In-Office Mandates? Not Happening…

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were told to work from home. It was safer that way.

What many companies didn’t expect is that people would enjoy working in sweatpants. They would enjoy being able to grab lunch from their fridge and not have to interact with their co-workers. And, as people enjoyed the comfort of their own homes, productivity levels rose.

There’s enough tech that allows many people to be quite productive at home, so there’s often no need to go into the office. Well, unless there’s a pesky in-office mandate coming from corporate.

Many companies are trying to get business “back to normal” now, mandating that everyone come into the office. The question is, can they actually mandate that? More and more people are refusing to adhere to those mandates.

Today’s employees know that they have the upper hand. It’s hard to find good, qualified employees willing to work. And employers don’t want to go through the hassle of recruiting and training new employees – it’s just too costly, especially with the inflation going on in every industry.

As a result, more employees are simply ignoring the in-office mandates. It’s almost as if they’re daring their employees to do something about it.

WFH Research conducted the “Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes,” which involves conducting polls monthly since 2020. A new survey has shown that 35% of workers feel that their employer would “likely do nothing if they or their peers didn’t go into the office as much as required.”

Most businesses are focused more heavily on whether the work gets done rather than where it gets done. The survey showed that 17% reported that there are not even consequences when the work doesn’t get done in a timely fashion.

Now, not all businesses are the same. Some have reported that they’ll receive verbal reprimands, a pay cut, or even have their bonus taken away.

Employers are threatening but not going through with their threats. There’s a threat to terminate of 15.6% while an actual termination is 12.4%.

Goldman Sachs experienced the resistance firsthand. When CEO David Solomon required a fully in-person week, junior bankers threatened to quit. Some even refused to show up to work.

Apple employees were ready to quit, too, after CEO Tim Cook implemented a hybrid policy – some work in the office and some outside of the office.

One of the researchers conducting the survey, Steven J. Davis, explained that “For employees to return happily to the office, the boss needs a compelling answer to this question: Why must I spend 30, 60, 90 minutes a day on commuting, when I’ve shown I can do my job from home?”

Davis makes a valid point. What is it with demanding that people go into the office if the work is getting done at home? Especially with the higher gas prices, the cost of commuting is harder for many employees to stomach.

The reality is that COVID-19 caused many changes – and some are easier to accept than others. The days when people want to gather in small offices and eat food from a communal buffet during a staff meeting are over.

Some companies are following Biden’s urge to return to the office. He has said that it’s time for remote work to end. In March, the President announced, “It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people.”

But…why?

Some industries depend on people working from the office – like the restaurants that host luncheons, the catering companies that handle board meeting meals, and all of the other businesses that benefit from a rush of people going in and out of offices.

All of those businesses benefit not because people are working in an office but because the employees have money to spend.

We’re dealing with inflation. Money is tight. We can’t waste the money on gas to get to work and an extra mocha latte on our way in because it’s money that we need to pay our bills.

You want us in the office? Fix inflation. Then, maybe employees will think about returning to the office. Until then, it seems like many are willing to call the bluff of in-office mandates, for better or for worse.