The data is in: RTO policies don't improve employee performance or company value, but controlling bosses don't care

 Billionaire CEOs initially championed remote work as the future work model at the start of the pandemic. However, they have since shifted their stance, with 90% of companies planning to return to the office in 2024, and 28% threatening to terminate uncooperative employees. Recent research from the University of Pittsburgh suggests that the driving force behind these decisions may be less about productivity and more about managers wanting to reestablish control over their workforce.

Mark Ma, an associate professor at the Katz Graduate School of Business, led the study, which found that the return-to-office (RTO) mandates did not significantly impact a company's financial performance or stock market value. In fact, bringing employees back to the office could result in higher expenses, offsetting any potential productivity gains. Additionally, there's evidence to suggest that controlling managers, particularly male and powerful CEOs, are more inclined to enforce RTO mandates as a means of reasserting control over their staff.

The study also suggests that RTO policies could serve as a scapegoat for explaining poor company performance, shifting the blame onto remote workers. Furthermore, forcing employees back into the office has been found to reduce job satisfaction, leading to decreased productivity and potential staff turnover. This contrasts with research showing that allowing flexibility in remote work can increase productivity and broaden the talent pool.

Ma recommends that high-performing employees who excel in remote work should be allowed to continue at home to retain top talent, while also advocating for periodic in-person team-building activities to maintain company culture. He stresses the importance of treating employees with empathy and flexibility, highlighting that rigid RTO policies could lead to staff dissatisfaction and departures.  

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