Return to the Office, or Not? Nine Points to Consider

Return to the Office

Ah, the return to the office. For some, it’s pure happiness — seeing people you haven’t seen in person in over two years, getting to know new colleagues, and being able to brainstorm and communicate in person. Bliss!

For others, it’s a little more complicated. After two years of working from home, it might mean an unnecessary commute, additional distractions, and a disruption to the work-life balance so many were able to cultivate during the pandemic.

Many companies have already made their decisions on whether they’ll be asking employees to make a 100% return to the office, employ a hybrid model, or adopt an entirely remote way of working. It’s a delicate balance and a tough decision. As Luis von Ahn, co-founder, and CEO of Duolingo puts it, “There’s a danger in being too hardline…top talent wants some amount of flexibility.”

So, how do you make the best decision for your company, your culture, and most importantly, your employees? According to our own Jen Emmons, it begins with asking yourself and the decision-makers in your company some tough questions. Here are the nine she suggests answering:

  1.  Have you surveyed employees to get a temperature gauge and unearth unintended consequences? This decision will impact everyone at your company differently, and the right questions will provide you with the knowledge that may impact the details of how and when you roll this decision out.
  2. Why is the decision being made? Ask yourself what your overall business results and metrics are showing you:
    • Are you meeting your goals with remote work?
    • Has performance been impacted positively, or negatively, or have you not seen much of a difference?
    • What positions are considered “required” to be in the office, and why?
    • Has customer satisfaction been negatively impacted by remote work, and what are the circumstances surrounding that impact?
    • And: If you require your employees to come back to the office, will your top performers stick around? They have the most opportunity to be hired away.
  3. Are you utilizing technology to its fullest extent? In some cases, the activities that “need” to be done in person can actually be done remotely with the right tech.
  4. Have you established effective metrics and reporting to measure productivity and results? This often eliminates the need for a manager to see how people are spending their time.
  5. Have you addressed specific situations in which certain individuals are not performing well remotely, versus it impacting all employees? Every employee has a different experience with remote work, so make sure you’re not basing your decision on a few people who have had challenges.
  6. Have you utilized your network connections to understand how leaders at other companies and various industries are leveraging and benefitting from a remote workforce?
  7. Do you understand how the investment of company assets and liabilities is impacting the decision to return to the office, and whether it’s time for a new strategic direction?
  8. Once you’ve made your decision, are you communicating it in a thoughtful way, including the needs of the business and ensuring it aligns with the cultural aspirations of your organization?
  9. And, not so much a question, but: This is a complex decision. Make sure you take caution to avoid drastic changes until a variety of factors are considered.

If you’re looking for a group to talk through some of these questions, we’re here. Over the past two years, Carex has worked with a variety of companies who have weighed the pros and cons of their work environments, so we have plenty of varied perspectives.