- According to a recent Korn Ferry report, employers are worried that employees will return to the office carrying over bad habits they have picked up during the pandemic while working remotely.
- One worry expressed in this report is that a great deal of the influx of Gen Z workers entering offices will have only had non-office work experience.
- The positive habits picked up by workers during the pandemic by working remotely or working in a hybrid environment vastly outweigh the negative.
The pandemic brought changes to the world of work that will stick around indefinitely, the most salient of which is the increasing rate of workers who opt to do their work remotely.
Many workers are returning to the office in the wake of the “Great Return,” driven mainly by employer ultimatums to either come back to the office or get lost/risk pay and benefit reductions.
According to a recent Korn Ferry report, employers are worried that employees will return to the office carrying over bad habits they have picked up during the pandemic while working remotely.
On the one hand, this is a largely misplaced worry. The positive habits picked up by workers during the pandemic by working remotely or working in a hybrid environment vastly outweigh the negative. But, on the other hand, in many cases, a return to the office itself is genuinely questionable.
Likewise, the negatives are easily fixable through hybrid options, coworking spaces, and even remote options. In each case, there will be no reduction in productivity or oversight, making workers happier and, therefore, more likely to stay at a company.
What are employers’ worries?
Korn Ferry’s report illustrates several central concerns employers have with the ensuing and upcoming return to office work.
One worry expressed in this report is that a great deal of the influx of Gen Z workers entering offices will have only had non-office work experience. It is unclear whether companies are prepared to handle the potential fallout from this lack of knowledge.
Another worry is that workers – having worked from home for nearly two years – have become “sloppy” in their work because workplaces generally have become “too casual.”
Thus, there is a worry that habits such as working while sick, choosing one’s hours, dressing too informally, and general insubordination will ensue upon the mass return to the office.
Are employers’ worries unwarranted?
The worries expressed by employers in the Korn Ferry report are – for the most part – unwarranted.
For one thing, whatever such employers meant by “sloppy,” they cannot mean this in terms of worker performance, as research has shown that remote workers are either more or equally as efficient as their in-office counterparts.
This lack of reductions in productivity must be said of dressing casually because the employers of the report attribute the advent of remote work to the beginning of being too casual in the workplace.
However, we need not deduce that conclusion from Korn Ferry’s report alone. There is research demonstrating that loosening dress codes make workers more productive.
The only genuine worry in the Korn Ferry report is workers coming into work sick. Just before the pandemic, a Robert Half poll showed that 90% of workers come to work when they are sick.
Post-pandemic research indicates that workers’ attitudes about working while sick have not changed much. Therefore, in these cases – when they are detectable (which, in most cases, they are not) – some form of reproaching is in order.
How can employer worries about employee habits be fixed?
The first step for employers to alleviate their worries about the habits employees might bring into the office is to focus on the positives.
Employers have been ignoring the positives of remote work since the very beginning of the pandemic to the detriment of their relationship with their employees.
Next, employers will need to realize that most of the problems on their minds are either non-existent or long-standing and unfixable.
All an employer can do in response to workers coming into the office sick is to make an example of those caught and to make not doing so a precedent. But, apart from that, there is no other way to prevent employees from coming into the office sick.
In turn, what these two steps must lead to – along with employee demands for more flexibility– is an embrace of remote work and hybrid work options, lest employers want to continue the long-standing labor shortage and hiring crisis.
Another way would be to incorporate coworking spaces close to employees’ homes and not necessarily near the office of management. Workers flourish under coworking conditions because they help build a sense of autonomy, community, and meaning for employees.
Despite employer worries, there is a lot to be grateful for in the new work modalities being so swiftly and widely adopted. Workers can work at the same – if not better – without leaving their homes.
In some cases, of course, some jobs are simply better done in person. And in these cases, employees are generally eager to return to the office.
In others – particularly those that flourished online during the pandemic – there is no good reason to return, and many workers are rightfully reluctant to give up their newfound flexibility and independence.
Employers can respect this by providing a wide variety of options for work modalities, including in-office possibilities for those who prefer it. If any habits are brought back that were products of remote work, they will almost exclusively be positive habits, not negative ones.