As businesses across the globe grapple with the decision of when and how to bring employees back to the office, the return to work debate has taken center stage. This debate is not just about logistics and safety measures; it’s also about striking a balance between productivity and employee retention. With Baby boomers retiring and the Z generation focusing on becoming influencers, keeping talent is more critical than ever.
The return-to-office (RTO) mandates in 2024 are evolving to include more flexibility than in previous years. While 90% of employers plan to enforce RTO mandates, the definition of RTO varies, with only 19% defining it as a full five-day workweek in the office. Many organizations are hesitant to enforce strict RTO policies for high-performing remote workers, fearing the loss of key talent. An article from Fast Company, titled “How return-to-office mandates will look different in 2024 states that a significant portion of employees (37%) are unhappy with forced RTO and 29% might resign if not reversed. The push for flexibility by employees and the pull back to the office by employers is leading to a rise in hybrid work models, with different requirements for different roles within the same organization. We saw the pushback on the ultimatum Elon Musk gave Twitter employees: return to the office or be fired. In contrast to larger companies’ push for in-office work, smaller employers use this flexibility to compete for talent.
As more companies enforce their office mandates, some workers are quitting instead of complying and returning to the office. Even companies at the forefront of remote work during the pandemic, such as Facebook parent Meta, Google, Amazon, and Zoom, are getting stricter about office returns. They say workers are more productive, collaborative, and engaged in person. In An article from the Washington Post, the percentage of remote workers in America’s workforce is declining — from 17.9 percent in 2021 to 15.2 percent in 2022, according to the latest census data. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg similarly threatened termination for employees who didn’t come into the office three days a week as a last resort. And Zoom, the darling of the pandemic that enabled millions of people to work remotely, is asking workers who live near an office to return two days a week.
So what should your company do?
While flexible work arrangements may evolve, they are unlikely to completely disappear as they remain valuable for employee engagement and retention. This may be an opportunity for smaller businesses to snatch great talent if you are willing to offer flexible work schedules.
Things to consider as a small company considering RTO:
What does your company do? What is the size of your company? Have you been able to be successful with a remote workforce during the pandemic? What are your objectives for the coming year? Is there a high turnover already? Knowing your leadership style can also gear your decision. Leaders who adopt a hands-off management style might find remote work advantageous. If you thrive on direct oversight, you may face challenges managing a remote workforce, necessitating careful consideration, especially in hybrid work scenarios.
This is an exciting time for businesses to rethink and revitalize their employee productivity and retention approach. With the right strategies, companies can emerge from this transitional period more robust and resilient than ever.