It feels like the effects of the pandemic have been here forever. Sure, remote and hybrid work models came to the rescue when companies needed their employees the most. But the dust is more or less settled, and employers are now starting to wonder how they should ask their employees to return to the office.
Alas, not everyone is happy about it.
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WFH: Perspective of Employees and Employers
From the perspective of employees, the last thing they want is to compromise on their flexibility to work from home. But as it turns out, employers have more than one reason to ask remote employers to return to the office. When you’re dealing with virtual coordination and communication, information often slips through the cracks. But there is no need for employers to bear the burn when a good chunk of the American workforce wants to return to the office.
Many employees have created a comfy home office to work and play at the same time. But for a lot of employees, working remotely from home has been a somewhat claustrophobic experience. Seriously, there are a lot of accounts where remote employees feel as if they’re trapped in jail and can’t concentrate on work at all. And that’s because employees are mistaking absolute comfort with productivity.
Comfort instills a state of relaxation that makes you feel sluggish. But when you’re coordinating, collaborating, and communicating in the fast-paced office environment, employees automatically feel like they’re tuned to be productive. And when coffee hits the spot – productivity reaches new heights, and employers can keep an eye on performance standards and hundred other metrics in-person.
Yes, there are arguments about “why” and “how” employees are equally as productive as they are in the conventional work environment. But there are a lot of facets within a work environment that requires the physical presence of employees to be part of the team.
What about Flexibility?
Right now, employers understand that the tide is turning in their favor. Many HR professionals believe that the demand from employers to ask their employees to return to work is practical. As far as flexibility goes, employers agree that modernized office workspaces will need a new structural design that makes employees feel more at home.
If you’ve ever been to Silicon Valley and had the chance to see how employees work in tech giant companies like Meta and Google, that’s what the global workforce is demanding. It’s the ability not to be tied to a traditional small workstation and the freedom to hang out in the workplace without fear of repercussions.
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The job marketplace had already become too complicated before the pandemic. But now, employers want to have a direct impact on “how” employees work and function in the physical workspace. In short, the demand for top-notch flexibility from employees has been heard by employers. The question is how soon most of the workforce can be on the same page and start working from the office.
Well, this is where things get a bit more complicated. Depending on the job responsibilities and industry, some employees may have to adapt to in-person and hybrid work models. But for the most part, employers feel there is an urgent need to bring the workforce back to the office.
Here are the main reasons employers continue to ask their remote workers to return to the office:
Work-from-Home Employees Often Need More Clarification
When it comes to working with remote workers, managers often have to explain even the smallest details of a project. Why is that a problem? Well, if managers used up their time explaining the “basics” of a project or task, it would leave little to no room for actual work.
There are more limitations than benefits to remote work like the inability to create a vibrant office culture with proper coffee brew stations.
Asking “why” a particular aspect of a project is there or simply coordinating is productive. But when office managers are overwhelmed by endless questions from remote workers, it brings productivity standards to the ground and creates confusion around virtual work operations.
Not to mention, it also makes it difficult for managers and employers to meet clients’ expectations. The more time managers spend “listening” to remote workers rather than actually working – the more chaos there will be in the office. In a way, employees cast a shadow on a project that holds back every other employee.
Again, when it comes to work-from-home, business leaders are open about “how” it makes employees distracted, puzzled, and outright inefficient. There is no secret agenda here for employers – it is a simple plea to reason with employees to see operations from their perspective, and endless WFH distractions and miscommunication are impacting the work itself. With WFH standards, employers are also losing sight of their organizational culture.
New WFH Employees Lack on-the-Job Training
Ever since the remote work option came into play, it has become difficult for employers to implement on-the-job training for new employees. You may not realize it, but on-the-job training is important to improve employees’ skills and learn how to take care of tasks efficiently.
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When WFH became a reality, the ability of managers or senior executives to guide new employees through on-the-job training disappeared. Now, you can make an argument that job training is possible through a virtual environment.
Sure, on the surface, it is possible to implement virtual job training, but it generalizes the process. Here's the thing - virtual training depends on digital communication, and managers can see new hires struggle to grasp virtual job training. Managers believe that it takes a personal touch to perform job training in the office environment.
Think of it through the apprenticeship model – you wouldn’t dream of learning or mastering a skill virtually. So, employers arguably justly that one of the weakest links of WFH is that it compromises the on-site-job training protocols and causes serious damage to the company.
Difficulty Rising to Company Leadership Positions
How do you think executives and business leaders got to positions where they are right now? Executive ranks in the corporate world boil down to whether or not employees are opportunistic enough to take advantage of an opportunity and have an in-person presence in the office.
When the work from home became a new norm, it slowed down the process for employers to promote the most talented employees to executive positions. Remember, leaders are not born – they’re made. And within the boundaries of conventional office workspace, new and existing employees continue to learn from each other.
Like, when new hires see the most charismatic and energetic executives in person rather than in a zoom meeting, it motivates them to bring out their A-game and surpass employers’ expectations. So, if remote employees want to climb the ladder of success, they have to be part of the office workspace.
If you’re worried about having to deal with disingenuous and overconfident suck-ups that divert blame all the time, then understand that these things can happen over a Zoom meeting too. Besides, there is no need for remote workers to be worried about office politics when employers are more than willing to modernize their traditional work environments.
Employers also believe that tracking employees’ performance on-site is easier and more efficient than having to rely on digital tools. And when employers cannot track employees’ performance at every turn, it makes it difficult for office managers to see the big picture.
WFH Makes it Difficult for Employees to Move Forward
Some might say that remote workers are stuck in the past and need to see that employers are trying to normalize office work standards and practices. Employers have the right to ask remote workers to return to work because it is time.
Can you imagine? Asking your boss that you want to work remotely “before” the pandemic crisis? In fact, this notion of working remotely on such a large scale would have been unfathomable had it not been for the COVID-19 crisis.
At the end of the day, it makes practical, ethical, and logical sense for employees to listen to employers and see how they can meet their demand to work from the office. During the peak pandemic crisis, many employers lost organizational cultures and control over their workers.
As the New Year gets closer, employers feel they’ve earned the right to ask employees to return to the office. It would be fair to say that the debate over WFH is not going to end any time sooner. But the fact is asking employers to work remotely would have sounded like a trick question.
In all seriousness, employers no longer ignore the preferences of their employees. Once employees head back to the office, HR professionals believe that the ball would drop in employers’ court to take up the mantle and meet the modern workspace needs of their office employees.
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By: Brandi Marcene