Career Warrior Podcast #307) Return-to-Office Mandates Continue | What To Do Next | Sonja Price
We’ll dive deep into this very complex issue that will continue to be relevant for the next several years. Today, we’ll even talk about practical considerations in your career if you are being affected.
Today, I brought on Sonja “Dynamo” Price.
She’s an amazing veteran of the Career Warrior Podcast
…and with over 15 years of experience in Career and Leadership consulting, Sonja has worked with a wide range of clients including Amazon, Facebook, Google, HBO, and numerous other organizations.
Sonja has a Master’s Degree in Leadership and Organizational Development and is a Certified Career and Executive Coach.
She trained with Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader and is actively engaged with the Seattle Board of Conscious Capitalism.
She is passionate about empowering professionals to accelerate their career success, become financially free, and make a positive impact around the world. In her downtime, she enjoys skiing, playing piano, and geeking out over strategy board games.
Sonja Price 0:00
I think you just have to weigh out, you know, how important is your own comfort versus the growth of your career? And can you grow your career at the rate that you want to working from home? Or how important is that to you? LinkedIn presents
Chris Villanueva 0:24
Welcome to the Let’s Eat, Grandma Career Warrior Podcast.
And welcome to the Let’s Eat, Grandma Career Warrior Podcast, where our goal is not only to help you land your dream job, but to help you live your best life. Today, we’re going to talk all about the return to office mandates, will dive deep into this very complex issue that will continue to be relevant for several years and today we’ll even talk about practical considerations in your career if you are being affected by these mandates. Today, I brought on Sonja Dynamo Price. She’s an amazing veteran of the Career Warrior Podcast and with over 15 years of experience in career and leadership consulting. Sonja has worked with a wide range of clients including Amazon, Facebook, Google, HBO and numerous other organizations. Sonja has a master’s degree in Leadership and Organizational Development, and is a certified career and executive coach. She trained with Al Gore to become a Climate Reality leader and is actively engaged with a Seattle Board of Conscious Capitalism. Sonja is passionate about empowering professionals to accelerate their career success to become financially free, and to make a positive impact around the world. And in her downtime, she enjoys skiing, playing piano and geeking out over strategy board games. You can learn more about [email protected]. And we of course will make sure to link that within the description of this episode. So without further ado, let’s launch right into this episode of the Career Warrior Podcast. Sonja, welcome back to the show.
Sonja Price 2:02
Yeah. Hey, it’s so great to be back here again. Thanks for having me, Chris.
Chris Villanueva 2:06
It is so great to have you I find that we have some amazing lively conversations, and this episode’s gonna be no different. And we come with the hot topic, everyone’s favorite controversial, infuriating topic about back to office mandates. I think it’s gonna be really fun to talk about this one. Let’s set the stage what’s going on right now in the current work landscape right now with the back office mandates.
Sonja Price 2:34
Yeah, there’s lots of changes happening. Most of the big companies are requiring in person work again, in a variety of different forms. So you’re most of the big ones, Amazon, Google, Apple Mehta, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Salesforce, you know, the list goes on and on. And it’s changing based on a variety of factors. And each company is kind of setting their own policy. And I think we’re going to continue to see changes around this for some time to come. So some companies are calling employees back full time, while others are requesting anywhere from two to four days a week in person in the office. And then there’s other companies that just weren’t completely 100% virtual during the pandemic and have no plans on coming back. Like they even closed down their office spaces and just said, we are completely 100% virtual company moving forward. I think there’s a few noteworthy examples of different companies and what they’re saying and how things are going.
You know, I think one of the most interesting ones is, you know, one of America’s most bold CEOs, Elon Musk, who has said for both Tesla and Twitter, in June of this year, I guess it was actually in June of last year, he made an a big announcement to employees just saying like, if you don’t show up, we’ll just assume that you’ve resigned. So you must be in the office 40 hours a week. And yeah, definitely more than 40 hours a week for those two companies. That’s probably one of the most pronounced policies that have happened. And then, you know, there’s other companies who are kind of slowly easing into it like meta, they stopped offering remote work for new job listings, while existing employees may still be remote. And then they’re trying to like slowly ease employees back into the office three days a week, other companies are doing interesting things where they say like, if you live within 20 miles of the office, you have to be in at least two days a week. If you’re more than 20 miles away, then you have to come in one day per quarter. So kind of some weird policies that are we’re starting to see as well.
Chris Villanueva 4:40
Obviously, all this stuff happened in 2020. And like what happens this whole Cool Culture of companies being Lego will support you and your virtual work environments. We’re gonna you know, shipping all the best equipment and we’ll support you and we’ll we’ll never go back to kind of this thing it really felt like we were never going back but now there’s this massive shifts, like, what happened, what has gotten in the minds of these executives and companies that are really making this push?
Sonja Price 5:08
Well, I think companies have kind of wised up a little bit. You know, it’s like during the pandemic, they obviously really had no choice there was like, if they wanted to continue, we kind of just had to keep people at home so that we didn’t have an even more massive pandemic on our hands. But now, I think companies are really starting to think about things a little bit differently. Yeah. And you know, if they could have 100%, virtual employees, why wouldn’t they just become a completely global company, and have virtual employees all over the world at a lesser pay rate? I think there’s also been a lot of there’s been a lot of talk about productivity, I’m sure we’re going to get into this as well. But, you know, in some cases, we’re seeing that productivity has increased significantly with people being at home. And in other ways, I think there are some drawbacks to having people not be in the offices. And I think that really comes from like, you know, there is a lot more that can just organically happen when people are in person with each other, I think a lot more innovation happens, I think a lot more career development happens, I think it’s actually much harder to get the promotion when you’re working at home, because you just don’t have the common everyday conversations that happen when you’re in the meeting room while you’re waiting for everybody else to arrive. Or you’re walking down the hallway after the meeting, or you happen to grab coffee or lunch together or those kinds of things. So I think there’s a lot even though we’ve been more productive, working from home, I think there are some other drawbacks that I think companies are really starting to pay attention to, and get really concerned about the overall success of their companies moving forward,
Chris Villanueva 6:49
we’ll make this applicable for people who are employees or job seekers, even in just a second here. But I just want to tap into the employers perspective just for a little bit more, how would it help them to be more productive? And I’ve heard studies, I’ve heard the studies actually go both ways. It’s like, it’s actually more productive for somebody to work from home, because, you know, they save the mental space, they’re able to save time with the commute, obviously. But I’ve even heard it go the other way that people are more, I guess, just productive when they’re perhaps I don’t know, under pressure have the environment around them? Does it really depend? Or what do you think?
Sonja Price 7:25
Yeah, so to look at both sides of this, and there have been a number of studies that have been done on both sides, I think there’s actually more studies that have been done around the productivity of people working from home. And I think that’s just simply, you know, due to time, because we have more time, in the last few years. Anyways, we’ve had more time with people working from home. And I’ve seen a whole wide variety of different studies where they say that people are 13% more productive, you know, 20%, more productive 29, like up to 30% more productive, and that they also have like, 53% greater focus. Now, how are they getting those numbers? I’m not entirely sure. But I do think that, you know, on a whole, on average, we have been pretty productive, working from home. The flip side of it is, you know, for companies, and now there are a number of new studies that are coming out around this, Microsoft just did one. And they say that, like 85% of leaders, they don’t have the confidence that employees are actually being productive. Because there’s really no proof of this, or it’s hard to prove, like, you know, and that 50% of managers just struggle with trusting that employees are doing their best work.
So I think we do have those hallway conversations and whatnot, you just get, you know, more of a temperature check on what’s actually happening among the workforce. But when you’re on Zoom calls, or team calls all day long is just you jump on the call, and it’s right straight to business. And it’s like, do we do this check? Do we do this check? Okay, great. Yeah, giant, see you next Tuesday at Two or whatever. So I think that trust is missing. What you know, that’s also there’s the flip side of that as well, because then employees are thinking, Well, you don’t trust me, why don’t you trust me? So there’s a lot at play here. It’s a very complex situation. It is. And you know, I think from an employer’s perspective, they’re thinking, Well, hey, I’m the one who’s paying your paycheck, like, you should show up and work wherever they say that you should work. And from the employees perspective, employees are saying like, but it’s mostly about the value and the results that I bring. So if I’m producing the results, who cares where I work?
Chris Villanueva 9:30
So, I love this as a good pre emptive part of the conversation and I’ll transition on over to tips for job seekers or employees, folks who, who may be finding themselves considering whether or not returning back to the office is right for them or what to do if they’ve personally been asked to go back to the office and they’re fighting it on the inside. So first question would be What do I do if I’m asked to return and I just simply don’t want to go back to the office if that’s my situation right now.
Sonja Price 9:59
Yeah. In that situation, I think there’s a couple things to consider. You know, one, I think you really have to ask yourself how much you actually liked that job. And, you know, how worthwhile is it to hold on to. Because if it’s not your perfect ideal dream job, then why not go out and try to find something else. There are plenty of virtual companies now. So if what you truly desire is 100%, remote virtual position, there’s plenty of options out there where you can find that. So I think you have to question is that the right job for me? Or could I find something better elsewhere? Are you willing to put in the effort in order to help make that happen, you know, you probably could find something better, maybe even make more money at the same time. But if you do want to hold on to that job, then I think some things to start to think about is, what’s your relationship like with your manager and your leadership team, because oftentimes, when companies put in policies, you know, that the like, one size fits all approach, where they say, okay, company mandate, everybody must be in the office this many days per week, or 100%, in the office, or whatever it might be. But there’s always scenarios where that’s not true 100% of the time. And so, you know, I think you have to question like, is this a hard fast rule? Or is this a rule that has slightly fuzzy boundaries? And are there ways that you can work around that so that it works for you just as much as you want it to? So there are things that you can do, but I think you really have to start to question, you know, what is the relationship like between you and your manager? Is that a conversation that you could have? Is there room to negotiate? And if so, what might that negotiation process start to look like?
Chris Villanueva 11:45
I’ve referenced this book a few times in this podcast, but The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss came out before all of this stuff like a long time ago, at least in my world. And there was a whole chapter devoted to how to ask your boss to work remotely. And I just thought it was so interesting that this was like this, like radical concept almost that like, oh, people will work remotely. But I think now we’re at a great time to where there’s so much opportunity to negotiate. And because we’ve done it so much, and so successfully over the last few years, and there’s so many different, like I said, there’s studies that were referenced that didn’t exist before. So quick story
Sonja Price 12:24
about that, if I tell a personal tale here so many, many, many years ago, this was like 2010. And I was still working full time in a corporate environment. And the nature of my job was actually mostly virtual, like, all of the client partners that I was working with, they were in different locations. My boss was in a different state. I had an in office cubicle, basically, that I would come in to the to my cubicle, and then I wouldn’t even talk to anybody all day, I would be on the phone. And I had a 45 minute, can you each direction, sometimes longer with traffic. And so yeah, so one day, I just had a conversation with my boss. And I was like, Hey, do you care if I work from home? And he’s like, Well, let’s talk about that. He said, Why don’t you put a proposal together, and let’s sit down and have a more official conversation. So I mean, there wasn’t much of a proposal, but I like kind of sent him an email. And then we ended up having a conversation. And I said, Could I work from home three days a week? And he was like, yeah, no problem. And then, then I was like, ah, should I ask for four? Should I ask for five. And then it’s funny, because like, a year or two later, that company actually put in an official work from home policy. And then I had to, like, jump through all these hoops to get approved to work from home. And they made me like, take pictures of my desk at home, and I had to show speed tests, like
Chris Villanueva 13:43
being a first child, you know, just
Sonja Price 13:45
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So I think there’s gonna be a lot of scenarios like that, where it’s just like, and a lot of this is situational. I think that’s an important component. One company that I did not speak to earlier, was actually Salesforce. So Salesforce has like, different criteria for different types of employees, which I think is really interesting. So because then have been, you have to have this like fairness conversation, but they have said that if you’re that it’s three days in the week for most non remote employees, then it’s four days a week in the office for any customer facing roles, and then engineers and a whole different category unto themselves, where they’re required to work from the office 10 days per quarter. And it was actually actually asked for 20 days per quarter, but then all the engineers like were up in arms about it, and there was a big Slack channel fired off and they were like, okay, it doesn’t have any 20 days, it’ll be 10 days. And so, you know, I think you have to ask like, how in demand is your particular role and your work function and you know, Is there flexibility because companies have already shown that there is flexibility depending upon if they perceive you to be customer facing or more heads down development type of work or whatnot. And you can actually reference some of these data points, you know, if you are in a conversation of like, Hey, I don’t want to be back in the office full time, maybe just like you would negotiate your salary, when you’re accepting the job, maybe you can start to negotiate. If how many days you’re going to be in the office, and actually leveraging market data to show you know why or why not, you need to be in the office a certain amount of time.
Chris Villanueva 15:31
That’s exactly what I want to delve into a second, because clearly, you’ve done not only done this for yourself, but you’ve worked with different clients, so many different clients with all these different needs. And you, you understand how to approach the conversation with the manager. I don’t know how hardheaded these managers are just it’s not a one size fits all answer here. But what just general tips you have? For folks who want to have that conversation? How do they start that conversation? Really?
Sonja Price 15:59
Absolutely. You know, I think with any conversation that you would want to have with your manager, I think it’s always important to first focus on like the results that you’re delivering for that particular role, that company, that sort of thing. So it’s like, I think, you know, proving your value, first and foremost, because then that gives you a foundation to create from, and it’s like, Hey, I’m not just anybody here, like, you can trust me to do my work and get my work done. Just like I have evidence of for the past three quarters, you know, my last three performance reviews, my past three annual performance reviews, like I have gotten an exceeds expectation for the last three years, that’s never going to change to me, I know myself, I’m actually much more productive at home than I am in the office.
So I would actually prefer to be to have this be the case but I think it really does matter. You need to think about relationships. And that’s like, when you sit down to have that conversation with your manager, no matter what you say, be thinking about what’s the perception of that conversation? So, you know, do they see you as a results oriented person? Do they see why you’re asking for that? How well have you guys gotten along? In the past? Do you see eye to eye on a number of different things? Or is it someone who’s you know, and do they always play it by the books? Or, you know, are there some, I just like to call them fuzzy boundaries? You know, just like, Is there room? You know, is there room? Is there flexibility here? Is there room for something else? So, but be aware of the perception, because I think one thing that we’ve seen happen with having so much virtual work is that I personally think her emotions and career growth opportunities are taking significantly longer, because you don’t have that like in office back and forth. And you know, common everyday organic conversations that typically happen. And even though we are still doing performance reviews, I think they’re much more down to the brass tacks and maybe not, you know, considering the bigger growth of the organization or you know, different things like that. So, you really have to question like, What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish? And you got, you always kind of have to weigh out the pros and cons and then think about how to position things in that conversation.
Chris Villanueva 18:15
Actually, one question that I wanted to ask you delving into it? Are there any potential compromises, I guess, or alternative solutions that you might give somebody who’s wanting to work from home who might want that opportunity? And you don’t seem like the type of career coach who would advise to say like, Okay, I’ll take a pay cut for to have like a particular work from home situation? Or is that something that might be on the table?
Sonja Price 18:39
I think you just always have to go back to you know, how well is this particular position working for me? Is this a situation that is giving the career growth opportunities? Is it you know, life giving in? So there’s a number of different things you can evaluate for? Because it all depends on what are your goals? Like? Do you want to get promoted? Do you want to make more money? Or do you just want more time at home with your family? And so then you have to ask, like, is this truly the right fit for me? Or should I just go somewhere else, because there’s plenty of fish in the sea. I personally believe you can always find a better position out there. Even if you’re super happy with your current job, there might be something that’s even significantly better out there for you that that gives you everything that you’re looking for.
Chris Villanueva 19:29
For me personally, my energy kind of revolves like I feed off of other people, not like a some sort of leech or vampire or something, but like, I’m very extroverted in nature. So I always find when I have like people around me sort of doing a similar thing or looking to accomplish a similar goal, then it works to my advantage in a way so I know that that’s what I would do.
Sonja Price 19:51
You know, there is one topic that I think is actually really important that we haven’t talked about yet, and there could actually be some big advantages of being there. I can not office, at least for a period of time, yeah, because the world of work is changing at a rapid and dramatic pace. And the driver of this is this little thing called AI. And none of us know how AI is going to impact our jobs moving forward. And if if we are in roles where AI could potentially replace some of what we do, you know, I don’t want to spark fear in everybody. But I think it’s really smart to be paying attention to how the world of work is changing, and how that could impact your particular role, your functional focus, your, you know, the department that you work in your company, all of those different things. And so, you know, in thinking about this episode of what we’re recording here today, I think there actually is some value and merit in being in the office, even just for a few years. So you can keep your ear to the ground and be paying attention.
Beyond, you know, the five zoom calls that you attend on a daily basis is like, what are people saying about AI? And how closely connected are you to the leadership of your organization? And what are they thinking? What’s the strategic plan for how AI and make it implemented into the company as things go forward? And these are the kinds of things that generally start to take shape through organic conversations, certainly, you know, leadership is doing big strategic planning sessions. But for you know, people at an individual contributor level, most of the time you’re going to hear this hearsay, or maybe you’re going to hear it in a meeting where say, hey, you know, leadership is saying this thing, and then maybe there’ll be a lot of conversation about it, maybe there won’t. But, you know, networking is a very, very helpful component, or, you know, growing and accelerating your career. And when you’re not in the office, you can’t hear those conversations, or even hear them less, you know, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen at all, but you’re probably going to be hearing them less less so than people who are in the office, right? You know, and there’s probably also a lot of like, mentorship and sponsorship opportunities that you can miss out on to because you’re just not in the same location. You can’t go grab a quick cup of coffee and talk about, you know, what’s next in your career and what’s happening in a different part of the organization that you really have no insight into, because you’re only on the calls that you’re on, from the comfort of your own home.
Chris Villanueva 22:32
Yeah, so it sounds like and tying back to a thought that popped up in my head a few minutes ago here. But it sounds like if somebody is truly on the fence of about whether or not they need to return back to the workplace, you might give them that nudge to say, yes, there are enough benefits here that go for it. Get back there in the physical office, if you’re on the fence about it, because there enough benefits, or am I miss reading you here?
Sonja Price 23:03
I think, you know, I don’t want to give the it depends answer. But I do think it depends because it is a personal.
Chris Villanueva 23:10
So many people are on the fence though some people like don’t know whether, you know, they’re kind of been in this vacuum the last few years. But go ahead, I’ll let you go.
Sonja Price 23:18
Yeah, I think you just have to weigh out, you know, how important is your own comfort? Versus the growth of your career? And can you grow your career at the rate that you want to working from home? Or how important is that to you? True? And you compare that with? What like, what are all the benefits that you get from working from home that you get to see your loved ones on a more frequent basis, you can, you know, take a little break and hang out in your hammock in the backyard at lunch versus, you know, I want to make more money or I want to be VP by the time I’m 40. You know, it’s like you have to think about these various different things. And I think it really, you really do have to start to weigh out the pros and cons. And I think most people don’t take that strategic of a viewpoint, you know, where they’re actually getting down to brass tacks and saying like, these are the pros, these are the cons and this is what would make it worthwhile for me to do these things. Or, you know, maybe I don’t want to be back in the office 40 hours a week, maybe I don’t need to, but maybe I start to get more strategic about when I do go into the office. When I do go into the office. I go on the days when senior leadership or I go on the days when I have the ability to connect with people in other departments that I don’t necessarily get to connect with. Yes, so it’s less about butts and seats than just being in the office so that you can be in your cubicle and do whatever you do on a daily basis. I think it’s more so about like, if you’re going to do it, how can it work for you your if you’re being required to do it more than you want to? Then how can you negotiate that a little bit so it works more in your favor, if not completely.
Chris Villanueva 25:00
Okay, thank you for saying all that you said, because like it is more of a complex issue, not just in the economy and landscape and like the productivity studies and things like that. It’s a complex issue that people need to take all these factors into consideration and decide for themselves, like not every person should be treated the same here. And so they need to do their own digging and understanding, like what’s right for them. And so I’m hoping with this podcast episode, hopefully, if you’ve listened for the last 20 minutes, you’ve had a little bit more clarity on like, what’s right for you. And just like on a personal level, I enjoy a mixture of both because I love Monday and Friday, being able to just get my deep work done, and be able to like batch specific things. And Tuesday and Thursday, I love being able to meet with my co founder, business partner and brother in person in our office and to have like those chats and like, because we have like that sort of chemistry that breeds really strong creative ideas that I don’t think that we’d be able to have if we were just doing zoom meetings all day. So for me, it’s that combination for both. So I implore you to your listener to really think about what is right for you, and in what contexts, like you said earlier, any other considerations before we move on to the different topic here on what people should think about on the return to office mandates?
Sonja Price 26:24
Well, you know, I think, when we do start to weigh out the pros and cons, you could ask more specifically know, what are those pros and cons, I think some of the potential drawbacks that a lot of employees will cite is, you know, if they have to go back to the office, that there would be reduced work, maybe they’re going to be more dissatisfied, because they’re just used to kind of having their own way of doing things on a day to day basis, I think there were probably will be increased turnover, you know, the more that we call people more the companies call people back into work, I think more people are going to quit and go elsewhere. As an individual, you have to think about your commuting costs, both in terms of time and money. You know, that could include environmental impacts, you know, if you’re a sustainability person, and you think about, you know, the impacts of that on the planet. And you know, there’s there’s just a number of other things to consider, and then not to repeat myself too much. But I do think we should all be thinking about the future of our careers, and not, you know, only focused on today without thinking about tomorrow, of what else am I doing to build my skill set, increase my network, and do all of the things that help draw me forward so that I don’t get a couple of years down the road and then suddenly be like, Oh, wait, I got left behind. Because I wasn’t willing to commute X number of minutes each day.
Chris Villanueva 27:52
I love it. Thank you so much for enlightening us career warriors here. All right, career warriors. This wraps up Episode Three await of the career warrior podcast and really enjoyed digging into this one. With Sonya price. These back to Office mandates are more complicated, and I believe that an entire episode is needed to be devoted to the topic. That’s why we discussed it today with Sonya, we talked about how the different return to Office policies differ among the various companies, we talked about why some executives might believe that in person work is better and some of the benefits of working in a physical location. But for me, where it got interesting was what to do. If you were asked to return back to the office and you were on the fence on whether you wanted to go back into a physical location or you straight up did not want to go and so there were different options you can take and consider when it comes to this approach. Just remember, at the end of the day, you have power and this is your choice. At the end of the day, you need to just understand what is right for you what your desires are, and eventually come up with a strategic plan moving forward. So is this the right choice for you? It’s something that you have to consider and decide for yourself. Hopefully this episode helped you out there. And I hope that it did just that.
Right, Career Warriors, thank you so much for tuning in today. I had so much fun, and I’ll see you next time career warrior podcast and before you go remember, if you’re not seeing the results you want and your job search, our highly trained team of professional resume writers here at Let’s Eat, Grandma can help head on over to letseatgrandma.com/podcast to get a free resume critique and $70 off any one of our resume writing packages. We talk all the time on the show about the importance of being targeted in your job search and with our unique writing process and focus on individual attention. You’ll get a resume cover letter and LinkedIn profile that are highly customized and tailored to your goals to help you get hired faster. Again, head on over to letseatgrandma.com/podcast thanks I’ll see you next time.