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No One Else Was in the Room Where It Happens

No One Else Was in the Room Where It Happens

This is Nedra, reporting live this month from a new location: The office. 

After more than two years of editing this newsletter from home, I decided to spend the month of July going to FGS Global five, yes FIVE, days a week. And let me tell you, it is giving me LIFE.

The question of how to balance remote verses in-person work has become a dilemma for many employers. And I’m here to evangelize that we all make our best efforts to be together again. 

This is not easy for me: I’m a single mom of two kids who are going to different schools on opposite sides of town. Getting into the office some days from my house seems more complicated than launching a space shuttle. But I’m convinced it’s well worth the maneuvering. Here’s why: 

  • I love my job and the work I get to do. But I’m going to admit my favorite things about being a professional really are more basic – hanging out with friends and wearing nice clothes. The endorphin shot I’ve gotten from restoring those two routines has given me a renewed energy for my career I simply can’t get from unmuting myself at my dining room table. 

  • Our firm is encouraging attendance two to three days a week. Michele Soho, our savvy chief operating officer for North America, says she wants our employees to have FOMO if they aren’t in person. So the firm is taking a smart approach to incentivizing in-office attendance with meals and treats Tuesday-Thursday. It’s clearly working. The numbers are up those days, while Mondays and Fridays I can practically hear myself echoing off the vast expanse of empty desks. 

  • Hybrid meetings, where some attendees are in person and some are on video, are hard. We can’t see and hear each other clearly, the tech set-up is more complicated on a big screen than a laptop and we’ll have to find better ways to make that work. Clearly hybrid meetings are here to stay. One consideration: Is it a good time to bring back the conference call?

  • But my advice: Get in the room and off the Zoom, even if it takes a little extra effort. Reconnecting is electric. 

By the Numbers

Comfortably Numb

The highly contagious BA.5 variant now accounts for nearly 80% of COVID cases nationwide, including President Biden’s. Cases are likely severely underreported as many Americans opt for at-home testing but fail to self-report positive results.

  • Despite over 120,000 new cases on average per day, experts estimate the true number could be seven to 10 times higher.

BA.5 is not as easily deterred by vaccines and prior infections as its predecessors. But its symptoms appear milder. 

BA.5 creates increased uncertainty for employers continuing to develop their return to office plans, with state public health officials offering no new guidance

As hospitalization rates climb and public patience with COVID-19 restrictions wanes, it will fall to companies to adjust their RTO policies and support the health and wellbeing of their workers absent broad government action.  

Come Together

Two hundred thousand Conservative Party members in the United Kingdom will soon vote to choose the next Conservative Party leader and UK Prime Minister. The result will be declared on September 5. 

  • Why it matters: Neither candidate will want to waste the Party’s 71-seat working majority. With around 2.5 years left in this Parliament, either winner will want to focus on delivering some Conservative achievements to be proud of. 

The clash is now between continuity with Rishi Sunak, former chancellor of the exchequer, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Economic issues are likely to dominate the debate.

Sunak can point to polls suggesting that he is the candidate best placed to beat the center-left Labour party. But can one of the richest people in the country sell economic pain to the electorate to get inflation down?

  • Sunak seems to present low taxes as a future reward for present good behavior. But Conservative members feeling the pinch might want action on the cost of living now. 

  • Expect Sunak to push deregulation as a way of making the most of the Brexit opportunities and to highlight the fact he voted Leave on Brexit.

Truss is not a great salesperson, but her product might sell itself. 

  • Her campaign suggests low taxes are the foundation of a strong economy, which Conservative voters like, especially with taxes at a 70-year high and rising.

  • Her idol Margaret Thatcher was also criticized for her speaking style, but by the next election Truss will be judged more on her record.

What’s next: The pressure will be on Sunak to impress, with the latest member polling showing him well behind

Go deeper: Our team’s full analysis.

July 26, 2022
By Nedra Pickler and Irene Moskowitz
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