The call for a mass return to office in the name of productivity has come from many companies as we emerge from pandemic lockdowns. Why is a return in such fierce demand? Whilst some CEOs may be declaring this a step towards greater productivity, from where we’re sitting this retreat from flexible working could really be a step away from business success that costs staff wellbeing, too. A recent article from Bloomberg UK reports that the return to office could mean a loss of additional hours in the workplace that the flexibility of hybrid- and remote working allowed, a shift that experts note would disproportionately affect women in the workplace.
Flexible Working is Key to Productivity
Whilst we all faced awkward initial encounters with remote working, from kitchen table Zoom meetings to freezing cameras, the flexibility granted to many of us in the wake of national lockdowns has led to a much greater work-life balance and greater hours of productivity and focus. A call to return to the office seems to be motivated by an effort to regain the “normality” of the workplace, but as employers have also reaped the benefits of flexible working, from a broader talent pool to lower office overheads, we question whether this will really support business and employees in the long term. If anything, we are seeing a growing rift between employers and employees as work teams fight to maintain the productivity and workplace wellbeing that flexible working has allowed them over a return to office.
Possible Trajectories as the Struggle Continues
As this battle between employers and employees only continues as return-to-office demands grow louder, wellbeing and productivity will suffer. Companies that have embraced remote working or adopted hybrid models are seeing greater harmony between leadership and workforces, thanks to a shared respect of autonomy and flexibility, whilst those who insist on rejecting flexible working risk seeing a higher staff turnover and greater running costs.
Embracing Flexible Working for Optimum Productivity and Success
For a secure and successful future, it is essential for employers to recognise the importance of embracing flexible working arrangements. We know that the benefits are not limited to increased productivity and cost savings; they extend to enhanced employee morale, retention, and access to a diverse talent pool. Companies that prioritise flexibility are better positioned to attract and retain top talent, adapt to changing circumstances, and thrive in an evolving business landscape.
Facing the Future with Adaptive Innovation
Ultimately, the battle between employers and employees over a return to office call persists due to a clash of expectations rooted in the experiences of the pandemic. While some businesses remain steadfast in their desire to return to the past, it is becoming increasingly clear that productivity and economic gains are best achieved by adapting to the new normal and embracing flexible working.
To remain competitive and responsive to the evolving needs of the workforce, employers must embrace flexible working arrangements and recognise that the office of the future may not look like the office of the past. The success of businesses in this post-pandemic era hinges on their ability to strike a balance between tradition and innovation and to prioritise the well-being and preferences of their employees. Reach out to our expert team today to find the best way for you to prepare for the road ahead.