‘Return to Office’ is bad for business

If you’re a CEO, you might feel like going all ‘Goldman Sachs’ and demand a full-time ‘Return to Office’, to snap back to how things were before, a ‘Return to Normal’. 

However, I fancy the self-styled ‘Masters of the Universe’ are making a big mistake by going against the market. Here’s ten things you’ll miss if you follow them.

  1. People’s priorities have changed. Work is lower down the pecking order, they want autonomy and flexibility and they are willing to trade pay to get it. That’s how much priorities have shifted, even for Goldman Sachs’ staff.
  2. We’ve all been traumatised by the pandemic. People need time and space to recover, to heal, to restore their energy. If their employers don’t give them that time, they’re going to find one who does. They will remember for ever how you’ve treated them, good or bad.
  3. Burnout is emerging as a major problem, people want a more balanced approach to work. They know the old approach was brutal and not sustainable, they want to be able to integrate work with the other parts of their life, not have it dominate.
  4. Office-centric working is brittle and prone to future shocks such as another pandemic, economic disruption or climate crisis events. Flexible, distributed working builds in resilience as the organisation can more readily flex and adapt to absorb external shocks.
  5. Teams working in a distributed way are more productive as they adopt asynchronous working and tools and bond more closely.
  6. Reduced travelling, both in commuting and for face-to-face business meetings, helps meet climate objectives and saves costs.
  7. Distributed working promotes greater efficiency and reduced costs of real estate.
  8. The best talent demands flexible working and you’ll keep your people longer too.
  9. It increases the talent pool that you can access geographically (massively, if you allow remote working).
  10. It removes many of the barriers that exist for carers, women, people of colour, the less-able bodied, the neuro-divergent, the chronically ill, and many other marginalised groups. If you are serious about DEI, it’s essential. This is also a big expansion to the talent pool you can address.

If you force people back into the office, you will be telling them you don’t care about their needs and wants. You’ll be saying ‘My way or the highway’. Don’t stand in the way of the doors, you might get knocked over in the rush.

You’re also choosing to make your organisation less resilient, less efficient, more costly to run, more polluting, less diverse and inclusive, less innovative and agile.

Of course, flexible working presents some challenges but, listing out the pros and cons, the ledger is firmly balanced in favour of it.

You’ll also give your people a much better quality of life and greater wellbeing, which should be enough of a reason in itself.

Together, it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

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