scorecardCompanies forcing workers to come back to the office are creating a 'massive disruption' in their lives, workplace expert says
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Companies forcing workers to come back to the office are creating a 'massive disruption' in their lives, workplace expert says

Sawdah Bhaimiya   

Companies forcing workers to come back to the office are creating a 'massive disruption' in their lives, workplace expert says
Careers2 min read
  • Return-to-office mandates are a "disruption" to the lives of remote workers, a workplace expert says.
  • Many workers moved cities, bought houses, and invested in home offices during the pandemic.

Companies have been touting the benefits of returning to the office, including teamwork and collaboration, but a workplace expert said these mandates were actually causing a "massive disruption" in workers' lives.

Dan Schawbel, a future-of-work expert and managing partner at Workplace Intelligence, spoke to Business Insider about the impact return-to-office mandates might be having on workers and employee morale.

"It's a massive disruption on their life because originally they made decisions predicated on the fact that they could work remotely in a COVID world," Schawbel said.

"They made big decisions, especially millennials who had moved, they bought a house, they settled down, they had kids.

"Now those same employers that enabled them to have the freedom to live wherever they wanted to at that point in time and not have to worry about going to the office for safety reasons during COVID, now they're being asked to come back to the office."

Schawbel explained that these mandates were unattractive to workers because they "already invested so much time and emotion and energy into their decision to move or have flexibility."

Many remote workers also invested in having an office setup, including buying office equipment or designating a room as an office.

"There's that investment too, and they don't want to have to sell everything and come back to work," Schawbel said.

Major companies across the US have enforced RTO mandates in the past year, including Meta, Google, and Salesforce. Most recently, Dell told hybrid workers to come into the office three days a week.

CEOs have cited improved productivity, efficiency, and collaboration as some of the benefits of returning to the office.

But a recent study on S&P 500 firms by researchers at the Katz Graduate School of Business found RTO mandates didn't necessarily make workers more productive and had no significant impact on the profitability of the company.

In fact, Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economics professor, said making workers come back to the office would just make them unhappier.

"I think RTO mandates will reduce employee morale unless it is handled very carefully," Bloom told BI over email. "You are forcing employees back to the office, which is unlikely to be popular as otherwise they would have come of their own volition."

Schawbel pointed out that the "Great Resignation" was out, and the "Great Stay" was in, meaning workers are more likely to stay put due to current economic uncertainty.

They’re more focused on job security because there are fewer options to switch jobs easily.

Instead, Schawbel said, many workers would be "passively job searching" and "applying in secret" in their current role but without much luck.

There's a lot of demand for remote jobs and fewer roles to go around, and Schawbel noted that job seekers would have to compete with those who had been laid off as well as sought-after talent from Big Tech firms — all adding to employee dissatisfaction.

"How many TikToks do you see of people being pumped about work? There's a negative sentiment about work, and it comes down to being forced to come to the office, bad work conditions, and limited pay."




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