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So, What is the Impact of Return to Office Policies?

Ever feel like it’s hard to get at the root of what’s really true? This is further complicated by the algorithms that push our information feed in one direction versus another. Depending on the feed, it’s easy to receive information that is complementary to our current feelings and beliefs while finding a contradictory position is more difficult.

One example of this is the frequent polls of business leaders asking if workers are more productive in the office vs working from home. A survey published in February by looked at the impact of return-to-office (RTO) policies on companies. The survey included 833 business leaders at companies fully remote at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that implemented an RTO policy.

When asked about communication about RTO, 65% say communication has improved. Likewise, productivity (63%), engagement (61%) and morale (52%) also improved. 59% of business leaders believe employees spend more time working when they are in the office, and almost half (46%) say employees should be in the office 4 or 5 days a week.

“Given the number of organizations doing layoffs or projecting layoffs, I’m not surprised that business leaders have seen a rise in productivity in the office,” said Julia Toothacre, Resume and Career Strategist, “Personally, I think people are trying to prove themselves, whether they want to be in the office or not, so they don’t lose their job.”

Conversely, an article titled Are Employees More Productive Working from Home? published a month prior in explored the topic to a slightly different outcome. The article cited a study from Owl Labs that 55% of employees put in more hours while working remotely than in a physical office.

Even though Gallup data showed more than 70 million U.S. full-time workers can work remotely, the deck may be stacked against employees who want to WFH. Companies pushing for RTO are using tactics that show the writing is on the wall. These days, visibility is top of mind for employers and for employees who want to climb the corporate ladder. In some cases, this mandate is hitting working mothers who must choose between full-time employment and flexibility.

It will be interesting to see how these policies pan out over the long-term as more Gen Z employees enter the workplace. This demographic is known for favoring a work-life balance and does not look to emulate a career path of corporate climbing and promotion. They instead, like a working from home option. With both the known and unknown ripple effects of more Gen Z employees in the workforce, where will employers land on RTO, hybrid work and WFH as younger employees become the majority?