Are Your Employees Ready for Your Return to Office Policies?

Return to Work
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Work from home

Many companies have suddenly shifted to remote work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we cross the one-year mark and with the rising number of vaccinated individuals, many organizations are looking ahead to having employees return to work in the office. However, the question remains – Are You Ready to Start Your Return to Office Practices? 

Gallup found that 62% of Americans with jobs reported working from home during the pandemic. McKinsey’s research found that 41% of people think they are more productive working remotely, and 28% believe they are as effective as before. When you consider the benefits of working remotely, it is easy to see why workers may resist returning to work in the office full-time. As such, the policy in the workplace must be responsive to employees’ concerns. 

Not all workers are satisfied working remotely, however. Research on employee satisfaction has found that among some workers (16%), satisfaction with their job and company has improved during COVID-19. However, for others (59%), there has been a noticeable decline in mental health and job satisfaction. While introverts have thrived during this season of remote work, extroverts have struggled more with the lack of workplace socialization. 

Research on employee satisfaction was a hot topic before the pandemic. Astute leaders should be even more mindful of employee satisfaction now as they face various challenges in their personal and professional lives. During the pandemic, there has been an increased focus on mental health. Yet many individuals were dissatisfied with their jobs and unengaged, even before the shift to remote work. However, due to the nature of remote work, it is easier for unsatisfied employees to fly under the radar. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the impact bosses have in shaping employees’ work satisfaction and engagement. Dissatisfied employees may be more reluctant to follow new return to work policies because their face-to-face interaction with their boss will increase. However, for other employees with higher levels of job satisfaction, working from home may be a welcome change of pace that allows them to perform while maintaining some level of flexibility. 

To operate at peak performance and be dedicated to the company’s success, they need to feel an Emotional Connection or a sense of satisfaction and alignment derived from being appreciated and a contributing member with a worthy purpose. 

The Best Practices Institute found that “respect and a functional workplace environment” beat out compensation, perks, and other benefits in causing employees to love their workplace. Research on employee satisfaction also shows that people who love their job are more likely to perform better, provide better results, and recommend the company to others. Dalkrani and Dimitriadis found that the most critical factors that positively impacted organizational commitment were “social aspects of job,” “job characteristics,” and “work environment.” Respect from the organization is a key driver in employee performance and job satisfaction, so it is only logical for organizations to extend respect to their employees when considering the workplace’s return to office policy. 

PwC investigated people’s attitudes towards remote work and found that most companies will likely use a hybrid workplace model after the pandemic. 55% of employees reported the desire to work remotely at least three days per week; however, 68% of executives felt that employees should be in the office at a minimum of 3 days per week. The research emphasizes the need for flexibility and listening to employees.

Organizational reopening plans should be co-created with employee input. Research on employee satisfaction highlights the importance of employees feeling heard. By incorporating systemic collaboration, employees can feel connected to their organization and play a vital role in the decision-making processes. Such an approach relies heavily on open communication, which can help foster job satisfaction and engagement, impacting performance. Systemic collaboration is essential for the organization. AECOM/Mercer found 56% of employees said they would consider switching companies if their current employer did not offer flexibility.

Return to Office Playbook

Tesla has developed a 38-page “Return to Office Playbook” that outlines the guidelines and processes in place to allow employees to return to work. Tesla considers employee input for continuous improvement of their playbook. The company utilizes a staggered approach for when workers return to office based on their job role. In addition to safeguards for physical health, they also outlined guidelines for mental well-being and employees’ ways to support themselves and others. 

Employee satisfaction is a powerful element with far-reaching business implications. Businesses should collaborate with their employees to develop return-to-work plans and an effective workplace policy that considers the role of employee satisfaction.

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