The former head of HR at Google has little faith in the future of hybrid work. Laszlo Bock expects Google’s staff to return to the office full-time within three to five years.
Starting next Monday, US Google employees are expected in the office three days a week. For some organizations, the end of an era is closing in. Laszlo Bock, Google’s HR chief between 2006 and 2016, expects hybrid work policies to disappear within three to five years.
According to Bock, the older generations of executives — even those in Silicon Valley — are still not used to remote work. “Leaders have the greatest difficulty with virtual leadership”, he told Bloomberg.
Today, Bock works for Humu, an HR consultancy. Clients regularly seek advice on the optimal hybrid work policy. Research shows that a balance works best — for example, three days in the office and two days from home. Bock, however, doubts the longevity.
The HR executive sees two problems. First, according to Bock, stay-at-home employees are in last place for promotions and salary increases. When allowing employees to choose between home and office, an organization creates unfairness. Office workers gain a position of privilege.
Second, Bock notes that the management of Google and other enterprises prefers to return as quickly as possible. “We’ll get everyone back into the office eventually. I just don’t want to pick that fight now”, he recently learned from an unnamed executive.
Google is one of the largest organizations experimenting with a hybrid policy. To some extent, it’s a luxury problem. Lots of organizations don’t have a choice. Manufacturers have to produce on-site. Most healthcare can’t be provided remotely (yet). Even within Google, you’ll find departments that have been showing up in the past two years: cleaners, security guards, and so on.
For office workers, things are different. In the past two years, some the world’s largest organizations proclaimed that home offices are the future. Often, the same proponents sell platforms and tools to hybrid organizations.
Laszlo Bock suspects that we’ll be back to square one in three to five years. We expect the future to vary per company, but no one can know at this time.