Recruitment Marketing|Thought Leadership|Trends|

Navigating labor market dynamics and other variables, many companies rely on hybrid work models to strike the right balance with their RTO approach.

Your professional life doesn’t have to extend back beyond the era of flip phones and the dot-com bubble to know the ol’ management saying “Our employees are the most valuable resource.” Companies had to demonstrate that belief in unprecedented ways during COVID-19. Now post-pandemic bosses are pushing again for a return to office (RTO), but what’s the right approach in this new age of employee flexibility?

The Wall Street Journal examined the delicate balance between worker and workplace in a year with almost 120 million square feet of new office space on the way to a sector already experiencing a record 217.8 million square feet of available sublease space, according to Colliers.


Time was on the side of employees during the pandemic. We cited in this space research that predicted the increase in work from home would result in a 4.6 percent boost in productivity for the economy due to workers spending approximately 435 million fewer hours commuting each month, with about a third of that savings shifting to work time.

That was then, this is now. With Labor Day not only the traditional end of summer, but also a symbolic restart to routine, many company leaders used the calendar transition as an opportunity to transition back to the office. Some have taken a tougher stance on remote workers or sent reminders to staff or simply upped the number of in-office days required. The willingness of employees to return to the office has increased with COVID-19 cases in decline.


WSJ reports that the position of bosses has strengthened due to the weakening economy. The threat of layoffs obviously leaves less ground to stand on for the more empowered workers of the last 2.5 years, thus making them feel more compelled to return to the office. Although with unemployment at 3.7%, the economy can’t quite be labeled an employer’s market yet, but big layoff headlines, including Ford Motor Company and Netflix, do carry a lot of weight.

Data is another option for strengthening management’s RTO case. WSJ reports that some corporate leaders are linking identification-badge swipe data with other metrics to communicate how employees who go to the office regularly are more productive and engaged.

Balancing Act

There are undeniable factors going against RTO. Employees have embraced flexibility and there is certainly no love lost between employees and their old commutes. As for following expanded freedom with a forced policy, Katarina Berg, Spotify’s human-resources chief, told WSJ, “If you recruit grown-ups and then you treat them as kids, it’s going to backfire.”

With bosses more interested in the benefits of coming into the office and workers such fans of flexibility, what can be done? Balance is key and the hybrid work model is the best solution to that end. It promotes collaboration, including helping younger employees connect with senior colleagues, and helps energize corporate culture.

“People choose to work in flexible office and traditional company office spaces for similar reasons — largely to socialize, collaborate and feel connected,” said Bryan Berthold, global lead of Workplace Experience at Cushman & Wakefield.

“We’ve heard the saying ‘never waste a good crisis,’ well now we’re past the crisis, but a major challenge remains,” said Vince Vitti, infinitee’s vice president of business development and the firm’s recruitment marketing guru. “Negotiating a successful return to the office will demand not only management authenticity and transparency and upgraded amenities, but also deftly harmonizing HR efforts with a flexibility-focused and much more aware, health-conscious employee. We are here to help!”


Comments are closed.