How to Resolve the Anti-Return to Office Détente

Employers and employees are deadlocked in an adversarial workplace relationship that is being fueled by perceptions on both sides. We can bring employers and employees together on this topic by throwing out perceptions and focusing on facts. 

Over the last several months, we have seen a very public debate about the need for employees to return to the office play out in the news and on social media. Several market leading companies such as Amazon, Disney and others have begun mandating that employees return to the office. At the same time, there have been many marque companies such as Microsoft and State Farm that have announced work policies that will allow work from home models. 

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The Argument for the Return to Office

The argument made by companies for the need to return to the office is generally around the argument of the 3 C’s:

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Culture 

According to a survey done by with 1,000 business leaders, 66 percent of employers currently require employees to work from the office. Fifty percent or more of the respondents lean on working in-office to improve communication, creativity and productivity. While these are valid expectations of leadership to have to drive a successful company, the work-from-office mandates are being perceived by many employees as a sign of distrust from their employer.

The three most common reasons heard about why employees struggle with return to office mandates are anchored in their experiences. First, they arrive in the office to spend most of their day on Microsoft Teams or Zoom meetings. Second, they lose hours of productivity to accommodate for commute time and question why their employer is willing to sacrifice the additional time that could be better spent productively working? Third, many jobs can be successfully worked outside of the traditional 9-5 schedule. This has many employees questioning, why would employers be opposed to achieving results if employees can do so working from home while also having a good work life balance?  

Employers and employees are deadlocked in an adversarial workplace relationship that is being fueled by perceptions. 
We can bring employers and employees together on this topic by throwing out perceptions and focusing on facts. 

There is a proven approach that answers the question of what the right decision is for your business. It starts with data. Technology advancements can enable a new modern workplace. The reality is the in-office or work-from-home decision doesn’t have be made on gut feel. Executive management makes long-lasting decisions for the business that is supported by evidence and by facts.

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This workforce location topic should be treated the same – what does the data tell us? 

Key Considerations for Work Location Scenarios 

Attrition is very costly, and the reality is that attrition is lower, and retention is higher for companies that offer work location flexibility. Work-from-home offers the ability to work outside the traditional 9 to 5 workday and encourages an organic collaborative environment. Leaders should recognize the crucial importance that flexibility holds for today’s job seekers. It can be seen by candidates as a major benefit.

Sans commute, many employees can leverage the increased time in their day to be more productive. Nonetheless, there are tangible drawbacks that must be taken into consideration. For some employees there is a loss of productivity. There can also be issues with onboarding new employees. For some companies, collaboration and culture could take a negative hit. 

Given all these considerations, how do organizations determine what work location scenario is best for their business?

Today, we can put work under the microscope. Automated workforce data collection, data integration, and analytics to surface workforce activity trends and insight – making the previously unseen visible. Unbiased workforce data that can help your company make and support workplace decisions exists and can be implemented delivering results within weeks. Businesses are empowered to know what’s really happening across the enterprise so they can then determine the best approach to in-office and work-from-home policies. And for those choosing a work-from-home scenario, this data can help optimize how managers manage and employees work. 

There is no need to fight it out when you can leverage accurate and un-biased workforce data to have an honest data-driven conversation to bridge the gap. 

It’s Time to Reframe the Work Location Debate

Companies should focus on reframing the work location debate as one that pertains to productivity, efficiency, and overall success rather than solely culture, collaboration, and creativity. 

You don’t have to litigate your decisions within the press or social media sphere. There is a straight-forward and non-biased path that employers such as Disney, Amazon, and others can take to determine what’s best both for the company and employees. Whether you end up being an organization that chooses return to office, remote or hybrid, I encourage leaders to invest time to understand the power of workforce analytics. It is a low-cost, fully automated capability that will provide any company with the insights to formulate policies validated via real facts and data.  

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