The future of work trends

Will 2023 see workers return to the office full-time? High-profile figures like Elon Musk are demanding their workers return to the office full-time, sparking rumors that others will follow suit. Some of us hope to return to normal, while others believe there's no going back.

Workers would sooner quit than return to the office full-time

We've reshuffled our priorities in the last few years. Many of us are choosing to put families, work-life balance, and personal well-being before careers. Flexibility at work is now essential, with 73% of employees requiring flexible work conditions to stay in roles long-term. Some companies are asking for full-time in-office work, but according to Forbes, the same companies are being used as examples - and these companies suffer from attrition issues. In reality, just 4% of employers are asking their employees to return to the office full-time 1.

  • 73% of employees want flexible work options to stick around long term 2
  • 90% of the surveyed employers are allowing hybrid work schedules 1
  • 4% of HR leaders said they require all employees to return to the workplace full-time 1

Creating a successful hybrid work model is hard

Companies that support hybrid working can benefit from a boost to employee experience, increased well-being, improved productivity, better employee loyalty and competitiveness for talent. But to be successful, companies need to overcome tough challenges.

Employees don't have a reason to visit the office

The home office is a space for focused work, free from distraction (for some of us). Working from home has boosted productivity, which is why workers struggle to understand why they should visit the office - especially if they're doing the same work they do from home. Top companies are repurposing the office as a space for collaboration and networking - giving people a to visit the office.

Remote workers feel less emotionally connected

Remote workers are less emotionally connected to their peers because they spend less time together. Having weaker social connections makes it easier for employees to move on as there's less social pressure to stay. With so many companies offering hybrid models, the radius of potential jobs has expanded because people are willing to travel further if it's just one or two days per week 3. Companies need to work harder to improve employee retention, foster connection and give people a reason to stay.

The entry-level workforce craves in-person connection

Younger generations entering the workforce are comfortable working remotely - having completed their studies and entered the workforce mid-pandemic. But with so much time spent at home, they're craving in-person connections. Gen Z has unique needs and expectations for the office workspace - requiring space for networking, team building and collaboration 4.

Those working remotely feel left out

Not all employees speak up, and managers can't rely on the body language of those working remotely. For the hybrid workplace to be successful, managers need to find a new way to encourage two-way dialogue and equal participation during meetings. It's impossible to read the room when some team members are remote. Managers need to book more one-on-one time to boost employee engagement and truly understand how their team is doing - adding pressure to an already busy schedule.

There's a big trust issue

While many studies have shown productivity improves when workers are given the flexibility to choose when, where and how much they work, some leaders find it hard to trust their workforce and would prefer their employees return to the office full-time. Despite evidence that employee productivity is higher among remote employees, these leaders are more likely to blame decreased productivity or declining company culture on remote work. It's not just executive-level leaders; 76% of managers believe in-office workers are more likely to be promoted 3.

  • 54% of business leaders fear their team has been less productive since moving to remote or hybrid” 2
  • 80% of workers believe their productivity has stayed the same or improved 2
  • 19% more high performers at companies offering full flexibility 4

Those who enforce a return to the office risk losing their top talent. Without evidence that remote work is the root cause of culture and productivity issues, these organizations could exacerbate attrition issues.

Will leaders enforce a full-time return to the office in 2023?

While few are currently enforcing full-time office work, that could change in the future. 50% of leaders say they either require or plan to require employees to be in the office full-time 2. Some believe there will be a tipping point where workers return to the office, with a predicted 54% working from the office full-time in 2023 5. While top talent may resist this and vote with their feet, the ultimate factor will come down to talent-pool competitiveness. Will a recession turn the tide?

References:

  1. Just 4% Of Employers Are Making Everyone Return To The Office Full-Time, Survey Finds, Forbes, May 05, 2022
  2. 5 Key Trends Leaders Need to Understand to Get Hybrid Right, Harvard Business Review, March 16, 2022
  3. 11 Trends that Will Shape Work in 2022 and Beyond, Harvard Business Review, January 13, 2022
  4. 9 Future of Work Trends Post Covid-19, Gartner, June 16, 2022
  5. Bosses Are Winning The Battle To Get Workers Back To The Office, Forbes, September 20, 2022