A lot of companies are deciding that hybrid working means mandated days in the office. What could possibly go wrong?
It says to employees:
- We will tell you what’s important in your life, we will set your priorities.
- We don’t trust you to organise yourself and co-ordinate with you colleagues
- We are going to revert to the adult-child relationship we had before COVID
- We still have power over you
- We are grudgingly accepting this new way of working but we still think it’s wrong
- We’d really like to go back to how it was
- We don’t really appreciate all the effort you put in to keep things going during the pandemic
What employees feel is:
- I’m not trusted
- They’re not really interested in me and my priorities in life
- They don’t think I’m capable of organising myself and balancing the needs of my job with everything else in my life
- They think I don’t care about my work, that I’m lazy and feckless
- They are still in the dark ages, they still value presenteeism and brown-nosing rather than output
- They don’t appreciate all the effort I put in during the pandemic if this is my reward
- They said the relationship had changed, that they had changed, but now the fuss is over they are showing they’re just the same.
- I’ve been betrayed
This may not be explicit. It may not even be conscious but this is the dialogue that is going on.
It’s why, when properly consulted, no group of employees have come up with it as a solution.
What makes it worse is that the company’s reasons for this policy will be framed as being for the benefit of the employees and the company. It will be presented as an act of generosity. These espoused reasons are at odds with the subliminal messages it sends, which causes further dissonance and discomfort.
Mandated days will push down engagement, lower commitment, weaken culture, make employees feel less valued and ultimately drive them to look elsewhere.
That’s why companies (including the likes of Apple) will abandon it.
If hybrid doesn’t mean fully flexible, it’s going fail.