Business/Economy

Employees are fighting return-to-office mandates

Question:

I don’t want to quit, but Friday’s email from our CEO may force the issue. He announced that starting Feb. 10, all employees must return full time to the office.

His edict makes no sense. Every internet article I read states employees are more productive and loyal when allowed to work remotely at least part of the week. Every employee I know wants to work from home. We gripe to each other when we endure our mandatory three days each week in the office. By taking away the two days we work in our home offices, he forces us to look for new jobs.

I see no reason he’s made this decision. I’m more productive at home, where I can focus without distractions. My morale is higher because I have a better work/life balance. I searched last weekend for an employer that offers interesting work and reasonable compensation for full-time remote work. As soon as I find one, I’m gone.

In the meantime, what can I and other employees do to fight this return to the dark ages?

Answer:

Employees fight return to work mandates

Employees across the nation have challenged employer directives to return to work. When the New York Times told employees to return to the office three days a week after Labor Day, 1,300 signed a pledge to continue to work remotely. They did so, at least for the first week.

A group of Apple employees formed “Apple Together” and petitioned their CEO for location-flexible work. They suggested managers work with their teams to determine which type of work arrangements work best for each team member and Apple. They claimed they’d done “exceptional work” during the pandemic. They stated that many employees had “compelling reasons” for remote work, including disabilities, health concerns, family care and morale. They recommended Apple survey its employees, and additionally ask departing employees if they resigned to seek remote work.

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It’s a tug of war

Return-to-work policies have galvanized a tug of war between employer and employee desires. Microsoft research reports that 50% of employers plan to require employees to return to in-person work full time in 2023. This same research reports that 52% of employees are considering changing jobs to seek full-time remote or hybrid work. A survey of a thousand engineering, IT and technological employees reports that 45% prioritized flexible or remote work when seeking jobs, second only to increased pay and benefits.

Remote work may be past its prime

You and other employees may wind up losing the fight. Recession threats have undermined employees’ leverage over employers, and remote work opportunities appear to be on a downward trend. LinkedIn’s December 2022 Workforce Report, which analyzes over 60 million paid job postings on LinkedIn since January 2021, reveals a national trend away from remote work. In March 2022, the highest number of job postings were for remote jobs. The number of remote job postings then abruptly declined. Less than 14% of November 2022 postings invited remote applicants.

According to a Sept. 26, Resume Builder report, 90% of employers plan to require employees return to the office at least part of the week in 2023. Paycom Software ordered their technology team to return full time to the office in January. LifePro Financial Services Inc. tells applicants their jobs are 100% in-office.

Here’s my suggestion: Take a cue from the Apple employees. Make your case and negotiate. Good luck.

Lynne Curry | Alaska Workplace

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Navigating Conflict,” “Managing for Accountability,” “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully,” and workplacecoachblog.com. Curry is president of Communication Works Inc. Send questions to her at workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach or follow her on Twitter @lynnecurry10.

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