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Will mandatory “return-to-office” improve employee performance or vice versa? | Experts’ Opinions

By Catalina Russu

Will mandatory “return-to-office” improve employee performance or vice versa? | Experts’ Opinions

Although it now seems like it’s been around forever, working from home was almost a utopian dream just a few years ago. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the trends in remote working greatly accelerated and while some employees acknowledge certain benefits of this, such as an improved work-life balance, reduced spending, and increased productivity, others complain about experiencing something they never have before – burnout. Today, with the pandemic being declared over, 90% of companies predict they will return to their offices by the end of 2024. With this in mind, the question as to whether mandatory return-to-office (RTO) policies will improve performance or lead to more people quietly quitting becomes fairly serious. Let’s see what DevelopmentAid experts have to say about this issue.

Key Takeaways:

  • In a survey conducted by LinkedIn, more than half of the respondents believe that remote work is effective for their industry.
  • Most company executives believe that returning to the office in 2024 will boost revenue, improve company culture, and increase employee productivity.
  • Experts highlight that mandatory return-to-office policies can encourage collaboration, improve communication, and foster team dynamics.
  • On the other hand, some employees may experience dissatisfaction or reduced motivation with a mandatory return to the office leading to potential resignations.

DevelopmentAid: In your opinion, will mandatory RTO improve performance or lead to increased ‘quiet quitting’?

Selevasio Lebaiwasa, international expert
Selevasio Chandra, Human Resources Specialist

“Mandatory RTO policies can have both positive and negative effects on performance and employee satisfaction. On one hand, office work can improve performance by fostering collaboration, boosting communication, and enhancing team dynamics. Being physically present in the office allows for spontaneous interactions, brainstorming sessions, and face-to-face discussions that can lead to increased productivity and innovation. However, on the flip side, it may also lead to more quiet quitting or employees leaving the company. Some individuals thrive in remote work environments and may feel constrained or less motivated when forced to return to the office. This could result in decreased job satisfaction, a worse work-life balance, and ultimately, employees seeking opportunities elsewhere. It’s important for organizations to find a balance that works for both the company and its employees. Flexible working arrangements, such as hybrid models, can provide the best of both worlds, allowing employees to have some days in the office for collaboration while still having the flexibility to work remotely when needed. Ultimately, the impact of mandatory RTO on performance and employee retention will vary depending on the specific circumstances and the needs of the individuals involved. It’s crucial for companies to consider the preferences and well-being of their employees when making such decisions.”

Mohammad Bakkour, international development consultant
Mohammad Bakkour, international development consultant

“Returning to the office is mainly related to the nature of the work, and whether tasks can be done remotely or not. As is known, physical meetings can significantly reduce the rate of misunderstanding and facilitate access to information or the requested person and, on the other hand, it can put more psychological pressure on workers and employees, especially with the large amount of time they spend at work (long working hours) far away from their families, and the period they need to go to work and return home, which leads to more quiet quitting. Each model has pros and cons. Remote work is a new work system that has not been studied, and most managers and workers in administrative positions have the mentality of working in offices so it is difficult for them to apply the remote management model and they face problems in leadership and management remotely. I believe that more studies should be conducted on the remote work model, appropriate training should be carried out for both managers and workers, and controls for remote work should be established in the event that it is implemented and modern technologies are used more widely.”

Koulet Konan Clement, human resources specialist
Koulet Konan Clement, human resources specialist

“Mandatory RTO will improve business performance. The obligation of a minimum of service downtime due to IT problems, if relevant, will necessarily increase the volume of activities of the company. This will lead to an increase in the company’s performance. Indeed, the company will be able to develop its production strategies by better controlling the time factor of computer failures. Thus, more controlled production planning will not only make it possible to obtain productivity gains but also to control production and delivery times. From the employee perspective, a reduction in stress linked to the uncertainty generated by service downtime due to IT problems will give them more confidence and make them more efficient. Reducing stress will lower the rate of absenteeism induced by work incidents and cardiovascular diseases. There will certainly be quieter service interruptions because with the return to the office announced by 90% of companies, service interruptions will no longer be as noisy as in the case of teleworking since the employee is present at their workstation but this will not prevent the productivity gain that RTO will generate.”

Mohammad Ali Kazmi, Democratic Governance Expert
Mohammad Ali Kazmi, Democratic Governance Expert

“The pandemic brought the world to a standstill and reshaped our perception of work, prompting a re-evaluation of traditional dynamics. With the advances in technology and internet access, the notion of remote work, which had been gradually gaining traction since the early 2000s, found sudden relevance as COVID-19 compelled organizations to devise strategies to ensure business continuity amid lockdowns and health safety concerns. Employees globally have become accustomed to the workforce management policies (WFM) during the past couple of years, and find it more suitable to manage their personal responsibilities during working hours. Due to the staggering rise in the cost of living and fuel prices, remote working has become an ideal option for middle-income families to manage their expenses, especially with minimal compensation adjustments from employers. Statistics show a significant improvement in productivity levels of employees working remotely, which should be a major consideration while rolling out the mandatory RTO 2024 policy. In my opinion, mandatory RTO should only be implemented for those employees whose physical presence is necessary with others offered a flexible working arrangement. Abrupt policy changes risk workforce attrition, creating opportunities for organizations with established remote work options. Balancing necessity and flexibility is crucial to navigating the evolving landscape of work in a post-pandemic era.”

Ruphin Aganze, Grants and Compliance Manager
Ruphin Aganze, Grants and Compliance Manager

“My thinking starts with an understanding of the context that prevailed during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic and which motivated the adoption of this mode of working to justify the reluctance shown by some employees and even some employers to return to the old mode of working the traditional mode. Remote working was an option dictated by the health context created by COVID-19, whose extremely contagious nature required the avoidance of all contact between individuals as an effective control and mitigation measure against this highly deadly disease. Thus, maintaining work appeared to be both a necessity and a requirement. So, an alternative had to be found to maintain work within a framework that would not allow the spread of COVID-19 and thus the option of remote working, thanks to advances in ICT. Although it is true that this could only apply to certain types of professions and not to all of them, a distinction was made between professions in which employees were subject to compulsory confinement in the workplace, notably the industrial and medical sectors, and others requiring the physical presence of employees for services that could not be provided remotely but management functions and responsibilities could be carried out remotely. The evaluation for certain types of jobs showed that the performance was almost the same or superior to that of face-to-face work and, in addition, companies made savings. It is these advantages that are likely to motivate some people to resign if they are called to the RTO working way, and even some employers would prefer to keep the old way of working for certain types of jobs in order to preserve the savings that remote working makes possible. However, if 90% of companies prefer to return to the office, and this happens systematically, employees will be obliged to comply because it will be a generalized situation. All of those who would like to resign would not be able to join the 10% of companies that are not part of the system at the moment, especially with the idea that the 10% of companies still opting for remote working could also join other companies over time.”

Del H Khan, international expert
Del H Khan, international expert

“According to PwC, a whopping 83% of employers think remote work is “the bomb!”, and 55% of us would rather be chilling at home in our PJs, working at least three days a week. Stanford University chimes in with some hard-hitting stats – remote workers are apparently 13% more productive, happier than a seagull with a french fry, and less likely to pull a Houdini on their jobs. Now, McKinsey & Company slides into the scene, waving the hybrid model flag like it’s the hottest thing since sliced bread. They say it’s not just about the job – it’s about diversity, equity, and inclusion. In other words, mandatory RTO might just throw a wrench in the gears of progress on that front. LinkedIn drops some truth bombs too – 83% of job seekers are on the prowl for flexible working arrangements. And here’s the kicker: 57% of us would seriously consider ghosting our jobs if remote work options vanish. In a world where remote is the new black, forcing everyone back to the office is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s clear as day – if we want to keep the rockstars on our team, we need a savvy, tailored approach that caters to the modern workforce’s diverse needs. Because, in the post-pandemic jungle, it’s either “adapted” or “get left behind”. Let’s keep it real, keep it flexible, and keep our workforce thriving!”

Atef Malak, TVET&LM Consultant
Atef Malak, TVET&LM Consultant

“According to some experts, going back to work full-time by the end of 2024 will be beneficial from two perspectives: it will boost production and foster better relationships between management and employees. On the other hand, other experts think that RTO will have a negative effect on staff productivity and that many staff members may leave their positions in search of new opportunities. It initially depends, in my opinion, on the economic sector. Regarding the production industry, RTO will undoubtedly increase employee dedication and productivity across a range of industrial lines. But that might not be the case in other economic sectors, like ICT, programming, internet marketing, and other online services.”

See also: Pros and cons of the 4-day working week in the development sector | Experts’ Opinions

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