Companies Getting Tougher on Return-to-Work Measures

By: James Flippin · July 11, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sticks Over Carrots

The pandemic may have ushered in a new era of remote work, but companies appear keener than ever to usher it back out.

Gone are the days of softer, incentive-driven approaches. Some firms have adopted a stricter stance, warning employees that fail to comply with return-to-work directives could‌ affect bonuses, work assignments, and other key performance metrics.

This change signals an evolving corporate approach in a bid to get back to business as usual.

Perks Lose Luster

Post-pandemic, many firms employed a range of incentives to entice employees to return to the office, such as free food, group-bonding activities, and happy hours. These “carrots” evidently haven’t hit the mark in coaxing employees to fully follow in-office mandates.

Major companies including Google (GOOGL) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) are among those adopting a harder line in their return-to-work policies. For example, Google informed employees their degree of compliance to the mandates would be weighed in performance reviews.

The shift marks a significant departure from the cultural approach companies had been previously using to encourage employees back into the office. Notably, recent signs suggest the Great Resignation may be winding down, which may be empowering employers to take a firmer hand in making the workplace return to what it once was.

Cost of Compliance

With the job-hopping trend slowing down, employers might see an opportunity to impose stricter, less incentive-based approaches. But tightening the reins on return-to-work policies could have significant repercussions nonetheless.

Human resource experts caution that stringent, company-wide mandates could lead to an exodus of talent — including top performers that companies may not be able to afford to lose. While in-office mandates have the potential to drive productivity or strengthen company culture, businesses must be prepared to face the consequences, including possible employee churn.

To see a true return to office occupancy, employers may need to worry less about ways to lure employees back to the office and focus more on convincing them of why working in-office is so important in the first place. When carrots turn to sticks, many Americans simply take them out to the compost and clean the fridge.

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