Forcing employees to return to the office? Prepare to face the consequences


 Employees do not have to be together in an office five days a week to do their jobs well. 

In fact, given the global nature of many businesses today, it was already common before the coronavirus pandemic for employees to work a day or two outside the office.

The pandemic has only strengthened the urgency for companies to adapt: We should not be forcing people back into the office. And with cases of the Delta variant rapidly multiplying, future-proofing your hybrid workforce is the prudent thing to do.

I realize some companies will find this hard to swallow and that there are many people who believe that business must be done in the office. But I would encourage executives to consider the following instead.

Employees will be more fulfilled when faced with fewer trade-offs

Enabling employees to achieve work-life balance will go a long way in ensuring that they maintain productivity and engagement. A recent Accenture research study on the future of work stated that employees who had a hybrid work situation during the pandemic “had better mental health, stronger work relationships, and was more likely to feel net better off and less burned out working for their organizations.”

In this environment, we’ve come to the conclusion that where people work is a lot less important than how they can be most productive—both personally and professionally. People need to have balance to be their best selves and we have to trust them to make those decisions. 

If doing away with their two-hour-plus round trip commute each day helps them do that, we are all for it. If others are interested in spending their time in a modern city office, we want to offer that as well.

A hybrid workplace will help retain and recruit top talent

We’ve all read or heard about the “Great Resignation,” where employees are quitting their jobs at an unprecedented rate for more favorable work situations, or simply taking some time off. According to a recent report by Monster.com, as many as 95% of employees are considering changing jobs.

While many of these statistics apply to individuals in the services industry, similar concerns apply to the tech industry. A recent survey from Prudential suggests that 26% of workers plan to leave their employers after the pandemic, and 72% said the pandemic caused them to rethink their skill sets. Of those looking for new jobs, half of the people currently working remotely say if their current company does not offer remote work options long term, they’ll look for a job at a company that does.

In a fiercely competitive job market, companies should be doing everything they can to invest in their employees and broaden their talent pool. Not doing so opens them up to the risk of losing the lifeblood of their business.

Maintain culture outside of the office

It was not long ago that tech culture used to be synonymous with foosball tables, free snacks, and happy hours after work. These perks were nice, but just focusing on them misses the point. Great culture is about community—forming professional and personal relationships that last a lifetime.

Just as much as employees want competitive compensation and other benefits, they also want to know they are working for a purpose-driven company. Now more than ever, employees want to see diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of a company’s priority list. Employees are expecting open and transparent communication from leadership, and want to be heard and included in the shared vision for the company.

The shifting office

The future of work will be hybrid. The office is not obsolete, because some aspects of work function best when people are together in a physical space. But the way the office looks needs to change. At Flywire, we are rethinking how we can optimize the spaces we have for a more mobile workforce, some of whom no longer require dedicated desks.

The key to this shift is to not be prescriptive with your workers. Ultimately, you either trust your people to deliver or not—regardless of where they are located. If you provide the flexibility and empower them to live fulfilling lives, it will make everyone more successful.

Mike Massaro is CEO of Flywire.

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