By now, many readers have probably heard the latest statement from JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon on how remote work “doesn’t work for spontaneity [or] management.”
As the official policy stands, 50% of JPMorgan employees were asked to return to the office full-time, with another 40% working partially remote. The company drew ire from some employees as it used their ID badges to monitor who was going into the office.
What can leaders learn from this situation? Is there a clear course of action for other companies when it comes to flexible work arrangements? Let’s examine based on research data and industry trends.
What to consider for Return to Office (RTO)
According to HR Dive, 9 out of 10 companies are implementing some form of a return to office, or RTO, policies in 2023. The employer-employee relationship is central to this discussion.
For employers, in-person interactions can streamline projects and operations while encouraging rapport between team members. It can be difficult to maintain a cohesive company culture when some employees are in the office and others are remote, so leaders must be intentional in crafting hybrid policy. Maintaining one company culture is already challenging. Trying to maintain two separate cultures is even more so – yet that’s inherently the result of hybrid arrangements. In our conversations with hiring managers, we learn that they currently do not receive training or resources on improving the one culture. How then should we expect multiple workplace cultures to thrive?
Fortunately, adjustments can help address this divide. Consider these questions: What types of communication will ensure that everyone is on the same page? Are there meetings or work sessions best done on-site? Each company will have different needs and arrangements, but regardless, document what you decide in an accessible place (think intranet, SharePoint, Notion) and make sure all employees are familiar with the policy.
From an employee experience perspective, being told to return to an in-person setting can limit gains made in work-life balance and cost savings. More importantly though is the perception of trust. Does my employer think I’m not as productive outside of the office? Will I still have the flexibility I need to care for my other obligations? It’s crucial that managers check in regularly with their team members not just to receive work updates, but also to communicate what support the company offers.
What the data suggest about hybrid work
Putting aside the debate over RTO and remote work, Gallup surveyed over 140,000 employees in the United States about their experiences with remote and hybrid work, their learnings, and upcoming plans. In this study, about half of full-time workers shared that they can complete their current responsibilities remotely for at least part of the week.
Notably, 53% of employees with remote capabilities expect that their company will solidify hybrid working arrangements in the long-term. Another 24% will work fully remote. When compared with pre-pandemic statistics, this is almost double the number of remote workers for at least part of the week.
When it comes specifically to higher education professionals, 69% of employees surveyed by CUPA-HR reported preferring to work at least partially remote, but 63% currently work on-site. Asked what kind of working arrangement is ideal, respondents favored a hybrid environment. The authors of the report recommend that making small adjustments, such as offering employees one day to work from home, can be instrumental in retaining talent at colleges and universities.
The case for greater flexibility
The Gallup study also found that when required to work in-office full-time, employees who preferred hybrid or fully remote work experienced lower engagement and well-being and greater burnout and intent to leave. Higher commute time and flexible scheduling are among the main reasons why those surveyed expressed a preference for hybrid work. Mandating a return to office despite employee sentiment can risk setting them up to be actively disengaged with their work. While performance in the short-term might hold steady, the perceived lack of trust can very well contribute to turnover.
How then do leaders and managers sustain company culture and listen to employee needs? Some tips:
- Are there business hours when everyone is expected to attend a teamwide meeting? What about focused work time? Boundaries are only as good as they are kept to.
- HR or leadership may find it helpful to anonymously survey employees (e.g. quarterly), asking for feedback about what’s working well and identifying areas of improvement.
- Similarly, leaders can host “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) sessions or learning lunches where team members can receive updates on company-wide initiatives or address any concerns.
Implications for recruiting
The conversation surrounding remote, hybrid, and in-office doesn’t apply only to current employees, but also future hires. From a candidate perspective, people may consider an employer without flexible options not as attractive as one who does. This is not due to the policy itself, per se, but because of the impression of how people-first your culture is.
Does your company already offer flexible work arrangements and benefits such as back-up caregiving or financial assistance? That’s great! Be sure your job descriptions mention what is available and any other ways your organization prioritizes the well-being of its employees. Keep in mind that it’s not enough to brag about perks; be thoughtful about what you appreciate about your work culture and why a prospect should consider you over someone else.
If you are looking for additional candidate insights in this tight labor market, Another Source wants to partner with you for your recruiting needs. For over 30 years, we have used our innovative process to find you the most qualified prospects within our unique 21-day engagements for corporations and 30-day engagements for non-profits and higher education. Reach out to us anytime with the contact form to the right or via our social media on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Written by Evelyn Kwong 2023