While the world is still working to get back to normal, executives are having a difficult time deciding what is best for their company. Major companies like Amazon, Google and Zoom are instating return to office (RTO) policies while companies like Slack and Meta have stayed put. Leaders want to make the best choice for the needs of their company, as well as their employees’, but deciding which approach—in-office, remote or hybrid—works best has proven challenging.
In-office work can feel like a distant past to many; however, companies wouldn’t have had it any other way just four years ago. Being in the office allows employees to collaborate freely, increasing teamwork and visibility across departments. It also improves company culture, additionally providing entry-level employees with the opportunity to learn from those they may not have previously been in contact with. For example, as shown in a recent Harvard study, being remote full time can stunt careers, especially for women and younger workers.
When approaching the subject of returning to the office, or RTO, it is important to know your reasons and articulate them clearly to your employees. This will prevent anyone from being blindsided and allow them to communicate their thoughts or concerns.
Currently there are two approaches companies are taking when looking to return to the office, full-time and hybrid. So what will your company’s return to office approach be?
Taking the full-time, in-office approach means that all employees are required back in an office space, five days a week, during working hours (typically 9-5). Based on research from Work From Home, 59% of full-time employees are currently working from an office five days a week.
When looking to transition back to full-time office work, employees should be given advanced notice, so they are able to make the needed adjustments. Additionally, return to office policies may require an office or shared working space, and ensuring employees have the resources available to complete their job as they would in a remote setting.
Hybrid allows employees to work from home a portion of the weekdays, and from the office during the others. Some companies require employees in-office on certain days, while others allow them to choose which days’ work best for them. Employees work with their departments to arrange which days they will be in the office and which days they will be away. So why choose the hybrid approach?
This approach can improve an employee’s quality of life by eliminating commute time, spending more time with family and loved ones, and even increase performance. Many employees feel that having a remote option improves their day to day. For example, according to a recent Gartner study, 52% of respondents expressed their day to day had improved for the better working remotely during the pandemic. What’s more, 55% of workers shared that the increased flexibility improved their performance. Sure, working from home every day for weeks on end can have the effect of making the days blur together. That’s the beauty of the hybrid program. It allows employees to continue a benefit they’ve come to treasure a lot in the past few years.
Employees want to be able to work from home some days and in the office on others. When working from home became routine, it meant employees could do other things. Stuck on an obstacle at work? Take a mental break and spend some time doing laundry or tidying up. With that time to do personal and family chores, employees can return to the problem with a fresh perspective. It also means they can set the hours that work best with their schedule. If they needed to take time out of their day to drop off kids or pick them up, maybe they’d add a half hour or so on the work computer after dinner. Things are no longer confined to the strict 9 to 5 schedule.
Employers looking to immediately implement return to office policies permanently may find their employees less willing. Some may even find opportunities elsewhere, with over 50% of employees stating that location flexibility would impact whether they stayed at their current company. But it doesn’t stop with those already working for a company. Looking to fill those positions may prove difficult as candidates increasingly look for remote options. If difficulty persists in the region where a company is located, they may be forced to widen their search in the hopes someone will be willing to move. As the flexible approach to where we work proliferates, employers that fail to embrace it will have a more limited pool of talent available to them.
Keeping a healthy company culture while entirely remote is challenging. A company is its people, and when Zoom calls are the only option, it’s hard to connect with any one person, let alone feel a part of something. But the answer to this challenge isn’t necessarily returning everyone to the office. Lining up after-work happy hours might not be met with stellar attendance.
As people adjust to returning to the office, they’ll be sorting out the changes to their schedule. This is another advantage of the hybrid option. Employees might not have the same schedule they’ve grown accustomed to in the past. But, with a measure of flexibility, they’ll be able to figure things out a little more easily.
There’s been an influx of companies implementing return to office initiatives and regretting their approach. This is not a transition to take lightly. It requires an incredible amount of thought and data to move forward with confidence. An employer’s workplace data—such as where their employees are located, how they feel about a full-time or hybrid model, how this will impact retention and employee happiness, etc—is critical to making these decisions. Additionally, employers must ensure that company benefits—like lunch stipends, flexible work hours, reimbursement for business usage of personal devices, etc—remain the same throughout any transition.
The bottom line is, companies must evaluate the best approach for their workplace and communicate early and openly with employees about the plans for the company, ensuring their feedback is heard. Part of that plan should be enabling employees to work at their peak, regardless of their location. Reimbursing employees for the business use of their personal assets plays a big part in that effort. And failing to do so may result in legal trouble. That’s why we offer a Bring Your Own solution. Learn more about Motus BYO today.