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Companies that make people return to the office will lose employees

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After a year-and-a-half hiatus, many offices will open back up in September. Most companies are asking that employees return on a hybrid basis, meaning they come into the office at least some of the time. But what exactly that will look like is uncertain.

What is certain is that more people will work from home than ever before, and this shift has the potential to disrupt everything from physical office space to the way people feel about work. And as US companies face a hiring crisis, companies that don’t offer remote work could find themselves at a significant disadvantage when it comes to recruiting new talent.

Recode talked with Tsedal Neeley, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere, about the many issues that are coming up as the nature of work changes.

The interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Blue-collar versus white-collar?

Rani Molla

There were already a lot of perks to being a white-collar worker: You generally make more money, you work in an air-conditioned office, and now you get to work from home, which can make life so much easier. Do you think this will lead to growing animosity between blue-collar and white-collar workers?

Tsedal Neeley

Whether or not people have access to virtuality — or hybrid work, or dynamic work, depending on who you’re talking to — can easily become a diversity and inclusion question. First of all, we have to truly understand, in a given organization, whether or not anything that people are doing can be done remotely. We have a tendency to look at roles from a global standpoint and say, “Well, these jobs can’t be done remotely and these jobs can,” and quickly start assigning people to remote or non-remote. When we start scrutinizing the tasks that people do and the work that they do, one option that many companies have been pursuing is, “Can we pool and rotate?” So instead of all these people being attached physically to these job areas, can we do something where we look at tasks, what can be done virtually, what requires physical presence, and all of us share in that?

The second thing is, if we can’t give people remote work opportunities because of what they do, we have to give people remote learning days. We have to give people some kind of remote experiences that they can do some self-development around. And this is where you can have parity. Blue-collar workers — I’m thinking in warehouses that are not outfitted with technology, or delivery folks — I don’t think that’s going to change much. But I also don’t think that it’s going to create as bad a division as we expect. Because hybrid, by definition, means you have some in-person, you have some remote, there’s going to be a mix.

What working from home means for service workers

Rani Molla

So if people don’t go into the office as often — if I’m only going into the financial district one or two days a week — what does that mean for the people who work at the salad bars, the service counters, where I used to get my nails done? What are the repercussions for them when more people work remotely?

Tsedal Neeley

If you are there twice a week, another person for another company is there twice a week, another person is around once a week. I am firmly convinced that the patterns of movement may differ, but people will still be there. Even if companies reduce their commercial footprint, there will be more smaller organizations in the same entity, as opposed to one having a lot of floors in a building.

Rani Molla

But overall, if everyone went in five days before, now everyone’s working two days, there are fewer total days that people are actually going in. So there has to be some sort of reduction, right?

Tsedal Neeley

There will be some kind of reduction. But I don’t think we’re going to have these empty buildings as we imagine. I think there’s going to be a redistribution of who’s there and when, but the activities will be similar.

Workers have the power right now, so companies will have to adapt to their demands

Rani Molla

Let’s talk about companies like Goldman Sachs, that have been really hardline on everyone coming into the office. Are they going to lose talent going forward? Are people going to be like, “I’m not going to work at this company or in this industry if they’re not going to let me have any flexibility in my work and life”?

Tsedal Neeley

We’re in an era where people have tasted a different way of working, a different way of connecting with the people they cohabitate with, a reduced level of stress from the reduction of commutes, saving more money. And because they’ve tasted this, they’re demanding it, they want it. Given that, will incumbents remain as powerful as they’ve always been in drawing and retaining top talent? With the kind of great resignation and turnover that we’re already starting to see, I would be surprised that if in the long run they won’t start seeing people leave. This is the era for employees. The power is in employees’ hands today because of the sheer scale and magnitude of the people who want to retain some kind of work-life flexibility in their professional arrangements. And if they can’t get it here, why not get it elsewhere?

Rani Molla

Why are some companies asking employees to be in the office all the time, if the pandemic has proved they don’t have to be?

Tsedal Neeley

It’s this belief and this bias that it is through in-person presence that we are able to connect, to communicate, to collaborate, to learn. It’s this bias that culture building and culture maintenance can only happen in in-person settings. But that is not empirically true. The emphasis of their work is very much process-focused, as opposed to outcome-focused. In order for remote-hybrid to work, people have to change their performance metric, and trust employees, and let go of control, and allow empowered autonomous employees to achieve organizational goals.

Rani Molla

That makes me think of Apple, which might have to backtrack a little bit on its work-from-home policy so people don’t quit. We’re in a very tight hiring crunch right now, so employers have to offer more perks like working from home to attract talent. But what happens when there isn’t a hiring crunch? Do we go back to normal?

Tsedal Neeley

We may. These things are cyclical, but the cost of turnover for companies is a year and a half of that individual’s salary. Think about that and the institutional memory that walks out the door. And we’re actually seeing early retirements, people who are saying, “We like to be home, we’ve been through this crazy crisis, I don’t want that stress anymore.” The losses of drastic turnover, it’s not just that you’re losing talent. You’re also messing with the culture of your organization. Think about a place where there’s an exodus. That’s not a motivating environment. Not only are there pragmatic losses when someone leaves, but there’s also cultural, social, emotional, psychological blows that companies will take. If I was a company right now, I would fight to keep my best people. Because my best people will ensure that I do well.

Letting people work remotely could stop talent loss

Rani Molla

I’ve been writing about how working mothers really want to work from home, but they’ve also been having a really hard time doing so, reporting higher rates of stress and burnout. There’s an expectation that women have to both be ideal workers and ideal mothers. Obviously things are extra hard due to the pandemic, but it seems like it’s always been sort of an impossible situation for women. How does remote work fit into that?

Tsedal Neeley

It’s been bad, but it’s gotten worse. I have been alarmed. US labor statistics data showed that 3 million women have left the workforce [in 2020]. It made my head explode. And then another survey that looked at the same data was able to identify that almost 600,000 are mothers and caretakers. What a shame, if organizations are not leaning into the gift that virtuality and remote work gives, so that they can take advantage of flex time and flex jobs to retain their women. Or to also incorporate some kind of child care apparatus in order to support mothers. Some of the smart companies that I’ve talked to have done things like, from this time to this time every day we’re actually going to have online programs so that mothers with children between the ages of 5 and 10 can get some kind of respite. We can’t send you babysitters in the middle of a global pandemic, but these companies have found ways to support women and mothers — but these are in the minority.

We talk about diversity, and gender and women, and then we see amazing women leaving. We have to work hard to bring them back and to reintegrate them into our organizations. Even the pre-pandemic ways of handling young families and professional demands were not great. If I can work from home, my pickup would be much easier than me breaking my neck to get to my child between 5 and whatever time. All of that goes away.

Rani Molla

Working from home can benefit certain groups: people with disabilities, people who were never that good at schmoozing in the office in the first place. Some Black people say they prefer working from home because they feel a better sense of belonging and experience fewer microaggressions. What does this mean for diversity inclusion? Is working from home the ticket to making a little more equity at work?

Tsedal Neeley

I think so. Folks who have always been out of the mainstream in their organizations suddenly feel like they’re not only at the table, but that no one is calling them the wrong name. They don’t have to take that psychological commute every day in order to code switch and fit in. Those with physical disabilities, or even neurodiversity challenges and concerns, are finding so much more peace. The lessons we can learn, however, is why is it that people have had these experiences, and what can we do to make changes in our organization so that they have the sense of belonging that they’ve experienced through this remote environment?

What can we really expect five years from now?

Rani Molla

I’ve made some really bad predictions, so I want you to make a prediction instead. What is this going to look like in a year or two, or five, from now?

Tsedal Neeley

Guidelines and the policies will settle. Competencies around flexible workplaces will rise. Individual managers will level up to figure out how to lead a distributed workforce. People will be more agile with using digital tools, so things like tech exhaustion will go away. After people experience the hybrid format, they will settle into a rhythm that really works for them. And I think that we’ll see more remote than in-person days. I also predict that physical spaces — office spaces — will look very different. The remote year has totally influenced what people want: smart boards, movable furniture, outdoor space for work. So we’re going to see physical spaces of offices look very different than they are today.

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Tourists fined $500 for touching Hawaiian monk seals

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U.S. authorities say a Louisiana woman who was honeymooning in Hawaii has been fined $500 after a social media video showed her touching an endangered Hawaiian monk seal

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched an investigation last month and found the woman violated the Endangered Species Act, said Dominic Andrews, a spokesperson for the agency’s Office of Law Enforcement.

A video posted on TikTok and other social media showed a woman touching the seal at a Kauai beach in June. The video showed her running away after the seal snapped at her, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

The Associated Press wasn’t immediately able to reach the couple Thursday. The couple previously apologized and told the Star-Advertiser earlier this month that they love Hawaii and didn’t mean to offend anyone.

There are an estimated 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Under state and federal laws, it’s a felony to touch or harass a Hawaiian monk seal. Penalties can include up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Authorities warn people must remain at least 50 feet (15 meters) away from the animals or 150 feet (45 meters) away from pups with their mothers.

NOAA also fined another traveler $500 for touching a resting Hawaiian monk seal. It is unclear when that encountered occurred, but an Instagram account shows the visitor recently visited Oahu in May, the newspaper reported.

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Climbing at the Tokyo Olympics: Start times, how to watch and how it works

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Adam Ondra is probably the best climber in the world right now.


Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

Sport Climbing is about to make its long awaited (by me) debut at the Tokyo Olympics. We’re extremely excited.

Regular old rock climbing has been around since — well, since the first time someone tried to climb something rocky. But modern recreational climbing started in the 19th century, with sport climbing only emerging in the 1970s and ’80s. 

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Traditional climbing takes place outside without a predetermined route.


Getty Images

In the Olympics, climbing will take place on engineered or indoor routes. They practice in pursuit of physical perfection and strategy as opposed to vertical height.

Rock climbing has evolved as a catch-all term for many different sports, including everything from free soloing to bouldering. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about sport climbing at the 2020 Olympics.

When to watch climbing at the Tokyo Olympics 

The Olympic master schedule has already been released, with sport climbing qualifying events on Aug. 3 and 4. 

Here’s the breakdown for the men…

  • Qualifiers for men’s speed climbing take place August 3 at 4 a.m. EDT (1 a.m. PDT).
  • Qualifiers for men’s bouldering takes place August 3 at 5 a.m. EDT (2 a.m. PDT).
  • Qualifiers for men’s lead climbing takes place August 3 at 8 a.m. EDT (5 a.m. PDT).

And for the women…

  • Qualifiers for women’s speed climbing take place August 4 at 4 a.m. EDT (1 a.m. PDT).
  • Qualifiers for women’s bouldering takes place August 4 at 5 a.m. EDT (2 a.m. PDT).
  • Qualifiers for women’s lead climbing takes place August 4 at 8 a.m. EDT (5 a.m. PDT).

The finals will be on Aug. 5 and 6. In the US, NBC will broadcast events, with the BBC securing rights in England and Channel Seven, 7Mate and 7Two in Australia. All events will take place at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.

How climbing works at the Olympics

Sport climbing will be broken up into three separate disciplines: speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering. Not every country will be represented; only 20 athletes per gender (40 climbers total) will be allowed to compete at the Games, and only 2 athletes per gender per country will compete in any given event.

FYI, the International Olympic Committee currently recognizes only two genders — female and male. There are currently stipulations for athletes that identify as transgender, both female and male, to compete. But there aren’t any guidelines or rulings for athletes who don’t identify as female or male — including those who are nonbinary, agender and genderqueer.

The combined nature of climbing at the Olympics has been somewhat controversial. Speed climbing requires a completely different skillset compared to bouldering and lead climbing. In the next Olympics speed climbing is being broken out as a separate event, leaving bouldering and lead climbing as a combined event.

Speed climbing

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Two climbers, one wall.


IFSC

Speed climbing is relatively simple: there are two climbers with safety ropes and one 15-meter wall set at a 95-degree angle. The climbers race against each other to get to the top, with the fastest one winning. The speed route is the exact same at all times: the same holds in the same position at the exact same angle. The addition of speed climbing has been somewhat controversial in the climbing community, because it requires a completely different skillset compared to other climbing disciplines.

Bouldering

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Athletes use physical and mental precision to climb to the top of a bouldering route.


IFSC

Bouldering takes place on an shorter wall, where climbers take turns attempting to scale as many routes on a four-meter-tall wall in 4 minutes. Each route (also called a bouldering problem) is laid out with hand and foot holds in a specific color, and they vary in difficulty based on the size of the holds and the way they are spaced out. A climber completes a problem by grabbing the top hold with both hands.

Bouldering has traditionally been about power and finger strength, but recently competition route setters have been creating problems that require delicate co-ordination and explosive gymnastic movements. This one will be fun to watch. 

Lead climbing

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In Lead climbing, participants secure themselves with a rope as they climb higher.


IFSC

Lead climbing is arguably the most recognizable of the three events. The climber has six minutes to climb as high on a wall that is taller than 15 meters. They use safety ropes that attach to quickdraws on their way up, allowing the rope to run freely while they stay anchored to the wall. If two athletes reach the same point on the wall, the person who got there first is the winner. 

In both bouldering and lead climbing, climbers are not allowed to practice climbing on the routes before they compete or watch each other scale the wall, and they only have a couple of minutes to study the routes and decide their strategy before the timer begins.

Medaling system

tokyo-2020-medals

The Olympic and Paralympic medals are made from recycled electronics. The Olympics won’t change the year on the medals, by the way.


Tokyo Olympics

If you thought the qualifying system was a bit complicated, take a deep breath. There’s only one set of medals awarded per gender, so all three events will go into determining which country gets the gold, silver and bronze.

The speed climbing discipline will be done in a bracket format, with athletes competing head to head, while bouldering is in a leaderboard format. Lead climbing will have a point system in which each hold on the wall counts as one point and the athlete who climbs the highest will obtain the highest score.

Once all the athletes are ordered by placement per event, their placement numbers will be multiplied, and the climbers with the lowest scores will win medals. Because of the scoring format, each climber will compete in each event. For example, if an athlete gets second place in speed climbing, third in bouldering and first in lead climbing their overall score would be six (2 times 3 times 1 equals 6). 

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AMD’s new Radeon RX 6600 XT offers 1080p RDNA 2 gaming for $379

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AMD has a new entry-level RX 6000-series GPU: the $379 RX 6600 XT, which is still based on the same RDNA 2 architecture as its beefier cousins, but it offers a more wallet-friendly price point. The new card promises the “ultimate 1080p gaming experience,” for customers who don’t necessarily need a next-gen 4K gaming setup.

At a suggested retail price of $379 (AMD isn’t selling its own version of the card), the RX 6600 XT slots at an even cheaper price point than the $479 RX 6700 XT that the company released earlier this year, which targeted 1440p gaming.

The RX 6600 XT features 32 compute units, 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, a 2359 MHz base clock, 2589 MHz boosted clock, and draws 160W of power. For comparison, the top-of-the-line RX 6900 XT 80 compute units, while the RX 6700 XT offers 40 compute units.

The RX 6600 XT, compared to AMD’s other 6000-series GPUs
Image: AMD

AMD’s logic here, though, is that most players don’t actually have the setup necessary for a full 4K gaming rig, which requires not only the latest and greatest in GPUs but also a processor and a display that can pump out enough pixels. The company cited research from IDC that claimed that roughly two-thirds of gaming displays sold last year were 1080p panels — but also that growth in high-refresh displays was 20 times higher than lower-refresh rate models.

The RX 6600 XT is meant to slot into those trends perfectly, promising to be able to run AAA titles like Battlefield 5 or Cyberpunk 2077 at high frame rates on maximum 1080p settings. The new card isn’t meant for someone who wants the latest and greatest GPU — it’s for customers using an outdated GPU like the aging GTX 1060 (which still accounts for almost 10 percent of all graphics cards in Steam’s hardware survey and can struggle with more recent games).

RX 6600 XT benchmarks versus the RTX 3060.
Image: AMD

The new RX 6600 XT also offers a big boost over AMD’s 5000-series cards, offering 1.4x or greater improvements in FPS rates compared to the RX 5600 XT and RX 5700 for titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Doom Eternal. AMD also claims that the new card outperforms Nvidia’s similarly entry-level RTX 3060 GPU, which (at least in theory) starts at $329.

AMD is also aware that supply may be an issue for the new card, commenting at a press briefing that “we’re doing our best to get supply, but the demand is unprecedented, and also the supply constraints are real, so we are working with those situations at hand.” Given the general difficulty in buying new GPUs these days, it might be best to prepare for another round of hard-to-find cards, though.

The RX 6600 XT will be available starting on August 11th from AMD’s usual slate of partners, including ASRock, Asus, Biostar, Gigabyte, MSI, PowerColor, Sapphire, XFX and Yeston, with prebuilt systems set to arrive sometime in August, too.

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