The Negative Effects of the Mandated Return to the Office

This week on The JSA Blog, we’re sharing some news based on what we are seeing in the current marketplace.

Most companies were aware that there would be some challenges involved with mandating employees to return to the office, but the repercussions have been worse than originally anticipated. 3 recently published reports all paint a similar story that is quite evident. Employees have embraced the more flexible work model that went mainstream in 2020, and they have little intentions of going back to the Monday through Friday “in the office” way of work.

There are two areas of concern within many organizations who have enforced mandated return to the office policies: Higher employee attrition rates than expected and issues with recruiting new talent.

Higher Than Expected Employee Attrition

There is a clear trend that is being brought to the surface through the recently released reports along with many case studies. If employers enforce a strict return to office policy, many employees will feel slighted and will look elsewhere for an employment opportunity that offers more flexibility. Employers cannot escape the fact that many of their employees had little to zero drop-off in their work and production while working from home for months, or even years.

This makes the transition back to the office a very tough pill for employees to swallow. Many of them have adjusted well to a newfound work life balance and they have learned to greatly value this arrangement. On another note, employees are more likely to return to work if the policy is offered as a choice and not forced upon them.

Workers view going from a completely remote or flexible/hybrid schedule to returning full time to the office as the equivalent of taking a pay cut. Employees are aware of the job market and know that there are companies out there who will offer flexible work policies.

  • 42% of companies that mandated office returns witnessed a higher level of employee attrition than they had anticipated.
  • 76% of employees are ready to leave their job if their companies decide to do away with flexible work schedules.
  • The displeasure of shifting from a flexible work model to a traditional one equates to experiencing a 2 to 3% pay cut.

Struggles in Recruitment

Another clear trend being brought to light by the recent reports is the fact that almost a third of companies who have enforced a return to the office policy are experiencing issues with recruiting. As previously stated, people in the job market are aware that there are companies in their industry that offer a flexible schedule, and job seekers are choosing to seek out those particular opportunities.

Potential job candidates consider a flexible work policy right up there in their list of priorities along with job security, career advancement opportunities, and positive company culture.

The fact is that when given the opportunity to apply to two different companies, with all factors being the same, including compensation and benefits, job seekers will choose the company offering the flexible work policy. Those organizations who stay firm in enforcing a strict work in the office policy stand to be left behind in terms of acquiring new talent.

  • 29% of companies enforcing office returns are struggling with recruitment.
  • 42% of candidates would outright reject roles that lack flexibility.

*The figures in this blog are based on The Greenhouse Candidate Experience Report, the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED), and Unispace’s “Returning for Good” report.

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