Why a heavy-handed return to work mandate can hurt your employer brand.

Not long ago, working from home seemed like the future of work and had become normal practice in most companies, particularly with younger members of the workforce who expected a flexible approach to how and when they completed their daily tasks.

However, in the last year it seems as though some in older generations, particularly those in management positions, can’t seem to grasp the benefits of this way of working and are now issuing edicts demanding their employees return to the office.

While it’s true to say that bringing teams back to the office can offer undeniable benefits, it’s also true that issuing heavy-handed mandates can risk doing more harm than good.

Here’s why forcing your employees back before they’re ready can boomerang on your employer brand:

1. Damaged Employee Morale:

Mandates often disregard individual needs and concerns, leading to resentment and disengagement. Feeling pressured to return despite personal circumstances (childcare, health risks, personal preferences) can damage morale and loyalty, leading to decreased productivity and increased turnover.

2. Reputational Hit:

In today’s talent-driven market, companies are judged by their treatment of employees. News of inflexible return-to-work policies quickly spread online, impacting your employer brand across social media, job boards, and industry forums. Negative buzz can deter top talent from even considering your company.

3. Missed Opportunity for Innovation:

The pandemic forced a global experiment in remote work, proving its viability and potential for many roles. Mandating full-time office presence ignores valuable lessons learned about increased productivity, flexibility, and employee satisfaction associated with remote or hybrid models.

4. Ignoring the War for Talent:

Today, employees have more choices than ever. Organisations with rigid return-to-work policies risk losing valuable talent to competitors who offer flexible and employee-centric work arrangements.

5. Increased Stress and Health Risks:

Forcing employees back before they’re comfortable can create unnecessary stress and anxiety, impacting their mental and physical well-being. This can lead to presenteeism (coming to work while unwell), increased sick leave usage, and potential burnout.

So, what’s the alternative? The Key is Flexibility and Trust:

  • Open Communication: Conduct surveys and have open dialogues to understand employee preferences and concerns.
  • Hybrid Models: Explore and offer hybrid work models that allow employees to choose where they work best.
  • Focus on Productivity: Shift the focus from physical presence to output and results, fostering a culture of trust and accountability.
  • Support and Resources: Provide resources and support to help employees transition back to the office or continue working remotely effectively.

By prioritising employee well-being and offering flexible work arrangements, companies can attract and retain top talent, boost morale, and build a strong employer brand that resonates in today’s evolving work landscape. Remember, happy and empowered employees are the foundation of a thriving business.

Are you demanding a return to the office? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!