Most managers working remotely these days are eager to head back to the office full-time – but their direct reports? Not so much, according to a new study. The findings shed light on why managers and staff disagree on office-based work after a period of lockdown – and how talent leaders can address this divergence.
On one hand, executives are almost three times more inclined to return to the office for the entire work week. In fact, seven in 10 executives (68%) plan to work in the office most or all of the time.
These results reflect the views of a number of CEOs who have gone on record urging—and some even demanding—that employees report to work in a physical office. Take the Big Banks for example.
On the other hand, among mid- and entry-level professionals, the greater majority (76%) remain hesitant to work in a shared environment on a full-time basis. Only 17% of work-from-home employees hope to work in their corporate office every day, according to a global report from team collaboration software Slack.
Failing to listen to employees can be costly
This may be a cause of concern for companies looking to update workplace policies in response to the COVID-19 global health crisis. The study from Slack found that two out of every three executives are making changes to office rules but with "little to no direct input" from workers.
Overlooking employee needs amid the pandemic can prove costly since more than half of white-collar professionals (57%) polled by Slack are hoping to change employers in the next 12 months.
"The view of the office looks different from the top," said Brian Elliott, Executive Leader of the Future Forum, a consortium that aims to "reimagine" the digital-first workplace.
"While executives are banging down the door to get back to their corner offices, non-executive employees are demanding flexibility in where and when they work. Companies must do more to bridge this gap in order to attract and retain top talent," Elliott said.
These conflicting views on the return to the office likely stem from differences in the job satisfactions levels between executive and non-executive employees. Amid the shift to a physical work environment, executives' overall satisfaction level purportedly increased 3% while non-executives saw the same indicator decrease 5%.
Flexibility in workplace policies was crucial to the success particularly of employees of colour, women and working parents, the study found.
"Many executives are holding on to the remnants of the past and failing to see this as an inflection point in the workforce," said organisational psychologist Ella Washington.
The approach to hybrid working may vary by organisation and culture, but the study recommends three guiding principles:
• Embrace flexibility
• Train and reward inclusion
• Build connection through transparency
"If employees don't pay attention and take action to recreate the best of what we've learned working virtually in the office and in hybrid work environments, then opportunities for inequity can skyrocket," Washington said.