- RTO mandates are a “disruption” to remote workers’ lives because they made big changes during COVID.
- Many remote workers moved cities, bought houses, and invested in home offices during the pandemic.
- Workers could begin to feel resentful to previously flexible employers, future-of-work expert Dan Schawbel told BI.
Companies have been touting the benefits of returning to the office, including teamwork and collaboration, but these mandates are actually causing a “massive disruption” in workers’ lives, a workplace expert said.
“It’s a massive disruption on their life because originally they made decisions predicated on the fact that they could work remotely in a COVID world,” Schawbel said in an interview.
“They made big decisions, especially millennials who had moved, they bought a house, they settled down, they had kids.
“Now those same employers that enabled them to have the freedom to live wherever they wanted to at that point in time and not have to worry about going to the office for safety reasons during COVID, now they’re being asked to come back to the office.”
Schawbel explained that these mandates are unattractive to workers because they “already invested so much time and emotion and energy into their decision to move or have flexibility.”
Additionally, many remote workers invested in having an office set up, including buying office equipment, or designating a room for an office if they have a house.
“There’s that investment too, and they don’t want to have to sell everything and come back to work,” Schawbel said.
CEOs have cited improved productivity, efficiency, and collaboration as some of the benefits of returning to the office.
However, a recent study by researchers at the Katz Graduate School of Business on S&P 500 firms found that RTO mandates don’t necessarily make workers more productive and have no significant impact on the profitability of the company.
In fact, making workers come back to the office will just make them unhappier, according to Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economics professor.
“I think RTO mandates will reduce employee morale unless it is handled very carefully,” Bloom told BI over email. “You are forcing employees back to the office, which is unlikely to be popular as otherwise they would have come of their own volition.”
Schawbel pointed out that the “Great Resignation” is out, and the “Great Stay” is in, which means workers are more likely to stay put due to current economic uncertainty.
They’re more focused on job security because there are fewer options to switch jobs easily.
Instead, many workers will be “passively job searching” and “applying in secret” in their current role, but without much luck, Schawbel said.
There’s a lot of demand for remote jobs but with fewer roles to go around, and job seekers will have to compete with those who have been laid off as well as sought after talent from Big Tech firms, Schawbel said. This all adds to employee dissatisfaction.
“How many TikToks do you see of people being pumped about work? There’s a negative sentiment about work, and it comes down to being forced to come to the office, bad work conditions, and limited pay.”