Avoid the return-to-office stampede and hire and retain great employees

Avoid the return-to-office stampede and hire and retain great employees

More and more companies require remote and hybrid workers to spend more time in the office, despite knowing that US workers prefer hybrid work, are more productive, and the US is in a decades-long labor shortage.

You can join the return-to-the-office stampede and face tough recruiting and retention challenges. Or, you can offer the more productive and flexible work environment that employees really want.

The drive to have workers return to the office is having some success. According to the US Department of Labor, 72.5 percent of business establishments said their employees teleworked rarely or not at all last year. That figure climbed from 60.1 percent in 2021.

The new number is also close to the share of establishments—76.7 percent—that had no employees teleworking before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

According to the Wall Street Journal and several other news outlets, such as Business Insider, employers recently have begun pushing harder to get staff to work on-site more often, as recession fears prompt companies to increase their emphasis on worker productivity.

Why, in the name of efficiency, would you bring into the office workers who are more efficient at home?

Research shows that hybrid or teleworkers are more efficient than work-in-the-office employees, by as much as 47 percent more productive. And remote and hybrid workers save employers serious real estate costs – up to 50 percent— when they go hybrid and downsize their empty office space and reconfigure the office for collaboration, project rooms, relationship building, and training.

When I was at Medtronic in Santa Rosa, CA, in 2012, I learned that individual office cubes and offices were in use only about 37 percent of the time, as the occupants were traveling or in meetings. The office environment was crowded, leading to huge distractions for office workers and poor productivity. Medtronic implemented a hybrid work environment in 2012 to cut the cost of wasted office space and reinvest the money in research and development. It required us to redesign our office space with fewer unused offices and cubes and add more collaborative and meeting space. It also required us to lead employees differently and put new office and team norms in place. The transition was worth it. We saved $2 million a year in real estate costs and saw office worker productivity increase by five percent per day. Better yet, the productivity of hybrid workers improved by 22 percent.

Other studies have uncovered similar findings on how open office environments needlessly devour money. Gabe Burke of Accenture wrote an excellent article on LinkedIn on January 31, 2022, which all CEOs, Real Estate, Finance, and HR VPs should read. His article calls for office real estate portfolios to be restructured because they no longer make sense after two years of Covid-19.

The article’s title says it all, Corporate real estate has become a black hole that devours money. time to fix it.

Two ships passing in the night

According to research by Global Workplace Analytics and OWL Labs’, the number of workers choosing to work remotely in 2022 increased by 24 percent since 2021. And those selecting hybrid work went up by 16 percent. Interest for in-office work, however, dropped by 24 percent. Note, while the Workforce Analytics and Owl Labs survey shows workers want more remote and hybrid work, others studies in 2022 show that 50 percent of companies want workers to return to the office five days a week. It is like two ships passing in the night.

Workers in high demand from the high-tech industry, professional and business services, and educational services are willing to quit rather than return to the office more days a week. (According to the US Department of Labor, these are the same industries with the highest number of remote or hybrid workers.)

Research by Global Workplace Analytics and OWL Labs’ in 2022 shows that if the ability to work from home was taken away, 66 percent of workers would immediately start looking for a job that offered flexibility, and 39 percent would simply quit. Job seekers also want remote or hybrid work at essentially the same percentages. A recently released iCIMS Workforce Report shows the importance of offering the ability to work from home among job seekers. ICIMS found that 63 percent of job seekers say a top factor in their decision to accept a job offer is whether the job is remote, hybrid or in-person.

Labor shortage to last through the decade.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the US workforce participation rate remains below pre-pandemic levels. The US has three million fewer America working today compared to February 2020. This discrepancy will last through the decade. Why make it worse for your company by creating a work environment that is unproductive and is counter to what most office workers want?

The decision is up to you.

You can join the return-to-the-office stampede and fight tough recruiting and retention challenges. Or you can offer a more productive work environment that employees want with transparent norms for work and performance.

I hope you choose wisely and don’t follow the stampede to mediocrity.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and managing partner of InnovationOne, LLC. He works with organizations to transform HR and recruiting, implement remote work, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. He is quoted in business journals such as The Wall Street Journal, Workforce Management, and CEO Magazine. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at http://www.VictorHRConsultant.com.


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