Why are companies demanding a return to the office?
By Hebba Youssef
The state of hybrid work right now is… interesting.
Some companies are demanding a return while others are staying flexible. But there’s one thing we can’t deny…
Employees want and need flexibility.
Hybrid work has been shown to:
- Increase productivity
- Increase productivity and efficiency
- Increase job satisfaction
Despite those benefits, companies are still mandating minimum days in the office.
Cough Amazon Cough.
So, why are companies demanding we return and mandating days in the office??
- Is harder and takes more effort
- Puts power in the hands of the employee not the employer
- Makes offices less useful
Reason 1: Hybrid work is hard.
Reason 1: Hybrid work is hard.
It is. There’s no doubt!
We have been conditioned to work in an office and like most new things, we’re not that great at hybrid work… yet.
Connection and engagement in the hybrid world also take a bit more effort. And effort can be exhausting to some.
Some companies are struggling with engagement and connection and instead rethinking work they are opting to not do the hard work and mandate a return to the office. BOO.
For those looking to support their employees in the hybrid world, have no fear I have tips for you!
Reason 2: Power
Reason 2: Hybrid work puts the power in the hands of the employee.
The freedom I felt when I started working remotely was intoxicating. I had the freedom to decide when and where I did my best work. Now, the rigidity of an office seems stifling to me.
But with that flexibility came power.
Power that was in my hands to decide whatever I wanted about my work.
Some employers do not like that.
And some employers will just assume their employees are taking advantage of the situation, even if they aren’t.
Not to mention a lot of our managing tactics are built on watching and exerting control over our teams.
Reason 3: Office Space
Reason 3: Office space is expensive.
Office space is an expensive asset that a lot of companies have invested millions of dollars in. The leases aren’t short and companies are trying to make use of their spaces so they don’t waste more money.
Some cities even offer tax incentives for employees in offices.
I think we’ll see more companies in 2023 push for in-office work for this very reason!
One las thing: recently, I heard an interesting theory for return to the office (RTO). Employers don’t want to do another round of layoffs because it looks bad and demoralizes their employees. Instead of doing that they’re opting to mandate a return to office so employees will leave on their own.
Don’t believe me? About 50% of employees have said they would quit if forced to return to the office.
What can HR teams do to support a hybrid workforce?
In the hybrid world, what comes naturally in person takes a bit more effort.
3 things HR teams can do to support a hybrid workforce:
1. Push back when leadership demands an RTO. I know this can be difficult so I don’t give this tip lightly but employees will suffer if you demand they return to the office. If your company or leadership teams cares about inclusion or supporting all groups, demanding a return to office is not the way to show it! The office isn’t inclusive!
If your leadership teams need data to believe this:
- Hybrid work has been shown to increase belonging and decrease stress for certain groups.
- Hybrid work helps mitigate burnout
- Hybrid work has been shown to improve work-life balance
If your team doesn’t listen to the data and still moves forward employees will look to leave. But, that could be what the company wanted in the first place…
2. Focus on how to build connections in the remote world. When we went remote our connection did suffer but that doesn’t mean all is lost! We have to think about intentional ways to foster connection.
This guide from New Stand focuses on some creative ways to create equitable experiences that foster collaboration!
Quick and easy wins for your organization:
- Foster connection through shared interests at work. Think like a book club or spaces where employees can talk about shared interests. I created our Pop Culture channel at Workweek because I needed somewhere to talk about things I was interested in. Enable your employees to organize and share their interests!
- Assign an onboarding buddy. A friendly face on your first day of work will have an impact on your connection and wellbeing! Assign all new hires someone outside their team to help welcome them to the organization!
- Create a space to show appreciation. Recognition is free. Utilize that and create a space where employees can recognize each other. We have a channel for Workweek at this! Every week at our all-hands we read out the appreciation and recognize employees. It is one of my favorite parts of the week. BTW, there is a link between showing gratitude and happiness!
3. Rethink how you collaborate. Easier said than done, I know! In an office, we relied more on verbal and physical communication. In the remote world, we don’t have that luxury all the time! You don’t want employees going down the rabbit hole of overthinking every communication.
To solve this: set guidelines for communication!
Start with mapping out:
- what needs a Slack/teams message
- what needs to be a formal meeting
- what needs to be an email.
If you can break down communication across those 3 and map out when to use each you preemptively solve a lot of collaboration problems. Here are some great tips to think about for effective collaboration in the remote world!
What’s next: Over the next few weeks i’m going to focus on different aspects of the hybrid world and tips to help improve the experience employees are having!
Next week I’ll cover managing in the remote world!