Remote and hybrid work arrangements, seen as the future of work after the pandemic, are now falling out of favor as more CEOs are ordering employees back to the office. Over the past year, the trend of returning to the office has increasingly become an edict to return to a full-time office presence. So why are remote work policies changing?
According to a recent article from Entrepreneur, in 2022, 31% of companies operated full-time in the office, including companies that don’t have an option of working remotely, such as retail. Through the first half of this year, that number is up to 46%. Companies with a hybrid work arrangement dropped from 61% to 48%, and fully remote companies dropped from 7% to 5%.
A survey of CEOs in 2022 had only a 0.5% response of moving back to a full-time in-office work schedule, and in this year’s survey, only 5% of CEOs that have remote or hybrid work arrangements said they saw a decrease in productivity. Neither of these response rates aligns with the shift we’ve seen this year.
Benefits of remote and hybrid work arrangements include increased productivity, access to global talent, and less turnover. However, as one CEO shared, it requires more effort from the leadership team to maintain collaboration, communication, and culture. In essence, executive teams are falling back on what they know, full-time in-office workforces, instead of looking at how they can keep remote or hybrid arrangements while finding new ways to build relationships across teams.
Unsurprisingly, the shift back to a full-time in-office workforce is creating distrust among employees who believe that leadership has gone back on their word of having remote or hybrid work arrangements. The change also challenges employees who have built their lives around a remote or hybrid agreement. Some may have moved away from the office location or eliminated outside childcare. So how can leaders find a new way forward instead of relying on traditional norms?
Create a Remote Friendly Culture
To borrow a phrase, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Embrace the benefits of remote work options. The ability to attract global talent, provide flexible work arrangements, and embrace employee needs are long-term drivers of success.
Rethink Communication Strategies
If communication is challenging for remote employees, use technology to foster inclusivity and reduce isolation. There are a variety of video and digital options for teams to stay in real-time contact. It may require more team check-ins, but if they are appropriately structured, they keep everyone in the loop while allowing them to be productive in their preferred work arrangement.
Leverage Technology for Collaboration
As mentioned above, stay current with technology advancements. As the article notes, “invest in cutting-edge collaboration software, such as project management tools, video conferencing platforms, and file-sharing systems. These tools can bridge the gap between remote and in-office employees, ensuring that everyone remains connected and engaged, regardless of their physical location.”
Prioritize Team Bonding and Connection
Focus on employee engagement and support them in building relationships with other team members. Enabling them to connect with each other professionally and personally can create strong bonds and increase innovation. Ideas include ongoing team-building events that can be virtual or in person. Annual off-site retreats can provide full-time remote employees the opportunity to connect with peers face-to-face.
Invest in Training and Development
The changes in the workplace and the pace of technology have created a need for reskilling and upskilling employees. Continuing education has taken on an entirely new meaning over the past decade. Look for programs that provide best practices in remote working collaboration and communication techniques.
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