Recruiting U-turn Ahead: Decoding the Shift Back to the Office

By Chris Hoyt (he/him) posted 06-15-2023 12:45 PM


In a fascinating (but perhaps not surprising) turn of events that's sure to grab the attention of recruiting leaders, a recent article delves into the shift taking place in global workplaces. Companies that previously championed the remote work paradigm during the height of the pandemic are now doing a partial, or even complete, U-turn, mandating employees return to their offices. This reversal of remote work policies presents both challenges and opportunities for recruiting professionals.

For one, the leaders of these companies, perhaps motivated by the perceived benefit of face-to-face interaction for collaboration and productivity or driven by more hidden property commitments or tax implications of downtown empty offices, are prioritizing office presence despite resistance from employees. This has been met with significant backlash from workers, many of whom had restructured their lives around the flexibility of remote work both in the long and short-term.

Workers are quick to point out that some of them moved away from company locations or lost childcare help when they were allowed to work remotely. Companies that have changed their minds have faced some angry petitions from workers. “CEOs run the risk of ruining all the goodwill they built up during the pandemic,” says Dan Kaplan, a senior client partner in a CHRO practice.

On the other hand, these changes present a potential talent pool for organizations that continue to offer flexible remote work policies. With office occupancy currently hovering around 50% of pre-pandemic levels in the U.S., it's unclear whether this policy shift will have a significant effect on occupancy rates. The impact of this policy shift on employee morale and turnover rates could potentially be substantial.

Interestingly, early research indicates that remote work may not be optimal for all, particularly younger employees who may be missing out on crucial mentorship opportunities. However, it's important to note that the debate about the most productive work setting remains unresolved (but fun to discuss!)

This trend underscores the critical role recruiting leaders play in shaping work policies that balance organizational needs and employees' evolving expectations. The ability to strategically navigate these changes could be a key differentiator in the competition for talent in the new world of work.


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06-21-2023 10:48 AM

I understand that there are many roles across different industries that do not have the choice to be remote or hybrid. However, just because some roles cannot have a flexible status it does not mean that all have to be onsite. 

Having had the opportunity to have led geographically dispersed teams, I am a believer that it is on leaders to trust but verify work. Leaders who cannot embrace change and demand control of seeing employees in the office are missing the mark. Providing the business has the right technology in place, I find it hard to believe that in today's day in age, a leader cannot verify that their remote employee is being productive. 

06-16-2023 12:32 PM

Becca Herries (@beccaherries) | TikTok

The comments just kill me...

06-16-2023 08:29 AM

I always felt that the remote workforce was largely illusory and not real.   The reality is the super vast majority of all roles just cannot be done remotely.    I look at my 13,000 Associate workforce, and maybe about 1,000 of them can be done remote.    I hire F&B / Hospitality / Health / Ranchers / Police etc.   HVAC, Plumbers, Electricians, facilities.    I mean yes our IT positions can, a lot of Finance, good argument for HR, but almost all roles are in office.     Now add in AI, seems a license and easy case to just outsource remote roles to low cost countries elsewhere.   If you can pay someone for a role to WFH, just hire someone for pennies on dollar elsewhere.    I get a lot of employees want that flexibility, but be careful what you wish for.