loss to productivity. It is 40 percent if you look at those who could work from home at least one day a week. That is not to say we’ll spend the rest of our professional lives on Zoom.  Moving forward, most business leaders anticipate a hybrid in-office/WFH model that prioritizes flexibility over mandatory physical attendance. And yet we are all moving so fast that we do not slow down to notice this is an enormous cultural shift.

The widespread adoption of working from home, or working remotely, at least as an option, could change everything, from recruiting and workforce planning to labor laws and the employee experience. Many organizations are not prepared for remote work. Do not be one of them. If your company can process this change as an opportunity, you can come out ahead with a significant competitive advantage. The true challenge will be to get an entire organization to be as productive virtually as they were in-person, and to do so consistently for the long haul. Agility needs to be built into the core of our workforce models. As business picks up, now is the opportune time to rethink workforce structure.

Five models discussed by Harvard Business Review:

  • As it was: Employees return to the office and resume a regular nine-to-five routine. The office might be a bit more hygienic and flexible, but mostly this is the centralized office as it was before the pandemic.
  • Clubhouse: A hybrid model where employees visit the office when they need to collaborate and return home to do their focused work. The office serves as a social hub — the place people go to meet, socialize, and work together.
  • Activity-based working: Employees work from an office but don’t have an assigned desk. Instead, they spend their day moving between a variety of workspaces, such as meeting rooms, phone booths, hot desks, and lounges. Prior to the pandemic, most Australian activity-based offices had approximately eight desks for every 10 people (since people often worked elsewhere in the office). After the pandemic, firms are looking to shrink this as low as five desks between 10 people, anticipating that many of their employees will be out of the office, working from home a couple of days per week.
  • Hub and spoke: Rather than traveling to a large office in the central business district, employees work from smaller satellite offices in the suburbs and neighborhoods closer to where they live. This saves them the commute to a central office while still providing the benefits of face-to-face interaction with colleagues.
  • Fully virtual: Employees work from home — or anywhere else they like — allowing companies to ditch expensive leases and build on what they started during the pandemic.


Each model involves its own set of tradeoffs. Activity-based working saves space but involves a significant cultural transformation. The hub-and-spoke model sounds logical, except it involves dividing a workforce not by project or job function but by geographic location. And returning to the office “as it was” is a comforting notion for many but will only feel familiar if most people return. No matter what, it seems some degree of working from home will persist, meaning fewer people in the office, more remote phone calls, and nothing being quite “as it was.”


Be well! Stay safe!

All the best,

Bob Gershberg |CEO|Managing Partner|

(888) 875-9993 ext 102


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