<b>Internet Explorer is no longer a supported browser on imercer.com.</b> For an optimal experience on imercer.com, please use Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari.
Welcome to imercer | Questions? Call
The headlines are loaded with announcements of employers rolling out return-to-office (RTO) plans. With the continued reporting of employees’ delight with their hybrid work arrangements and the benefits to their home life, it seems there is a bit of misalignment. What leaders want seems to be in direct conflict with what employees want.
Source: Mercer’s 2022 Inside Employees’ Minds©
Back in 2022 when Mercer conducted the Inside Employees Minds© survey, there was a significant gap in what employees wanted in terms of remote and hybrid work and what employers were providing. In the same survey the following year, collected in July 2023, 78% of employers reported they were satisfied with their company’s flexible work arrangements.
Now, with the recent push to repopulate office spaces, HR professionals are faced with the challenge of navigating between the wants of leadership and those of the employees.
So, what is causing this dilemma?
Recently, SHRM surveyed 1,500 HR professionals about their organization’s efforts to return some or all of their employees to the office. This survey revealed some of the top reasons for returning to the office, including:
Another significant reason to have your workers return to the office is to increase idea generation. One experiment found that remote teams generated 15%–20% fewer ideas than in-person teams. This makes sense, as in-person interactions take in a whole person — their facial expressions, body language, and eye contact. As you’ve likely experienced, it is much more difficult to collaborate in a group setting on a Zoom call than it is in person.
Pushing for RTO can be beneficial for many workers, especially younger, more inexperienced employees. When working remotely, they miss the important interactions with more experienced workers who can help them learn new skills and advance in their careers. Many of these interactions are unplanned and can’t be replicated in a scheduled remote call.
According to research from SHRM, 47% of young Millennial and Generation Z workers say that when it comes to their career progression, “casual collisions” are more important now than they were in 2019. If you want to build a solid, experienced workforce, you need those in-person, spontaneous learning experiences.
80% of executives say they would have taken a different approach to their RTO strategy if they had access to more data.
Source: survey conducted by Envoy
Because you are tasked with implementing the directives of leadership on return to office, it’s best that you clearly understand the reasoning and messaging behind the directives. With that serving as your starting place, you can then move on to determining from the employee perspective.
It is understandable why so many employees object to returning to the office — they have grown comfortable with their remote or hybrid work arrangements. When considering going back to the office, you may hear objections surrounding some common workplace annoyances, such as:
In the 2023 version of Mercer’s Inside Employee’s Minds survey, we found that as of July, just as several large employers were making RTO announcements, the majority of employees were still fairly satisfied:
The bottom line is that employees have adapted to working from home and fear losing the flexibility they’ve come to know and like. So, how do you ease these concerns and make RTO a positive experience?
If there was ever a time to dig deep on what your employees are feeling, now is the time.
Start by asking your employees what flexibility means to them. What are their concerns about returning to the office? How can you make the in-office experience better?
Elements in a return-to-office plan
As businesses navigate the transition from remote to in-person work, many common elements arise in return-to-office programs. Some of the most popular options include:
Your workplace strategy will be unique to your business needs. However, you must ask for and use employee feedback to build a successful plan.
One of the best methods to get real-time actionable feedback is the digital focus group. It may sound complicated but it really isn’t. Typically, it’s a virtual meeting, facilitated by a host, that allows for participant anonymity while collecting answers to polling questions through a digital tool. As polling questions are completed, the results are revealed in real time, allowing the host to pivot or ask follow-up questions for clarity. How great is that? Employees can feel comfortable giving honest, real responses without the influence of company politics, but also get the benefit of seeing others’ responses to perhaps ingest a broader point of view. In addition, the real-time capability to dig in deeper on responses provides a huge increase in terms of clarity and efficiency. It’s essentially a two-way conversation with your employees!
Then, armed with direct feedback from your employees, you can determine where your policies align to what your employees are saying and where there are opportunities for improvement.
Ready to see your employees back in the office? Get the insights you need boost your employee listening efforts so you can get your return-to-office strategy right.
Looking for more information on Mercer? give us a call at 866-605-1031, or send us an email.