After two years of pandemic restrictions and mandates, things finally started opening up in late 2021. By early 2022, most countries with the most aggressive restrictions started to ease things.
It felt like we were returning to normality, and there was hope.
Some companies allowed their employees to take a hybrid approach of a few days in the office and at home. Then some companies started forcing employees back into the office. And some companies threatened their employees to return.
Despite working well for most companies that had no choice but to tell their workers to stay home, some companies were seemingly itching to get their employees back into the office upon the first whiff of the pandemic lifting.
To the credit of some forward-thinking companies that get it, not all companies mandated a return to the office. Xero offers flexibility (hybrid or remote work). Airbnb announced a work and live anywhere policy. Dropbox announced a “virtual first” strategy offering permanent remote work. Atlassian offers a permanent remote work option too. Companies like Slack, Spotify, Twitter and Square also offer the option of permanent remote work.
Then you have the companies that learned nothing from the pandemic-induced remote working revolution.
In March 2022, Google told workers in its San Francisco Bay Area offices they’ll have to be back by April 4, 2022, offering a hybrid approach of three days in the office.
It’s worth acknowledging that not everybody thrived during the pandemic. For some, being forced to stay at home was a nightmare that they wanted to end. When schools closed, working and being a parent was a tricky, stressful exercise. Ikea was out of stock for such a lengthy period (getting a desk or office chair was a difficult task in 2021), and some didn’t have proper working spaces.
And herein lies the problem: employees want flexibility and choice.
For some, working from home will be the preferred option. For others, a hybrid approach where employees will prefer a few days here and there in the office (mainly for social reasons) and at home. And for a minority, going back into the office full-time.
If you run a company or work for one that spouts nonsense such as “collaboration or “culture” as reasons for returning to the office, it’s a red flag the company you work for has culture and trust issues.
Forcing your employees to return to the office is a recipe for disaster and a sure-fire way to drain your company of talent. As we have seen, some companies have embraced the changing face of working by offering employees the choice of what works best for them.
We have the tools, methodologies and technology to make remote work a success. The last couple of years has been excellent training for many. The record profits companies were making seem to suggest that remote work wasn’t a bad thing at all. It’s the outdated in-office mindset that some companies need to let go of. Workers want choice. Give it to them, or they’ll get it elsewhere.