Companies that were champions of remote work have started abruptly summoning employees back to their cubicles, first for “hybrid working” and then for full-time in-office work. This discreet RTO push could put employee engagement and job satisfaction at risk.

What is hybrid work? Hybrid work schedules are flexible work expectations that blend in-office and remote work.

What’s going on with the shift to in-office work? Only 12% of hybrid employees want to spend more than four days on-site — a statistic that sharply contrasts the return-to-office (RTO) mandates from corporations like Disney and Amazon.

We love remote and hybrid work: At Hubstaff, we’re supporters of flexible work schedules and know that hybrid work is here to stay. We believe flexible work boosts productivity and improves the employee experience when utilized correctly.

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Hybrid work as a slow-burn RTO strategy

I started noticing it about a year ago — fellow remote-working friends getting called back into the office for one or two days a week. But occasional, flexible office time wasn’t the end of the world for anyone I knew. Most employees who work a few days in the office are happy with the arrangement.

For my friends, things started getting weird when another round of company-wide emails stated employees needed to be there every day except for Fridays. Then, before they knew it, my unassuming pals (and employees worldwide) were glued to their office chairs five days a week.

The quick shift from hybrid work to RTO is more than anecdotal — one compelling example is the tech behemoth Salesforce. Salesforce publicly changed its stance on remote work from “the 9-to-5 workday is dead” to “employees do better if they’re in the office.”

RTO mandates are popping up everywhere, leaving many wondering if hybrid work was ever the end game.

Perhaps some corporations weren’t ready to announce an RTO strategy, knowing their employees would revolt. Instead, they used “hybrid work” as a warm-up to get employees used to the idea. If this is the case, employee engagement, already in decline, is seriously at risk.

RTO strategies without employee input are killing employee engagement

It’s impossible to say whether leadership teams are consciously using hybrid work as a disguise for returning employees to their offices full-time. But one thing that companies shouldn’t overlook is the impact strict RTO decrees can have on employee trust.

Collaborating with team members to create a hybrid work policy is one of the most impactful strategies Gallup has studied among employees returning to the office. Unfortunately, while this seems like a straightforward way to approach hybrid work, Gallup found it isn’t the norm.

While well over half of leadership teams (66%) think they’re being “very transparent” regarding their RTO policies, less than half of employees (42%) agree. Not surprising, considering most employees don’t want to return to the office five days a week.

Where do we go from here?

At Hubstaff, we know firsthand the impact of flexible work schedules on the employee experience. Our software is uniquely designed to support teams working wherever and whenever they feel most productive. That’s why we use it internally.

After everything people have been through with remote work, it’s fair to ask leadership teams to use employee input to shape their policies. In the spirit of cooperation, remove those tinfoil hats and focus on believing in and supporting leadership’s promised flexible working arrangements.

Category: Workforce Management