3 Reasons Some Employers Are Struggling With Their Return to Office Strategy
For some industries, remote or hybrid work is not only feasible but highly beneficial in attracting and retaining top talent. According to a recent Glassdoor study, the mention of hybrid work in employee online reviews on its site increased by 626 percent over the last year, with data architects, solutions engineers, and psychiatrists taking top ranking on the most flexible positions.
However, not all jobs or industries can easily adapt to – and thrive in – remote work arrangements. For example, construction, engineering, agriculture, and manufacturing have high on-site demands not suited for remote work. McKinsey recently reported that manufacturing employers could devote 19 percent of their time to remote work while remaining effective. For construction employers and agricultural employers, these percentages drop to 15 and seven percent, respectively.
Keep reading to learn more about three reasons some employers are struggling with their return to office (RTO) strategy.
1. Managing Employee Expectations
Many organizations are having a tough time setting expectations for the 5-day in-office return, especially after employees have come to appreciate remote working opportunities. And, after so many false RTO starts over the last two years, many employees have lost faith that their employers can institute a smooth, transparent return to the office.
According to a recent study, 13 percent of remote workers strongly disagree with the following statement: “I trust my employer to make the right decisions and when to return to the office.” This is up five percentage points from mid-December 2021, showing an increasing credibility gap between employees and employers on RTO procedures.
To successfully institute return to office strategies, policies, and procedures, employers must open up conversations between management and employees about what the return to office should look like.
However, only 33 percent of employers communicate transparently, according to Gartner. Further, close to 70 percent of employees said that they’d take a new job based on the employer’s transparency practices.
So, here’s the moment for employers to shine. Openly discuss employee concerns, such as:
- How will the organization ensure employees’ health and safety?
- Will you require app check-ins before entering the office space? Or perhaps you will have to undergo a quick temperature check daily?
- How are you bringing employees back to the office? All at once? In waves?
- What additional benefits will you offer? Will you increase paid time off or mental health services?
Addressing these issues openly, honestly, and transparently makes employees more comfortable about returning to the office. It will also build trust and loyalty while increasing engagement and retention – something all employers are looking for in today’s talent market.
2. Failing to Provide Flexibility
When communicating return to the office strategies and policies, employers must address the elephant in the room – will there be any flexibility in work locations or times?
Employees want flexibility at work. According to a recent McKinsey survey, 52 percent of workers would prefer a more flexible working arrangement post-pandemic. In addition, only 37 percent want to be on-site full-time, down from 62 percent pre-pandemic.
When rolling out your return to office strategy, be sure to include flexibility. Here are some ideas to inspire you:
- Include access to remote work, such as four days a week in the office and one at home.
- Tailor working schedules for working parents, allowing them to work on-site during school hours, giving them the flexibility to do school drop-offs and pick-ups.
- Give unlimited paid time off (PTO) or “unplug” days, allowing employees to disconnect from screens, meetings, and commutes and allowing them to focus on their wellbeing.
- Offer virtual
Understand that flexibility means different things to different people. One flexible work arrangement policy does not fit all.
This – again – is where communication is essential. What does flexibility mean to your employees? What would help them be more productive and focused at work?
3. Making Return to Office (RTO) Mandatory
Many employers want their teams back in the office, to collaborate with their co-workers face-to-face, benefitting from the office’s energy.
In a letter that made rounds on the internet, Elon Musk sent an ultimatum to his employees, stating:
“Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week. Moreover, the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”
This is no doubt a harsh approach and not one recommended. But employers should consider the impact of requiring employees to be back in the office five days a week. Simply requiring employees to return to the office increases the chances of employees leaving their jobs, according to a recent study.
Instead of Musk’s blunt force approach, employers would be more successful in bringing teams back into the office by focusing on personality preferences. By better understanding your employees, their personalities, and their personal situations, you’ll have the data necessary to ensure a smooth return to the office.
Based on employee interactions, performance, and feedback, organizational leaders should continue to refine, test, and retest return to office strategies, policies, and procedures, ensuring that their policies evolve while satisfying employees’ needs.