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Return to Office Resistance

My organization wants to bring as many people back to the office as possible, but some of us don’t want to go—or at least go as little as possible. Should we push for the ability to work remotely?



Answer: Thanks for the question. It’s a challenging time for organizations, leaders, and managers as they figure out how much people should work in the office. There are reasons why organizations are asking employees to return—at least some of the time—and reasons why many employees don’t want to return at all, or as little as possible.


Why Organizations Want Employees to Return

From an organizational perspective, the work-from-anywhere time during COVID has illuminated areas in which work or culture have suffered. In brief, here are some reasons.


Innovation

For some types of collaborative creative, innovation work, reports are that remote work came at a cost. Many of us lost those synergistic sparks of creativity that can happen when people are in the same room working on a problem.


Belonging and Engagement

Those zings of intense collaboration can lead to deepening trust in colleagues, engagement in the work’s mission, and a sense of belonging—to our colleagues and our organization. Remote work has led us to feel less attached to our organization and its people.


Culture and Acculturation

New hires feel this most intensely: With remote work, it’s much harder to perpetuate and convey a coherent sense of culture and to train new employees in that culture.


Evaluating Performance

Although “butts in seats” is a poor way to assess employees’ performance—or even as a proxy for dedication—it can be challenging for managers of remote employees to determine how to evaluate the employees.


Why Employees May Not Want to Return to Office Full Time

There are reasons why employees may want to work remotely as much as possible.


Briefly, these include:

  • Less or no commuting time,

  • Less or no money spent on commuting

  • The freedom and flexibility that comes with working in a different environment (e.g., home, vacation location),

  • The greater flexibility in attending to family, medical, or personal obligations

  • A greater sense of autonomy and independence over the work.

If working remotely is working for you, it’s easy to see why you’d be reluctant to go back to the office.


Push Back on Return to the Office?

Before you decide whether to push back on the request to return to the office. Here are some suggestions.


  • Ask what the organization’s goals are in having people (or having you) back in the office; think about whether there are ways to achieve those goals with you working remotely. If so, consider discussing those with your manager. (Note, if the organization has an organization-wide back to work policy, you may not get very far in asking for special consideration.)

  • Ask whether the organization plans to assess how things are going viz back to office work. Will they be surveying employees or obtaining some type of data to determine whether the policy is achieving their goals?

  • Keep an open mind Try going back to the office and see what it’s actually like. You may find that the organization is on to something by asking folks to return at least part-time.



Disclaimer: This question and response is provided for informational purposes only, and you should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this content. It is strongly recommended that you immediately seek legal or other professional advice if you believe you are experiencing a problem requiring professional assistance. Robin Rosenberg and Live in Their World, Inc. disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on Dear Robin content.



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