“It became very clear during the spring of 2020, that we are never going back to the old way of working,” Peter Laurin, head of Managed Services at Ericsson, said in an interview. “It should be ok to work from home. Over the long run, we are aiming for a hybrid model, a vision of fifty-fifty between the office and remote working.”
Before the pandemic hit, the roughly 102,000 employees at the Swedish telecommunication equipment maker spent an average of one day a week working remotely. Despite the progress made with vaccinations, about 85% of the work force at Ericsson globally are still working from home.
After conducting surveys among its employees, the company concluded it would offer staff the flexibility to work remotely for as much as half of their working hours.
When restrictions are fully lifted, employees whose presence in the office isn’t “business critical” will be able to decide together with their managers if they want to work in their homes, on the go, or for example from a café, said Laurin.
Officials have warned of the potential risks to careers if workers aren’t willing to work in the office. The Bank of England’s Catherine Mann said recently that the hybrid model of work could widen the gender gap by opening “two tracks” -- after the pandemic left more women at home because of child-care issues.
Laurin said that there should be no career risks associated with not being fully present in the office. To keep flexibility has also become essential to keep the best employees and to attract new talent, he said.
“It’s up to each manager to coordinate with their employees - how do you become the most productive,” said Laurin. “How do you get the most collaboration and output while having high employee satisfaction.”
Ericsson’s new hybrid vision is internally seen as an experiment and a starting point, and the company is planning to redesign all of its 400 offices globally over the next five years.
Although Laurin said the current plan is “definitely not” to reduce office space, he admitted that some downsizing may be inevitable. Ericsson is aiming to cut down the space dedicated to desks and cubicles from 60% to 20%, and expand social and co-working areas.
“You will still have a chair when you come into the office, but instead of going to your old desk, you may be sitting in a conference room or a lounge area,” Laurin said. “We don’t know yet what the optimal mix will be,” Laurin said. What is certain is that the company won’t go back “ever” to the set up of the past.