Flexibility looks to be the name of the game as operators bring their employees back to the office, with a majority – including big names like AT&T and Comcast – telling Fierce they’re opting for a hybrid work model going forward. A smaller portion, however, said they plan to remain mostly remote, citing benefits for both employees and the company alike.
An AT&T representative told Fierce the operator has created a new hybrid work model which assigns workers one of three classifications. Office employees work from corporate locations three to five days per week, while Flex employees show up in person one to three days per week and Virtual staff come in to the office about one to five days per month.
Of the approximately 5,900 workers assigned to its Dallas headquarters, around 1,000 are designated as Office employees, 2,800 are Flex and the remaining 2,000 are Virtual.
“We created a new hybrid work model to meet the needs of our business and evolving expectations from employees,” the representative stated. “This new model allows us to remain agile and adaptable in a changing global environment.”
Likewise, a Verizon representative told Fierce it adopted a new Work Forward program on April 4 which includes three worker categories: home-based, hybrid and worksite-based. Rather than matching individuals with their preferred work model, the representative said different roles were matched to each category based on business needs and the nature of the work performed. For example, worksite-based employees include retail workers and network technicians, while the home-based group includes customer service and inside sales staff. Those in the hybrid category will work with their directors to determine their in-office schedule.
"Through Work Forward we are applying the lessons learned from the past few years and listening closely to what our employees have asked for - greater flexibility," the Verizon representative stated.
Comcast appears to be in the midst of implementing a similar program. An operator representative told Fierce the company moved a majority of its employees to a remote model when the pandemic began in March 2020, with the exception of key frontline staff including retail workers and network technicians. It began a “voluntary reopening” period in mid-October 2021, during which vaccinated employees who wanted to return to the office could do so. That window closed at the end of last month.
While corporate employees are now being asked to return to the office, the Comcast representative said managers are working with their teams to hash out new flexible working schedules which will include a mix of remote and in-person days. These schedules will vary by team. For instance, while business critical staff may be in the office five days per week, other groups may end up doing three days in person and two remote.
“We know that flexibility is important to employees,” the Comcast representative said. “We expect that we’ll continue to learn and adjust along the way.”
The vast majority of call center workers, meanwhile, are continuing to work remotely for the time being, the representative added.
A Cox Communications representative told Fierce it, too, is pursuing a hybrid future for its workforce. At the end of February, the company began “encouraging” employees to return to its Atlanta headquarters and other administrative buildings nationwide “as needed and in alignment with their flexible work (hybrid) team agreements.” The representative added these agreements differ by team based on business needs and the roles performed by each team.
WideOpenWest (WOW!) also stated it has implemented a hybrid operating model. While the company recently reopened all of its offices and shifted away from a mostly remote environment, a representative told Fierce “employees are able to come into WOW! facilities as needed and at their discretion.”
The representative added “for the foreseeable future, WOW! will continue to offer this flexibility to our employees and will remain in a hybrid work environment for most of our employees.”
In the remote boat
Meanwhile, Darlene Kee, Consolidated Communications’ Senior Director of Employee Relations, told Fierce a large portion of its workforce remains remote. She noted that employee productivity remained high “and even increased in some job functions” when the company shifted to a mostly remote model during the pandemic, which it attributed to a better work-life balance for employees and less stress related to commuting. Around half of employees remain remote, with the other half either in the field or in the office, she added.
“Our employee productivity remains high and we’ve seen a boost in employee satisfaction,” Kee continued. “Of course, we will continue to adjust to meet our customers’ and communities’ needs, and ensure our employees are safe and well-supported in their work.”
Up north, Alaskan operator GCI said it’s sticking with a mostly remote workforce, pointing out the setup benefits the company as well as employees.
Before Covid-19, GCI said only around 5% of its nearly 2,000 employees worked remotely. Now, 70% are eligible for remote work. Of those, 81% indicated in a staff survey they prefer to continue working from home with occasional office visits.
In addition to offering a better work-life balance for employees, GCI said the setup allows it to tap into a broader talent pool beyond Alaska’s borders. That’s key “especially when it comes to some of the highly specialized positions that are difficult to fill locally,” GCI Chief Human Resource Officer Joe Wahl said in a statement.
While the company will maintain a physical office space, it is adopting a “remote first for remote eligible” employees through which remote work is the default for most staff most of the time.
This story has been updated to include comments from Verizon.