Return to Office Has Plateaued
Designing an Effective Hybrid and Remote Future
According to the New York Times, we’ve reached a plateau for return to office.
And maybe remote work is on the rise again. It’s no surprise that we saw a massive decrease in remote work once the pandemic waned and many people returned to their offices. The historic trend for remote work had been gradually increasing prior to the pandemic, which supercharged remote work. From under 0.5% in 1965 to around 7.2% just before the pandemic in 2020.
For those of us working remotely, it is an effective raise. We don’t have to commute, buy additional food, or deal with the hassles of going into an office every day. In several studies, this equates to an effective 7-8% raise that workers get. And they’d be willing to take a pay cut in order to maintain then benefit of working remotely.
Which is why we continue to see significant pushback against companies that are going big on return-to-office mandates:
As more companies enforce their office mandates, some workers are choosing to quit 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.
When Grindr announced their RTO policy, 45 of their 178 employees decided to quit rather than return to the office.
Workers say their reasons for quitting include everything from family to commuting expenses to being required to relocate. And many workers worry that people like those with disabilities or who are primary caregivers may be left behind due to their inability to successfully work from the office.
We continue to see a disconnect between executives and workers, however. While workers want to continue to have flexibility, executives and companies continue to push for RTO.
Even companies building the tools that enable virtual engagement.
Roblox recently announced that it will be shifting to hybrid work and away from fully remote.
Like many other companies, Roblox will be shifting to a model where employees are expected to work three days in the office (Tuesday through Thursday). Staffers will have until January 16th, 2024, to decide if they want to stay on at the company under the new rules. If an employee chooses to stay at Roblox and relocate, the company will help with relocation costs and expects them to report into the company’s San Mateo, California, offices by July 15th, 2024.
Zoom made a similar announcement recently as well.
Zoom, a company whose name has become synonymous with video chats that have allowed many to work remotely during the pandemic, has told staffers who work within 50 miles of a company office that they’ll have to come back in two days per week
And then there was Salesforce, who did something similar, but whose CEO said the quiet part out loud:
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And if you feel like CEOs are secretly plotting to get everyone back in the office, it may not be a well-kept secret:
Roughly 64% of CEOs believe there will be a full return to office by 2026, according to a survey of more than 1,300 CEOs from the accounting and consulting firm KPMG. And just 7% of CEOs believe fully remote work will be the norm in the long term…
Nearly 90% of CEOs surveyed by KPMG say they are likely to reward employees who return to the office with better assignments, raises, and promotions.
That Hopeless Feeling?
Of course, all is not lost. According to the BBC, the reality on the ground is often different from what we see in the headlines:
As the disconnect between employer and employee preferences continues, a likely middle ground will be a hybrid-work policy. Still, workers and their bosses aren’t likely to easily agree on how many days – or which – should be spent in the office. As more companies renege on remote working and settle on a structured three-day hybrid model, workers are still prioritising their flexibility: a 2022 survey of 30,878 global knowledge workers by workplace insights firm Leesman, seen by BBC Worklife, shows that 41% intend to be in the office just one day a week, instead of three.
Employers will likely always be outnumbered by these workers – which means employees are the ones who are prolonging the return-to-office process – and, for now, retain the upper hand. “We expect the disagreement between leader and employee expectations in how often they should attend the workplace to continue,” says Link. “Return-to-office mandates are contentious in many cases – it’s an ongoing negotiation.”
What to do?
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