After two years of working from home – and seeing return-to-office plans derailed by new Covid-19 variants – a growing number of companies are eager to get employees back to the office.
About 50% of leaders say their company already requires or is planning to require employees to return to in-person work full-time in the next year, according to new research from Microsoft, which surveyed 31,102 workers around the world between January and February.
This number stands in sharp contrast, however, to what employees really want: flexibility. In the same report, 52% of workers said that they are thinking of switching to a full-time remote or hybrid job in 2022.
Managers feel caught between leadership and employee expectations
The success (and failure) of a company’s return-to-office plan lies with its managers, who are struggling to convince leaders in the C-suite to design their work approach according to employees’ needs.
Future Forum, Slack’s research consortium, interviewed close to 11,000 knowledge workers in the United States, France and other countries in November and found that 42% of executives are working from the office 3-4 days a week compared to 30% of non-executives. What’s more, 44% of executives working remotely said that they would prefer to work from the office every day, while just 17% of employees said the same.
Managers are struggling to balance these competing desires: More than half of managers believe leadership is out of touch with employees, but 74% say they don’t have the influence or resources to enact change for their employees, according to Microsoft’s report.
“They’re the point where all of this tension comes to a head,” Jared Spataro, the CVP of modern work at Microsoft, explains. “But managers are also the key to helping companies execute effective work policies … your culture is going to rise or fall depending on how your managers implement it with employees.”
Spataro recommends that leadership require managers to have 1:1 discussions with employees to design a “team agreement” that outlines the business’s needs, the team’s needs and the individual employee’s needs to determine how they can better align.
“It’s about getting people back to a shared headspace of what work will look like in the coming months, and being transparent about what employees versus leadership expect, so there are no surprises,” he adds.
Let us know in the comments if you feel you should be heading back to office or convince your manager to continue to work from home?