Is forcing days in the office business suicide?

Written By:
Paula Darch
13 March, 2023
Hybrid Working
We’re seeing more organisations mandating employees back into the office for at least three days each week. From Apple through to Amazon, employees are being given ultimatums – return to the office or else! Could this be the start of a trend, beginning with the large corporates and eventually trickling down to smaller organisations? And if so, what are the implications now that so many employees have adjusted to a hybrid way of working? I believe that giving employees the option to choose where and when they work remains the right course of action for employers rather than forcing office attendance. Here’s why!

Amazon’s CEO has just announced that its corporate employees will have to return to the office for at least three days a week starting on 1 May 2023. In fact, Amazon is just one of a number of companies that are calling their employees back to the office. Last month, Starbucks told its corporate employees that they will be working from the office three days a week, and at the back-end of 2022, Apple followed by Twitter decided that employees needed to work from the office more. The main reason given by many of the companies forcing an office return is to restore “in-person collaboration”.

There are obviously benefits to be enjoyed from face-to-face collaboration, such as breaking-up the isolation of home working while helping to encourage greater innovation, however is it really necessary to force employees into the office to collaborate? This approach is ignoring the huge transition families have made since COVID, with many now in a flexi routine that works for them, their families and in most cases, their employers.

Forcing an office return will lead to an exodus of employees who don’t want to lose the flexibility they’ve come to rely on. Some may find they can no longer afford the office commute due to the cost of living hike. And this sudden change in companies’ hybrid working policies will considerably impact working mothers, together with those employees who suffer with health conditions. These employees will either have to find a job elsewhere or come to some personal arrangement with their employer – the latter pushing them to the side lines and hampering their career development prospects because of their inability to be able to contribute in a “face-to-face” capacity.

Surely, organisations should be able to leave it with managers and teams to decide when office attendance is worthwhile? When a face-to-face meeting might be beneficial rather than coercing people together? And why assume three days or more is required when in fact some individuals might be more productive working from home for three or four days each week? Organisations mandating an office return aren’t considering  individuals’ needs personally nor professionally.

Thriving workplaces are those that prioritise trust, teamwork and technology, and with the right approach and IT infrastructure, both large and small organisations can make hybrid working a success without having to force employees to be “seen” three days’ every week. People must be trusted to do the job they’ve been paid to do and given an IT platform that support flexible working. For instance, a modern, mobile-enabled intranet can effectively enable communication, connections and collaboration regardless of where employees are located. And when employees feel that office attendance would be beneficial, a desk booking app could be used to allow hot desks to be quickly and easily booked, ideally with the ability to search for desks next to colleagues for some quality face-to-face time.

It’s really not necessary to mandate office attendance. However with the likes of Amazon and Twitter going down this route, many more companies are likely to follow suit, perhaps with little thought as to whether it’s really the best solution for their business and their people. The sensible alternative is for leaders to nurture a culture of trust and teamwork, while providing a robust IT platform so that employees are given the tools needed to make hybrid working a success. After all, society has moved on, and businesses must look towards the future and not hark back to the past – failure to do this is not only short-sighted, it’s organisational suicide!

About the Author

Paula Darch
Paula Darch

Paula manages the marketing here at Sorce. She is an avid blogger and is passionate about intranet engagement.