Some company bosses expected return-to-office mandates would make people quit, survey finds

Enlarge / RTO mandates may boost workers’ professional networks, but in-office employees may also spend more time socializing than remote ones.

A new survey suggests that some US companies implemented return-to-office (RTO) policies in hopes of getting workers to quit. And despite the belief that such policies could increase productivity compared to allowing employees to work from home, HR software provider BambooHR’s survey notes that remote and in-office employees spend the same amount of time working.

BambooHR surveyed 1,504 full-time U.S. employees, including 504 human resources (HR) workers who are managers or above, from March 9 to March 22. According to the firm, the sample group used for its report “The New Era of Surveillance: Visibility Beats Productivity for RTO & Remote” is evenly split between genders and includes “a variety of age groups, racial groups and geographies.” Method Research, the research arm of technology marketing and public relations firm Method, prepared the survey and data collection firm Rep Data distributed it.

Trying to get people to quit

Among those surveyed, 52 percent said they prefer to work remotely compared to 39 percent who prefer to work in an office.

A generational breakdown of respondents who prefer remote work.  BambooHR's report did not specify how many respondents it surveyed from each category.
Enlarge / A generational breakdown of respondents who prefer remote work. BambooHR’s report did not specify how many respondents it surveyed from each category.

Despite seemingly strong interest in remote work, numerous companies forced workers to return to the office after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted. The report suggests that, at least in some cases, this was done to get workers to quit:

Nearly two in five (37 percent) managers, directors and executives believe their organization enacted layoffs in the last year because fewer employees quit during their RTO than they expected. And their beliefs are well founded: One in four (25 percent) vice presidents and C-suite executives and one in five (18 percent) human resources professionals admit they expected some voluntary turnover during an RTO.

It’s difficult to get a firm grasp on the effectiveness of RTO policies, as 22 percent of HR professionals surveyed said their company has no metrics to measure a successful RTO. The report notes a “disconnect between the stated goals for RTO and the actual measurement of the success of those goals.”

The report also found that 28 percent of remote workers fear being laid off sooner than those who work in the office. While the BambooHR report does not comment on the matter, some companies have discouraged employees from working remotely. Dell, for example, told remote workers that they cannot be promoted.

“By using RTO mandates as a workforce reduction tactic, companies are losing talent and morale among their employees,” the BambooHR report says. The report notes that 45 percent of people surveyed whose companies have RTO policies said they lost valuable workers. The finding is similar to a May study from Apple, Microsoft and SpaceX that suggested RTO mandates were driving away senior talent.

In BambooHR’s survey, 28 percent said they would consider leaving their jobs if their employer enacted an RTO mandate.

Productivity

A frequently cited reason for office mandates is to boost teamwork, collaboration and productivity. However, BambooHR data does not support the idea that RTO mandates boost productivity.

According to the report, regardless of whether they work at home or in an office, employees work 76 percent of a 9-to-5 shift. The report adds:

When it comes to who is more productive overall, office workers spend about an hour further socialize than their remote counterparts, while remote workers spend that time on work-related tasks and responsibilities.

Despite this, 32 percent of managers said one of their company’s main goals when implementing an office policy was to track employees’ work habits, and some companies track VPN usage and usage. of company credentials to ensure that employees enter the office as expected. .

RTO works for some

Although the majority of people surveyed prefer to work from home, the survey also highlighted some perceived benefits of working in the office. For example, 48 percent of people surveyed said “their work outcomes have improved” since returning to the office, according to the report. And 58 percent said they have a “stronger professional network” since returning, BambooHR reported.

Preferences for working from home or in an office can vary depending on several factors, such as age. This points to the benefits of developing RTO strategies around worker feedback and needs.

“The mental and emotional burdens that workers face today are real, and companies that seek employee feedback with the intent of listening and improving are the ones that will earn employee loyalty and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. customer,” said Anita Grantham, director of human resources at BambooHR. in a sentence.

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