'Ego-driven' demands | Why workers are 'ignoring' boardroom return-to-office orders

Why workers are 'ignoring' boardroom return-to-office orders

Workers are 'ignoring' corporate demands for them to come into the office for a minimum number of days each week, in favour of their own hybrid structures, according to a new report.

City AM reports that workers and managers in the financial and professional services sectors are employing their own bespoke working routines that fit the needs of their specific jobs.

This was discovered as part of a study which conducted interviews with 100 workers from major firms such as Goldman Sachs, NatWest, and PwC.

Key points include that remote-first policies had no detrimental impact on productivity – a finding which is consistent with many studies on hybrid and home working in recent months.

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Other results from the study include interviewees’ beliefs that hybrid models help boost productivity. For example, time spent commuting could instead be used as work time, as well as a cost saving measure.

Additionally, the report states that allowing for more flexibility helps reduce stress and burnout, as well as the subsequent staff absence and turnover that these issues can cause.

City AM reported that Dr Grace Logan, an economist at LSE, says demands from top level executives for employees to complete a set number of days in the office is “ego driven rather than having the best interests of the business in mind.”

How flexible working helps HR

A wealth of data has pointed towards an increased and growing appetite for more flexible employers. It has become so important to employees they often say that they would be willing to jump ship if they didn’t feel that they were getting flexibility.

For example, EY’s 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey found that more than half (54%) of employees surveyed from around the world would consider leaving their jobs post-pandemic if not given some form of flexibility in where and when they work.

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On the other end of the spectrum, employees are continuously on the look-out for employers that can offer them greater flexibility. Findings from The Talent Accelerator study, initially reported on by HBR, found that 88% of knowledge workers said that when searching for a new position, they will look for one that offers complete flexibility in their hours and location.

Additionally, the same study also found that 83% predicted that in response to the global labour shortage, firms will increasingly leverage work models to attract top talent, regardless of where they live or work.

And with flexibility giving organisations access to larger talent pools, this points towards another benefit that HR can reap around diversity of talent.

‘What’ more important than ‘where’

Noelle Murphy, Senior HR Practice Editor at XpertHR, previously told HR Grapevine that, in the post-presenteeism era, where work was done was far less important than the quality of the end product.

Murphy said: “HR has managed one of the biggest changes to working life since the industrial revolution with hybrid working, but it is still a work in progress. Challenges continue and HR will need to continue to address these, while ensuring this new way of working delivers for all employees – and that includes people managers and senior leaders.

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“HR is clear that there is work to be done challenging the outdated view that presenteeism means productivity, and that where the work is done is less important than the quality of the work produced. While there are retention challenges facing employers right now, it is even more important that HR can continue to evolve and tweak hybrid working models to ensure they support and facilitate a culture of connection and collaboration that will deliver engaged employees and a successful business.”

Is office working really better than remote?

The argument that collaboration thrives through face-to-face work is a logical one, but recent data has highlighted just how integral homeworking has become to workers’ lives. As such, HR leaders considering scrapping (or scaling back) their remote working plans have a lot to consider.

A study recently found that flexibility is the key to retaining top talent in 2022 and beyond. Owl Labs, a global collaborative technology company, polled 2,000 full-time employees across the UK - it found that 37% of Brits said that they are more productive working remotely, whilst a further 43% haven’t experienced a change in their level of productivity when working remotely.

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The shift to flexible working takes thoughtful and purposeful planning, yet only 36% of employees believe that their managers received hybrid or remote management training. A further 16% believe they should receive more training in the future.

Not surprisingly, 30% of British office workers find building relationships with remote colleagues harder. As a result, 59% of managers (and 62% of executives) are more likely to ask the opinion or engage with those they physically work with over those that are remote.

Work-life balance & inclusion have improved due to WFH

Data released in 2021 indicated that organisations that have committed to supporting remote work seem to be carving out more inclusive work experiences for staff members.

The latest analysis from Glint – which looked at aggregated data from millions of staff engagement surveys from more than 600 global firms – found that staff members at remote work-friendly organisations were 14% more likely to say that they felt safe to speak their minds.

Elsewhere, nine per cent were more likely to state that their leaders value different perspectives, compared to peers in organisations that haven’t enabled remote work.

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Despite the potential pitfalls of remote working, new research has also touted its benefits, with a recent survey finding the work-life balance of Brits has improved during the pandemic.

MoneySuperMarket spoke to more than 2,000 households across the country to find out how the pandemic impacted their work-life balance.

On a scale of one to ten, the results showed that the average rating for work-life balance improved by 0.4 when compared to before the pandemic. Overall, nearly one quarter (23%) of Brits agreed that their work-life balance has improved because they spend less time commuting.

The bottom line on remote working

Although we are seeing more and more firms usher their staff back to the office, hybrid and remote working is not going away anytime soon, and hybrid being viewed as a right, rather than a privilege, will surely be the norm forever more.

In which case, HR and business leaders must adapt their expectations and attitudes towards workers who take the WFH option. You cannot offer employees the opportunity of flexible working and then kick up a fuss when they… well… work flexibly.

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