This article is more than 1 year old

'What's the point of me being in my office, just because they want to see me in the office?'

Workers ignoring calls to get back in swivel chair. Plus: more UK orgs sign up for 4-day work week

Workers are now simply ignoring executive mandates to return to the office, according to a recent report that suggested employers should focus on "reducing ill-being" rather than "improving wellbeing" among staff.

The study comes as Snap employees are reportedly being told by CEO Evan Spiegel that they are expected to be in the social media company's offices in person 80 percent of the time starting in February.

Echoing Salesforce's Marc Benioff, who said in June that back-to-office mandates would "never work", the report's author, Dr Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics (LSE), claimed: "Firms that demand their employees are in the office for no reason will lose out on diverse talent pools."

She added: "These demands are also ego driven rather than having the best interests of the business in mind."

The workers interviewed for the "qualitative research" included 100 staff across financial services including fintechers and brands such as Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, NatWest, Schroders, and UBS.

According to the LSE research, while C-suite level executives in many large businesses are asking for workers to come into the office a specific number of days per week, "in practice they are being ignored, with managers often favouring a remote first approach that satisfies local operational needs."

The report [PDF], which was co-penned with Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) and interviewed 30 men and 70 women, said: "What should be avoided ... is simply bringing people into the office and having them on Zoom or Teams all day," with one participant noting:

"Sometimes I'm told: 'You really should be in on this Thursday,' and actually I didn't want to be in on this Thursday because I've got just Zooms and what's the point of me being in my office, just because they want to see me in the office? I'm going to be on Zoom back-to-back from seven [am] … What's the point?"

With companies including Cisco and Salesforce (going some way towards explaining Benioff's support for WFH) cutting down and consolidating their investments in the real estate that holds their office workers, it's not like there's nothing in it for the execs.

Attendees at last month's Canalys EMEA Channel Forum in Barcelona, meanwhile, were told by Kirk Skaugen, exec veep at Lenovo, that if businesses don't reassess the metrics they apply to determine how productive employees are in the world of hybrid work, they risk staff leaving for a corporate culture that is more flexible and trusting.

Autonomy – we've heard of it

Nearly all – 95 percent – of the participants in the study suggested some version of hybrid working, the report said. Around 30 participants emphasized trust (seven out of 30 mid-level, 20 out of 43 senior) as being "necessary" to enable hybrid working to operate effectively.

Speaking about how much additional autonomy workers should be given, the report stated that if a leader is unclear about where they should start with respect to experimentation, they should consult their team members, rather than going with their "gut" feeling (*cough* Elon Musk *cough*).

The report's authors said: "Putting trust in team members will evoke the Pygmalion effect, a psychological phenomenon in which high expectations lead to improved performance."

Of the approaches, just 28 thought the model should be "fully autonomous working" – with the older interviewees veering in the other direction: 10 out of 27 early-career participants, nine out of 30 mid-level, and nine out of 43 senior level execs believed a worker should choose when they are in the office versus being at home with no set days. Thirty-one percent of respondents wanted hybrid working with set days in the office, echoing a survey with a Reg reader poll last year where you said you wanted to be in the office just two days a week.

Another participant noted: "We get a lot more from our people when they feel trusted, to be able to make their own decisions..."

Altogether 51 of those surveyed (14 out of 27 early career, and 26 out of 43 senior) reported stabilized or increased productivity from adopting heightened autonomy via a hybrid model.

Participants also emphasized the need to focus on output over presenteeism, said the authors.

On the subject of the Metaverse, meanwhile, the benefits of virtual campuses were viewed with skepticism. One participant said: "I know there's a lot of banging about with the Metaverse now, I think we're still quite far away from that really being something feasible."

The report comes as the 4-Day Work week campaign claimed 100 companies in the UK had signed up to its accreditation scheme since it was launched at the beginning of 2021.

For a period of six months stretching from June to December this year, 3,000 workers across 60 companies worked for four days instead of five with no loss of pay, among them workers from Canon's UK arm.

Not all 100 companies were part of the initial 4-day work week trial, campaign director Joe Ryle told us. "Some trialled it first but others just adopted it permanently."

Ryle added that the companies all sign an employer license agreement when accrediting, with the aim of ensuring the hours worked are genuinely reduced – rather than pushed into overtime during the four working days, for example.

Other working hours experiments condense five working days' worth of hours into four days using the so-called "4×10 schedule," (four 10-hour shifts) tested by Atlassian, among others. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like