The Battle Is On as Managers Declare It’s Time to Get Back to the Office

April 16, 2022

Managers are fed up with remote work and want employees back in the office, according to a recent survey.

Earlier this month, the background and employment screening company GoodHire released results from a survey of 3,500 American managers, 75% of whom said they prefer employees work either hybrid or full-time in the office.

Last month, several large companies announced their plans to bring employees back to the office, either some or all of the time, including Google, Twitter, and Citigroup. The Twitter CEO announced, “Business travel is back effective immediately, and office openings will start on March 15.”

GoodHire referred to the effort as the “Great Return.”

The majority of managers surveyed said a full-time return to the office was happening in the near future, and only about a quarter said their company wouldn’t mandate a full-time return to the office this year. A slim majority of managers thought employees wanted to return to the office, although several other studies conducted over the last year find otherwise.

The survey found that 77% of managers would take the hard line and implement severe consequences such as termination, loss of benefits, promotions, time off and pay cuts for employees refusing to return to the office. GoodHire noted, “Just 23% would allow employees to work remotely full-time if or when return-to-office mandates are implemented.”

Managers want employees to return to the office despite 73% of them acknowledging productivity and engagement had either improved or stayed the same during the COVID-19 remote work period, and 68% said that fully remote operations would either add to their profit or cause it to remain neutral.

Most managers also agreed that the company was able to open recruitment more broadly with remote work to other geographical locations and that this would allow them to hire better talent.

Despite these positive findings about remote work, the survey concluded that managers are burned out and tired of remote management.

GoodHire reported, “An overwhelming 69% of all managers said they agreed or were neutral about experiencing burnout with remote management and desired to manage in-office employees.”

In its reporting, GoodHire said, “As much as employees love remote work, managers are concerned about control. It’s hard enough to motivate employees to stay productive and focused while they are in an office, and remote working makes managing productivity even more difficult.”

This observation is likely the key reason managers so desperately want employees back in the office.

So much so that 60% of managers responded that they agreed or strongly agreed that a full-time return to the office mandate is coming, and only 16% weren’t sure, while the remainder (24%) didn’t believe a mandate was in the near future.

If employees do not return to the office, managers fear a lack of focus due to personal commitments, difficulty in maintaining and creating a positive company culture, and overall productivity with remote workers, according to the survey.

Of significant interest for employees, 51% of managers said their companies would “definitely” consider pay cuts for those employees who refused to return to the office.

Yes — this just got real.

Most managers reported that they were looking for incentives to get employees to return to the office, such as increased compensation for in-office work or office perks like happy hour, lunches or parties.

When asked if company return-to-the-office plans had been shared with employees, only 19% of managers said their companies have planned, shared and have already started their post-COVID working model.

Employers need to evaluate what works best for their organization. The reality is that no matter how many LinkedIn influencers say otherwise, establishing positive work culture, supportive working relationships and accountability are difficult when working remotely. There is more to a workplace than productivity, and employers need to determine how best to strike that balance of employee flexibility and creating a work culture that builds a successful and collaborative work environment.

The best advice for employers — you do you. Determine the best model for your organization and do that. Communicate your expectations and reasoning as soon as possible. In reality, hybrid workplaces are likely the future of work and employers who lack flexibility might be left without the talent it needs to deliver, but employers need to take all of this into consideration and then determine what works best for their organizational culture.