Return to office: how to come to an arrangement that suits both you and the company

Return to Office Mandates: What to Do When Your Employer Calls You Back

The COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the attitudes of both employers and employees about the feasibility of working from home. However, what appeared at first to be a radical and permanent change in work models is being muted as greater numbers of employees face return to office mandates. While some managers are embracing a shift to hybrid or remote work models, a survey of senior managers in the U.S. found that 66% want a full time return to office.

Employees themselves are much less emphatic about not returning to the office. According to a recent survey that compared employee attitudes between 2021 and 2022, 44% preferred remote work in 2022, down from 68% in 2021. However, 33% of respondents in 2022 still said they would quit or search for a new job immediately if forced by a return to office mandate.

So, what should you do if your employer implements a back-to-office mandate? Below are a few questions to consider when making your decision.

Why Does Your Employer Want a Return to Office?

After all the research showing productivity increases, improvements in job satisfaction, and enhanced employee engagement, why are some employers still committed to getting employees back on-site? It turns out that while initial studies revealed many benefits to work from home arrangements, further research has reduced expectations and brought to light new challenges of remote work.

1. Less Collaboration

While bonds between teammates remained strong after over a year of working remotely, a study of Microsoft employees found that connections outside the team were beginning to weaken. The concern here is that the 100% remote work environment is creating silos of information that can reduce efficiency and stifle innovation.  

2. Confusion About Productivity

Most research conducted over the past few years indicates that the productivity of remote workers is as good or better than when working in-person. However, there are some studies finding productivity has decreased as well. This lack of a definitive answer is leading some to take a conservative approach.  

3. Fewer Advancement Opportunities

One concern among remote workers and employers is the potential for remote workers to get passed over for promotions and projects due to a lack of face time. This potential was recently coined the “Zoom Ceiling” by Dr. Elora Voyles. So far, studies are backing her hypothesis revealing that remote workers receive promotions at half the rate of their in-person colleagues.   

4. Challenges Creating Equitable Hybrid/Remote Work Policies

Most companies don’t have a strategy for building an effective hybrid work culture. Because this complex issue is one that is going to take considerable effort to get right, some companies don’t want to take the risk of getting it wrong. This is especially true of companies and managers who prefer the status quo.

Can You Negotiate With Your Employer Regarding a Return to Office?

While a few companies are taking a hard line with return to office mandates, others are open to considering remote and hybrid alternatives. In addition, the myriad of models being developed indicates that one size does not fit all in this situation. This means now is an ideal time to negotiate and collaborate with your employer to create a situation that works best for everyone.

A good place to start is by preparing and submitting a well-researched proposal. This document can serve as a basis for negotiation allowing you to emphasize the benefits and address any concerns. Whether you are submitting a proposal to work 100% remotely permanently or a hybrid work proposal, you need to address the following points:

Practical Considerations

Include your suggested work hours, information security protocols, technology requirements, access to Wi-Fi, and general work environment. You want to assure your manager that there will be no work disruptions due to working remotely.

Communication Challenges

With communication a hot button topic, you may need to spell out strategies. Explain how you will maintain and expand your internal professional network. Don’t forget to include meetings with your manager as these will be key to avoiding the Zoom ceiling.

Address Specific Concerns

Is your employer concerned with any of the points listed above? If so, do your best to suggest ways to avoid potential problems before they arise. This will reduce their objections and make it easier for them to say yes.

Work Location(s)

This is where you outline where you want to work. Whether you want to work from a different state, various locations worldwide, or two days a week from home, it’s important to be specific. This is because there are a variety of liability insurance, tax ramifications, and healthcare obstacles that can arise.

Pay Expectations

Under most circumstances, a cut in pay or benefits should not be part of the discussion. However, some firms have threatened reductions for remote employees. Also, a recent survey indicates that 45% of respondents are still willing to take a pay cut in exchange for remote work. If you think it should be part of the conversation, then include it.

Current Policies and Organizational Demand

If there is a group of you in the same boat, or you know that HR is currently working on new policies, get involved and collaborate where possible. Point out these efforts in your proposal and emphasize the benefits.

Once submitted, it is important to keep an open mind and be prepared to compromise if warranted.

What Should You Know Before You Quit Your Job to Avoid a Return to Office Mandate?

Sometimes there is no way to avoid a return to office mandate. If you decide that this is not acceptable, you can choose to find another position. One that is more closely aligned with your values. Before you quit, however, make sure to answer the following questions:

Can You Negotiate a Solution With Your Current Employer?

If you like your job and current employer otherwise, make sure you exhaust your avenues trying to negotiate a solution. These changes may take time as companies grapple with new policies and procedures. Being patient may be a better solution than quitting.

How In-Demand Is Your Position With Other Companies?

If you are in a high-demand profession, there may be little downside to quitting and finding another position. You may want to do some research first, however. Sometimes demand for certain positions is exaggerated, only applies to specific experience, or is only available in certain areas.

Are There Jobs Advertised for Your Position That Are 100% Remote?

Before quitting, check the job listings for remote positions in your field. This is especially if your job is usually completed in-person. Even after two years of remote work, there are many employers who still think certain positions can’t be effectively completed off-site. Make sure that there is a good selection of positions advertised that offer remote work arrangements before you quit.

Can You Survive Financially if You Quit Before Securing Another Job?

Give yourself a financial checkup to make sure you can weather a period without income. Unemployment insurance doesn’t usually apply if you quit, and you may be on your own. A six-month buffer should get you through, depending on your seniority. It can take six months to a year to find a new executive position.

Do You Need to Upskill?

If you identify skill gaps between your experience and the jobs you want, you may need to upskill. It never goes wrong to take online courses in remote collaboration techniques either. Undertaking professional development during periods of unemployment can also be very effective in minimizing gaps in your resume.

Are You Ready to Start Searching for a 100% Remote Job?

When you decide to quit your job to find a remote opportunity, it can be an intimidating process. Let Virtual Vocations be your job search partner. Search our comprehensive databases of 100% remote jobs and remote-friendly companies. Discover our professional resume and LinkedIn profile writing services.  In addition, we offer a variety of individual and group job counseling services for a more personal touch.

Did your company demand you to return to the office? Did you raise your concerns about the mandate with your employer? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!

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