73% of you told us that company return-to-office plans have lost steam in our recent poll. With so much going on in the world right now, it’s not hard to speculate on what’s influencing this.
It is likely that the return to work plans have partly been shifted (or shelved) in response to rising costs across the board. The Bank of England recently warned that UK’s economic outlook has deteriorated markedly. Households and businesses will struggle to pay their debts amidst inflation rates that are the highest in 40 years. But people in their first jobs may want to experience work, the company, to meet their fellow team members and learn from others as they find their feet. And the Financial Times recently published an article entitled “Is hybrid work a trap for women?”, with the strapline: Many women want flexibility, but there is evidence it is not good for their careers.
When we were figuring out hybrid work, we thought a good way to implement it was to allow employees to decide on the mix of days they wanted in the office. Some companies were more prescriptive and said they would be specifying the days. Giving people maximum flexibility to choose what works best for them sounds great, but there is a risk that inequities are exacerbated, and you end up with more women working at home and more men going into the office. Although there are huge savings on office costs, many leaders have been keen to see people in the office. And surveys show that people who are not in the office may suffer from proximity bias, and not get promotions. The ‘great rethink’ is an evaluation of whether that promotion and salary increase is a good trade for spending more time in the office and less time with a family, and a more substantial chunk of the salary on childcare.
Yes, ‘return to office’ has many nuances!
To keep that top talent we are forever advised to look at pay and better benefits. But the not-so-secret sauce may be in the ‘ways things are getting done around here’, the climate that we show up to work within. It has to be intentional, human, and inclusive, and to celebrate and amplify meaningful connections. Policies need to be clear and psychological safety, as we’ve said before, has gone mainstream. Last but not least, companies need to be accountable so that when they make noise around these kinds of “priorities”, it doesn’t end up being just that, noise.
Things are certainly heating up in the world of work. What’s your opinion?