Around 66% of CEOs foresee all remote and hybrid workers returning to the office by 2026 as the demand for in-office days is increasing.
Remote and hybrid work has experienced a massive acceptance across all employee surveys, but leaders are indicating it’s time to return to the classic office setting.
But it doesn’t come without a plethora of reasons and concerns that many business leaders have expressed from the beginning of flexible work conditions. For a significant number of CEOs, the traditional office is an atmosphere that stimulates collective spirit and focus that brings success to the organization’s overarching goals.
Naturally, not everyone is onboard and ready to say ‘hello’ again to the daily commute.
Employee feedback shows clear disagreement
While CEOs and corporate leaders champion the return to the office, employees themselves have demonstrated a marked preference for hybrid work arrangements.
This working model gives employees the flexibility to split their workweek between the office and remote locations. It enables the highly attractive work-life balance that has become a major focus for employees after COVID-19.
Hybrid and fully remote workers credit numerous benefits of flexibility, such as reduced commutes, autonomy over their work environment, and a schedule that aligns with their individual needs. The work models let employees have more control over their daily lives while still fulfilling their professional obligations.
And it’s a global sentiment.
The notion is stronger amongst women, with LinkedIn reporting 52% of them having left or considering leaving a job for more flexible work conditions.
A roadblock for everyone
Ultimately, no one is a winner in this scenario.
Mandating a return-to-office policy is tempting for companies, but it won’t hold the desirable effect without some forms of incentives.
Employees who work remotely or hybrid, are now accustomed to a certain level of flexibility and autonomy. And as we know most prefer such working models, so what would happen if these privileges were stripped away without agreement?
Employees would quit their jobs and search for flexible positions, or simply work in frustration and become part of the quiet quitting trend. The return to office movement would result in more actively disengaged workers and the impact would be evident in productivity levels.
On the other hand, protesting or quitting your job because of the return to office movement isn’t a solution either.
Remote and hybrid work isn’t ideal for everyone. People who are serious about career development must consider the ramifications of reduced in-person work and how climbing a ladder requires physical presence.
And while we can sit and question the fairness of this structure, there comes a time when we need to acknowledge that leaders will always promote the faces they see every day – not once or twice per week.
Logistics, company culture and a question of trust
Sometimes, all it takes is some perspective.
Imagine you’re running a medium-sized enterprise with 200 employees and spending upwards of $200,000 per year for office space. Yet the majority of your employees only use the office space around 50% of the time.
The amount of capital needed to rent an office space, pay for office supplies and utilities is a major risk that the employer commits to. Is it unjust for employers to request their employees to maximize the utilization of on-site facilities as a means to prevent capital wastage?
Companies with underutilized office space are losing finance which has a direct correlation to their annual revenue. Inevitably, any company that observes this trend will either encourage its employees to return to the office or face the prospect of incurring costs for vacant workspaces.
In some cases, companies unfortunately fire employees or provide voluntary redundancies to completely avoid the situation.
This predicament is also what prevents giving employees promotion opportunities.
How does a team culture and the small talk that fosters rapport among team members change when half of the team arrives on Monday, and the remaining members join in on Wednesday?
CEOs express concerns about the erosion of corporate culture when employees work remotely.
They believe that maintaining a cohesive company culture is more challenging when employees are physically distant from one another, potentially leading to a decline in team spirit and shared values.
Spontaneous interactions aren’t as palpable and things become more shtum in the office.
Team culture can still exist with hybrid work, but it’s up to managers to make it thrive.
Employers should always trust their team.
But the recent trends of quiet quitting and side hustle culture make it difficult.
The number of side hustles amongst the workforce is at a record high and around 15% of employees work on side hustles during company hours. Conflict of interest and trust issues are the first complications that come to mind, along with taking advantage of the remote situation.
Remote work can sometimes hinder open communication, leading to misunderstandings and misaligned objectives among team members – all of which affect trust.
How CEOs are making it work
It all comes down to incentives.
If you take away one benefit, then give back two to ensure employees remain satisfied.
A study that surveyed 800 workplace leaders across the world has revealed the top five methods for getting their team back to the office.
Up to 56% of leaders are packing their offices with snacks, lunches and drinks to bring their employees back to the office.
Happy hours and movie nights are becoming more common, with up to 42% of leaders taking this initiative.
39% of workspace leaders are adding subtle changes like playing music, having games and social areas to revamp the space.
Around 41% are using training workshops and in-person meetings to draw in employees.
40% are renovating their office space by adding standing desks, quiet working pods and other amenities that employees won’t have at home.
Employers need to be critical of whether their solutions are actually helping the employees.
Ask yourself: What do the coveted remote working privileges offer employees? Autonomy over their work, as well as the savings in time and money by eliminating the need for commuting. Can the advantages I am presenting match these if my team transitions back to the office?
Office gimmicks such as fancy furniture and open spaces might have an immediate effect in influencing people to return to the office, but this will fade. Long-lasting perks such as free food, health programs and public transport compensation will draw in more workers.
As for autonomy, it all comes down to leadership.
Successful leaders will understand what aspects of someone’s workload can be autonomous and individually nurturing someone’s preferred workstyle will see a more favorable outcome. As for now, the ball is still in the employees court until flexible work conditions are changed.
Part of the return to office movement? Be work ready with our 7 Tips for Returning to the Office.