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3 Reasons Some Employers Are Struggling with Return to Office

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. 

Compare this to 76 percent for financial sector jobs, and the chasm for remote, flexible working opportunities becomes apparent. 

Keep reading to learn more about three reasons some employers are struggling with the return to office (RTO).

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 two years of 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 in January 2022 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 RTO policies and procedures, employers must open up conversations between management and employees about what 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 after two tumultuous years. 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 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 RTO, 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?  

Start there.

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.  Microsoft reports that 50 percent of employers already require – or plan to require – return to office plans for 2022. 

In a letter that’s making its 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 hash 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 without more increases the chances of employees leaving their jobs, according to a recent study by The Myers-Briggs Company.

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 policies and procedures, ensuring that their policies evolve while satisfying employees’ needs. 

Want to learn more about employee management and how to best approach the return to the office for your organization’s success?  Contact Cangrade today to learn more.