All of these models present their own challenges and advantages, so I'm glad companies are looking at offering them as options rather than prescribing them.
Full-time WFH is untenable except for a handful of industries, and even then there are no perfect silos. I work in a design-industry job where the "office" part can be done completely from home, but jobs happen on a site in the field and at some point someone needs to go out and look at stuff. That and I do think productivity suffers a little when people have that much freedom. (I am actually fine with this--more on it later.)
Full-time in the office is an archaism, straight up. Many people report performing attention and productivity at their desks rather than being attentive and productive. Plus, commutes mostly suck experientially to say nothing of traffic, pollution, et cetera. I'm looping in old-school pre-pandemic work travel here too. There is no longer much need after kick-offs/introductions to get on a plane to go sit in a room several states away. But this model is not without its redeeming factors--this one best preserves the work-life balance that's being eroded with every day this trawls on. Punch out at 5 and you're totally free of work until the next morning.
Some version of the flex model has always made the most sense: most of everyone's work needs to be done alone, offline and could be done from home. But there's obviously still a need to collaborate with colleagues, and also a need to get household and other tasks done during the week. A flex schedule could be optimized to let people go to the bank and grocery store at off-peak hours, meet with colleagues on an as-needed basis, and give agency back to workers to determine how best to accomplish their jobs.
I voted for the 9-5 because over the years I've found it to be the best way to keep work at bay. Each of the other two models promotes the always-on, always-connected, always ready to meet modality that for me looks like longer hours and a total erosion of work and home. The same screens for fun and work, the constant notification pings. It's not a complete boon, our newfound ability to reach anyone anywhere anytime.
cadetcarl, I appreciate the balanced perspective in this post and share similar sentiments. But we may disagree slightly in a couple of areas I'll expand on:
First, I very much agree we're overdue for a more widely-embraced flex model (relative to pre-pandemic), which technology and many folks' individualistic work components does support. There's no reason to impose artificial constraint, and an employee who gets to deal with their dentist appointment midweek while working from home before/after should not be stigmatized in the least for doing so - moreover, this can ultimately be a more productive employee than one who is strained like crazy and spends a gazillion hours commuting.
I also think certain knowledge work benefits from more alone time, and a large percentage of knowledge workers' coordination
with colleagues can be accomplished remotely.
So I hope we move on from 'traditional 9-5' (which, by the way, some/many companies already had pre-pandemic...in 2019, I'd be hard-pressed to find certain colleagues in the office on Fridays, yet they were responsive online, so no big deal).
The point I want to make is that I believe there's a benefit to having some core time when people are physically together, maybe 2-3 days a week - even for people who think their work is fully individualistic or straightforwardly-coordinative. The reason for this is that, while I (for the most part) trust that people can honor their "pre-established commitments"
while working from home, I do not believe that most knowledge work occupations center solely upon pre-established commitments or are conducive to "just tell me what you need me to do and then leave me alone so I can do it." What makes life hard, particularly in technology and new-product-development arenas, are all the unknowns that emerge, all the initial assumptions that turn out to be wrong, all of the new tasks that arise and fall through the cracks: these are the things that strain office relationships because they upend peoples' work / can involve blame-games / can be perceived as unfair in how they're dealt with. And, as such, when I was an engineering manager, it was invaluable to have "let's go grab coffee and take a walk" available to be able to work through "how the hell are we going to get through this together" with people. Not to mention, employees could collaborate on resolving issues colleague-to-colleague in this manner (i.e., without their manager). This is much harder to do effectively online (it's pretty crappy on slack) - yet, it IS
possible, it takes much more effort, so certain "difficult conversations" are often just avoided rather than dealt with fully. I sense an accumulation of elephants-in-the-room due to the all-remote context of the pandemic that are not showing up yet in most of the "productivity" metrics cited.
To keep the elephants to a minimum, to keep up a spirit of teamwork in tackling the difficult things that fall through cracks, and to collaborate on resolving such things, I think it's reasonable for many employers to impose a common core of expected time in the office, whether its 2 days or 3 days or whatever, and even if it's just 10am-4pm on those days. WFH during the pandemic gave rise to a lot of rants and op-ed articles from people who channeled all of their angst toward managers/employers along the lines of: "the office is never necessary, it's just there because managers are narcissistic control freaks who want to see their people working, and it's just taken advantage of by employees without families/commutes who demonstrate "presenteeism" to look good in front of the boss." That argument has elements of truth to it, but it throws the baby out with the bathwater - just because some people suck, doesn't mean the entire operating model is based on B.S.
In sum, in many knowledge work contexts, I do not believe individuals can know (entirely on their own) exactly when going into the office is absolutely necessary / not necessary. Yet, I believe they deserve a heckuvalot more freedom than traditionally granted. So, future models should combine freedom with some core together time.