4 bad reasons to return to the office (and some good ones)

August 11, 2022

After years of pandemic-induced hybrid and remote work, office life as we know it will never be the same. Employees have proven their abilities to work in any way without the need to sit in a cubicle, so companies reinstating the five-day in-office work week are bound to receive some negative feedback.  

Or worse, employee turnover.  

Despite economic concerns in certain sectors, it’s still an employees’ market. In a survey published by Work From Home Research (WFH Research), 23% of British workers and 15% of U.S. workers say they would rather quit or start looking for new job than go back to the office.  So, if you’re thinking of returning to the office, you may want to think more strategically. 

Here are four of the worst reasons to justify a return to the office policy. 

It’s the way things were 

I think we can all agree that going back to the way things were doesn’t necessarily mean a better outcome. The most dangerous phrase in business, according to Forbes, is “we’ve always done it this way”—and with great reason.  

Once you’re able to accept that the pre-pandemic world doesn’t exist anymore, the new era of work isn’t problem. It’s an opportunity. Companies that don't embrace change will not succeed, and their employees will find work elsewhere. 

The big guys are doing it 

Remember when your mom asked, rhetorically, if your friends were to jump off a bridge, would you jump, too? It’s tempting to follow the status quo, or shift priorities when business trends skew a certain direction. But your priority should be your employees, not your peers. 

Many big companies saw the job market making moves to head back into the office, but we’re all still learning. Imagine you decided to make this leap off the bridge because everyone else was doing it, only to find out that they perhaps didn’t jump at all.  

According to Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania specializing in organizational psychology, you want to think like a scientist, rather than a politician when designing the workplace. Thinking like a scientist will give you permission to test the waters, and rethink your strategy. 

I want to grow my team in my own city 

The job market is tight, so tight that the number of employment openings exceeded the pool of available workers by 5.6 million in March. If you’re looking to close that gap, you may need to look outside your immediate geographical location—or even in another country—to find the right talent for your open roles. 

Let’s face it, global is the new local. Expanding into international markets will make your team more diverse, and the knowledge you’ll gain from a more inclusive team will give your company a competitive edge. 

Related article: How to make international hiring more inclusive 

In addition to diversity, some departments are seeking highly specialized skill sets or desired experience. Building teams for these needs may require you to look in another city or even country. 

I don’t know how to measure productivity when my workers are remote 

A report by Owl labs in 2021 found that 55% of respondents say they work more hours remotely than at the physical office. At this point, technology makes it easier to work across teams and time zones than it ever has been. It may even be easier to work in synchronicity together even before the great shift to hybrid and remote work. Here are some tools you can use.  

Whether or not managers know how to measure it, many workers are more productive when working remote, and there’s evidence to support it. In fact, remote workers are spending 12% less time drawn into large meetings and overall, we value our work as more worthwhile than ever before. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some good reasons to return to the office: 

Meaningful in-person meetings:

We know that greatness can happen while working remotely, especially when people feel comfortable in their own environments. However, there’s also a special type of magic that can occur when you’re brainstorming together in the same room.  

Now, this isn’t to say that you should be in the same room brainstorming every day—that’s more mundane than magical. Not to mention, nothing would get done. This is why it’s important to create meaningful in-person meetings that have a strict purpose and goal—even if the goal is just to bounce ideas off each other for the day. 

This piece from Vox summed it up well: “(Employees) don’t necessarily hate the office. What they hate is not having a good reason to be there.” 

We simply just miss each other  

Sometimes work is just that, work. But the reality is that many of us develop bonds with one another over the course of our employment. Making plans to work from the office to be able to socialize and communicate is definitely a good reason to return to the old desk. 

Hanging out is more than possible in a hybrid environment where in-office days aren't set in an arbitrary schedule from management. When colleagues deliberately plan the days they’ll work in the office together, whether for meetings or just to see each other, it can also be considered meaningful in-person time like in the reason above. 

When devising a work strategy that puts people first, that could mean having a remote-first culture, going hybrid, or returning to the office. The key is listening to what your people want and building from there. The key is being flexible so that your employees want to work for you. A global workforce solutions partner can help you implement a flexible strategy that lets you find and hire global talent and offer the flexibility that makes you an attractive and competitive employer.  

Learn more by speaking with a global solutions advisor today. 

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