Will the Push To Return To the Office Be Successful?
There used to be a time when deciding where you worked from week to week wasn't a luxury most people had. For most employees, if you received a paycheck then you were expected to report into the office daily, even if you could do your work anywhere with a wireless connection, laptop, and cell phone.
Fast forward two years, and today's office culture has experienced significant changes. While the pandemic forced a practice not all employers were eager to adopt, many realized that with some relatively minor adjustments, team members were just as effective, some would argue more effective, working from home.
So, where does that leave employers and business leaders today? Most leaders have realized that working from home isn't a trend reserved for the select few but instead part of the new culture. Yet a few holdouts are demanding their teams return to the office full time. But how successful will they be in getting people back to their desks?
If anyone successfully brings employees back to the office full time, it might just be Elon Musk. His companies, SpaceX and Tesla, are in-demand employers with a long list of candidates looking to work for them, so if his demand results in a loss in staff, there is no shortage of applicants to fill vacant positions. Perhaps Musk's demand for a return to the office is a strategic way to weed out those he doesn't want to work for him. But with such a bold demand amidst today’s hybrid climate, chances are he'll lose some good staff too.
One study found that 40% of employees said they would leave their jobs if forced to return to the office.
Musk isn't the only well-known executive who made such demands. For example, in spring 2021, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon required his staff to return to the office because he believed remote working didn't promote idea generation or was good for the culture. Fast forward to April 2022, and Dimon has retreated on his demands and acknowledged that only 50% of his staff would return to the office.
Apple also tried a similar mandate but only called for a return to the office three days a week. They were also met with extreme pushback, with employees banding together to create-union-like groups criticizing the company's lack of flexibility and demanding employee choice.
What does this mean for the future work culture?
Needless to say, all eyes will be on Tesla and Musk's mandate to better understand can employees be forced to return to the office? Or will it ultimately result in a loss of top talent? The unemployment rate is at an all-time low, and the fight to fill positions is a pain point HR departments deal with daily.
Flexible work environments are no longer a perk for employees but instead the standard. Therefore, surveying your staff to understand your team's various desires and needs is essential when deciding on your work policy. And what most every survey is telling employers is that their teams want flexibility. Most team members aren't interested in always being at home or in the office but they do want a say in the process.
With hybrid work models becoming the standard, the next challenge HR teams experience is keeping teams engaged and connected because Jamie Dimon wasn't wrong. Being together does promote idea generation and creates teams that are connected.
Zoom is great for exchanging information, but nothing replaces the face-to-face connection we experience during in-person meetings or team get-togethers. Business and HR leaders should set policies around how often employees need to check in with leaders and their colleagues. And employers should provide the internal communication channels to support these conversations.
Another key ingredient to effective hybrid work policies is employee appreciation. When teams aren't together regularly, it can be easy to forget or overlook the celebrations for small and big achievements. Quarterly employee appreciation events will ensure your team stays connected and allows leaders the opportunity to engage on a more personal level. Looking for ideas? Here are a few of our favorites.