CNBC reports that 90% of companies want to push return to office plans, despite the 80% of bosses who regret previous attempts to do exactly that. It also goes against the desires of workers, 40% of whom prefer to work fully from home, followed by about a third who prefer a hybrid model, with only a quarter who’d like to be back in the office full-time.
The wisdom of returning to work is also questioned by experts purely from a utilitarian model, who often report that work from home increases productivity. Psychology today reports that 94% of employers surveyed indicated that their workers were equally or more productive working from home than before, and 83% of the employees themselves reported liking the arrangement, with only 7% of them wanting to return. Remote employees may even work longer hours. With the experience of the pandemic showing both the viability and popularity of remote work, why are some employers pushing for the opposite? Read on for a few of the possibilities.
Why are companies forcing people to return to the office?
Return to office mandates may serve as a way to camouflage layoffs. If companies want to let some employees go, demanding that they all return to the office could be a way to thin the herd. While willingness to return to the office is debatable as an accurate barometer of employee loyalty or quality, this method serves another function: providing the company with cause to terminate those who don't come back. This could be advantageous to them if they're trying to avoid the legal entanglements involved in performing layoffs.
Lack of Trust
A simple but surprisingly common reason employers want workers back at the office is that they simply don't trust them to be productive while working from home. People Management reports that two-thirds of employers don’t trust their workers when it comes to doing their jobs remotely. In spite of evidence to the contrary, they may believe that employees will be more productive if they can be monitored closely and in person.
Justifying Management Positions
Those in management positions are significantly more likely to favor a return to the office than their non-management counterparts. One reason for this could be the simple self-interest of justifying their own positions. In an in-person workspace, it's easier for management to be noticed performing their duties as they visit workstations, conduct meetings, and shake hands. With less of this to do, they may have a harder time appearing productive and valuable themselves.
Real Estate Investments
Real estate is expensive, and many companies were already invested before the pandemic became a reality. Since welcoming work-from-home arrangements suddenly became a necessity, these facilities have been underused and commercial real-estate values are dropping. This could cause these buildings to be seen as an expensive underutilized resource or even as a failing investment in need of life support.
Putting the Pandemic Behind Them
To those who enjoy working from home its recent breakthrough in popularity is a long-awaited relief and an obvious leap forward in quality of life. To those who resisted it in the first place, it may still feel like a holdover from the pandemic – a time we'd probably all like to move on from. To these decision makers, returning to the office may seem like closing the book on the long process of returning to normalcy.
What they may not yet realize is that the desire for work from home is not dependent on a pandemic situation, and now that it's been shown to be a viable work arrangement, there's no putting the genie back into the bottle. Emergency pandemic measures may have been what let people come home, but it’s not what will keep them there.
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