June 17, 2021 WeWork’s Controversial Take on Employees Who Want to Stay Home

Every week, Clinton Bonner (Topcoder’s VP of Marketing) chats with business and technology leaders to get their insights on the future of work. In today’s installment of the Uprisor, Clinton sits down with Dave Messinger, Topcoder’s CTO and VP of product, to discuss the recent comments made by WeWork’s CEO regarding remote workers and employee engagement.

Tune in to to hear their discussion covering the growth of remote working, and the opportunity that WeWork and similar companies have to be true leaders in the next generation of office life.

are Remote Workers less Engaged?

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of remote working, with Forbes magazine calling it a “historic shift in the…job market” and projecting that 7 out of 10 employees will work remotely by 2025. 

The WeWork company — founded in 2010 as a provider of coworking and flexible workspaces for companies and tech startups — has long been at the forefront of this flexible approach to remote working and where employees spend their days. Which is why recent comments made by WeWork’s CEO Sandeep Mathrani has caught the attention of so many business leaders.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Sandeep said:

  • Many of WeWork’s employees want to return to in-office work.
  • “[Employees] who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home,” implying that remote working is bad for staff engagement.
  • Time physically spent in the office is essential, even for companies that operate with a hybrid or flexible work model.

dave, your thoughts?

Clinton kicks things off by pointing out that the Wall Street Journal story “kind of blew up” and “got a lot of attention, especially in the spheres of influence of folks who are looking at and studying remote work, work from home, flexible hybrid workforces, and everything else.”

Dave posits why the comments reverberated so widely across industries and marketplaces:

  • There is no debate that remote working, and models like hybrid working, are the inevitable future of the workforce. 
  • There may be some truth to the idea that some aspects of remote working, such as feeling isolated or lonely, can negatively impact worker productivity and motivation.
  • However, broad statements that paint all working models with a specific brush may gloss over opportunities for refinements, enhancements, and improvements to our ideas of staff management, employee locations, and overall employee engagement.

“Giving the flexibility to people that have families or other obligations is also really important—maybe they don’t have to be in the office all the time. I don’t think that would make us any less of a dedicated employee to the company.” —Dave Messinger

an Opportunity to Lead

Rather than viewing the situation as all-or-nothing (i.e., “everything will return to normal” versus “all traditional work models are permanently finished”), Dave says that WeWork has an opportunity to think strategically and position itself as a leader in the post-pandemic way of working.

Dave suggests that business leaders think in terms of:

  • Fractional time and fractional resources: Companies like WeWork who offer flexible work spaces create opportunities for employees to meet in-person with clients or teams as needed, whether that’s one day a week or a few days a month.
  • Each employee’s needs: WeWork’s CEO grouped all remote workers in the same bucket, but each individual likely has different needs and priorities, which can also change over time.
  • The law of averages and balance: Dave and Clinton refer to past shifts in the world, from 9/11’s impact on air travel to the 2008 housing bubble’s impact on real estate. They caution business leaders from expecting a black-and-white outcome this time around, and point out that things often return to some sort of hybrid middle ground in the end.

By staying flexible and open-minded, you as a manager, C-level exec, or team leader can take the next few years in stride and ensure your staff’s productivity, engagement and morale are in alignment with these changing times.

We always enjoy having Dave’s thought leadership on the podcast. Be sure to check out his other episodes here and here. And for more great conversations about technology and the future of work, listen to the Uprisor Podcast.

“Work is not a location. Work is the product and the things you do together with teams and the stuff you put out in the things you manufacture and produce. That’s work.”

Annika Nagy

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