Apr 14, 2022 - Business

New era of office work has direct impact on Nashville's development

Illustration of an office water cooler becoming pixelated
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Employers are revisiting their work-from-home policies at this point in the pandemic, with some embracing new hybrid models.

Why it matters: The ongoing evolution of office work is actively shaping the city's development.

Between the lines: Kristie Abston, a management professor at Middle Tennessee State University, tells Axios her conversations with local business leaders underscore the need for flexibility.

  • Some employees would rather quit than return to the office full-time, she says, while others crave in-person interaction.
  • "A one-size-fits-all approach on returning to the office is unwise," Abston says. Companies "should be listening to what employees want."

Driving the news: Bridgestone Americas has adopted a hybrid model where employees come in for some team meetings but are allowed to work from home as they like. VP of communications Steve Kinkade tells Axios the approach was in line with employee surveys.

  • He says the new model has improved productivity and is a valuable retention and recruitment tool.
  • "It's definitely here to stay, from Bridgestone's standpoint," Kinkade says. "The best of both worlds really is the solution."

Nissan has also adopted a hybrid model for its Middle Tennessee offices, per a spokesperson.

HCA Healthcare, on the other hand, will bring employees back to the office full-time starting next month.

  • "We believe in-person work benefits our colleagues and our organization by reinforcing our culture and promoting teamwork and professional development," spokesperson Harlow Sumerford tells Axios.

Meanwhile, local shared workspaces are experiencing a surge of interest as workers adjust to a new normal.

  • Nashville is a top market for the shared workspace company WeWork, Atlantic territory VP Errol Williams tells Axios.
  • Bookings here are at more than 90% of capacity, he says.

State of play: John Richardson, owner of local coworking space InDo Nashville, tells Axios short-term options like day passes and conference room rentals have picked up steam as people seek a "baseline of structure" without abandoning their home offices.

  • "People are happy to get out of the house but also happy to have the option to work from home," he says. "On a rainy Friday, if you can work from home, that's what I would want to do."

The intrigue: Two-thirds of U.S. adults say that office and remote work will continue to coexist well into the future, an Axios-Momentive poll found.

💼 Here's what some of you said when we asked about your work setups last month:

Emily D.: "I'm back in the office and LOVING it. I thought it would be something I'd never want to do again."

  • "While I miss the ability to do a load of laundry midday, I absolutely love stopping by people's desks to ask them about something. ... For this single extrovert, it has been a very positive transition."

Chelsea M.: "The company I worked for mandated a five days/week return to office policy."

  • "I started a new fully-remote job."

Megan O.: "I left my full-time job in December, which is returning to hybrid work, to work full-time freelance, which is mostly home-based."

  • "I did not leave because of the agency moving to hybrid work, but just commenting on how I'm part of the Great Resignation movement of leaving the workforce and not returning in the traditional way."

Phil L.: "I have been working remote since moving to White House [20 miles north of Nashville] in October of 2017."

  • "I work in PR, and recently took a new role that might not have been available to remote applicants prior to the pandemic," he says. "It's one positive thing that has come out of COVID, and that is increased options to work from home."

Ryan V.: "During the past two years, I've been more productive, less stressed, and sleeping better. Being able to do household chores during the day … has given me more time in the evening to spend with my family."

  • "My company has announced we are being required to return once a week for a half day in June, which I think will lead to less productivity for myself."

Michelle N.: "We are due to go back to the office at least one day a week once school is out."

  • "Most of us do not want to go back."
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