For over two years, pandemic restrictions have been constantly evolving — and along with them, so have office workplace policies. From making decisions about occupancy, social distancing, masking, and vaccination policies, to deciding when snacks, happy hours, and other amenities can come back, facilities planners and people operations teams have been busier than ever.
However, before solidifying return to office plans, it’s important to note that forcing employees back to full-time, in-person work could negatively impact retention and employee engagement. In fact, the latest workplace statistics from the Pew Research Centre show that 60% of employees with remote-friendly jobs hope to continue working mostly from home after the pandemic is finally over. What’s more, that number is up from 2020 — it goes to show that over two years, employees have gotten used to the convenience of working from home. In fact, many employees would rather resign from their jobs than return to the pre-pandemic in-office norms.
Employees want the flexibility to choose, and working norms are dictated by personal choice. Unpredictability is here to stay, and companies need tools in place to measure employee behaviour, provide adequate spaces, and cater to varying employee needs. Despite promises of increased flexibility from major companies, many managers and senior executives have lamented the loss of company culture and collaborative work opportunities as a result of remote work. And to a degree, they’re not wrong: according to the same study, the number 1 thing that remote employees do miss about the office is connecting with co-workers.
Work location flexibility is now a close second to compensation in job satisfaction priorities for many employees. Commuting has always been expensive and time-consuming, and many can’t imagine spending money on transit or gas, waking up hours earlier, and spending so much of their day on the road just to go do a job they’ve learned to do — and well! — from home. One recent poll demonstrated that 49% of millennials and Gen-Z would strongly consider resignation from current employment if forced to return to office. That’s where hybrid and flexible work comes in.
Companies that work hard to create positive workplace experiences stand to not only retain existing employees but also maintain productivity. Additionally, 66% of organisations are concerned about how the return to office will impact the employee experience.
When employees feel supported in their lives both at work and outside of it, they’re more likely to feel engaged and happy in their jobs, which leads to greater productivity. Keeping employee comforts and wellbeing in mind, including remote work preferences when establishing your return to office strategy, promotes employee engagement. Employees who believe they have demonstrated their productivity when working from home find it difficult to side with company inclinations for a full return to the office. That’s why employees comfortable with their remote set-ups are pushing back on a full return to office.
Work-life balance has become a focal point for employees used to working remotely. Amidst the return to work, hybrid strategies should be taken into consideration to boost retention rates and improve the overall satisfaction of employees.
As mentioned above, workplace strategy and design are major contributors to employee job satisfaction, impacting job performance, employee retention rates, and turnover. Done incorrectly, management decisions regarding return to work guidelines for office workers can result in a loss of critical members of an organisations’ workforce. This includes any sort of scenario involving companies forcing employees back to work full-time.