More employers demanding employees return to the office

Many companies that allowed their employees to work from home during the pandemic are calling for their return to the office in 2023.
Photo submitted

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior
National Correspondent

Josh Wright runs a small eCommerce business that helps consumers get good deals on cell phones and plans but doesn’t believe employers should demand everyone return to the office.

Wright says that people who work at home are more productive because they do not have as many distractions at work.

When people work at home, they can be more focused and focus on their work, Wright said.

“For a small eCommerce business like mine, the cost savings associated with working from home can be significant,” he said. “Remote work eliminates the need for a physical office space, and employees can use their own equipment, which reduces overhead costs.”

However, Wright’s view isn’t shared by many other employers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, employers are losing their patience with empty desks in the office.

The newspaper noted that companies like Vanguard Group, Paycom Software, and others have told employees to come in to work more in 2023 to save money.

Many employers have asserted that in-person work helps with problem-solving, training new employees, and it reinforces corporate culture.

“Employers face a tough decision. Forcing employees to return can cause many of these employees to seek other employment,” Caroline Duggan, Chief Brand Officer for Lumineux, said in an email.

“Employees have found they enjoy the flexibility and better work/life balance they have achieved through remote work. It will be difficult to get them to give that up.” Duggan said.

Duggan added that many federal employees have continued working remotely.

She noted that District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser had urged President Joe Biden to either have them return or release the buildings they formerly occupied, so the city could create more housing space.

 “The larger issue seems to be around the question of productivity,” Duggan said. “Are employees as productive working from home as in the office? Employers will need to balance their needs with retention to determine what works best for their employees and their company.”

However, McKenna Moore, an associate editor at LinkedIn, said remote work may be past its prime.

Moore wrote that, in the current U.S. job market, many employers have taken remote-work arrangements off the table.

“Data from LinkedIn’s Workforce Report shows the rapid rise and fall of employers’ willingness to target remote candidates,” Moore reported.

In an analysis of over 60 million paid job postings on LinkedIn since January 2021, researchers found that remote jobs had the highest number of jobs in March 2022.

But Moore noted that spike gave way to an abrupt decline; in November 2022, barely 14 percent of paid job postings invited remote applicants.

“It might be helpful for businesses to have workers located in an office, where they can keep an eye on them and offer constructive criticism to guarantee timely project completion,” said Calvin Willis, a tech entrepreneur.

“An organization might see, for instance, that its remote workers are constantly a few days behind schedule on projects, whereas those based in the office never miss a deadline,” Willis said. “Having everyone in the same room at the same time encourages conversation and cooperation among workers, which isn’t always easy to accomplish when everyone has different hours.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that, for much of the pandemic, companies took a “fairly soft” approach to policy enforcement, fearful that too rigid a stance on in-office work could harm morale or lead to turnover.

“Although companies set office policies, some managers largely allowed workers to ignore them,” the newspaper reported. The average office occupancy in 10 major U.S. Cities remained below 50 percent for much of 2022, according to data from security firm Kastle Systems.

According to the newspaper, most employees want to work in an office at least a few days a week. They also said that many workers see the benefits of working in an office.

Meanwhile, some employers insisted that enforcing the rules is a matter of fairness to the workers who have been complying.

“Uneven and inconsistent adoption has created inequities in how the model is applied and has made it difficult to realize the benefits of in-person learning, collaboration and connection,” Vanguard officials said in a memo, according to the Journal.

Some Vanguard employees said they were told by their managers that if they didn’t comply with the return-to-office policy, they would be terminated without severance.

At Paycom, nearly 80 percent of the company’s employees are already working five days a week at the company’s headquarters. Many employees began returning to the office in August 2021.

“From the start of the pandemic, Paycom communicated that working from home would be a temporary solution while we prioritized everyone’s health and well-being,” a spokesman told the Journal.


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