Bosses face losing 'key' workers after forcing a return to office

Survey says most would prefer a gentle request

A recent report covering 9,500 employers and 6,650 employees across 17 global markets found that those who forced workers to come back to office buildings are paying a price, with 42 percent saying they'd subsequently lost more employees than expected.

Unlike Salesforce, which is trying to lure workers back to the office with a charitable donation each time staffers leave the comfort of deep pile and slippers for sensible brogues and antistatic carpets, a full 70 percent of respondents replying to workplace consultant Unispace's survey said they'd forced returns to the office via a mandate rather than dropping heavy hints or providing incentives.

The result? Aside from the 42 percent who said "attrition" was higher than normal, some 21 percent of those ordering folks into the office said the move had actually lost them some of their "key" members of staff. The survey also found that almost a third (29 percent) where the return was mandatory were now "struggling" to recruit altogether.

So if they're losing valuable employees, why the push to go back? While The Reg can only speculate if there's a causal link, there's a hint in another stat: Unispace also noted that large numbers of businesses, three in four (75 percent) of their respondents, said they had "increased their real estate portfolio" in the last two years. The consultant said this goes "against the numbers reported in 2021," when 84 percent said they planned to decrease the amount of office space they looked after.

It is possible these businesses were attracted by lower corporate real estate prices seen at the tail end of COVID.

In California, as we noted yesterday, the former headquarters of the State Bar of California was sold recently for some $62 million – far shy of the $85 million it was expected to be worth, while in the US state of Ohio, officials are trying to pass a budget bill that includes an amendment that will limit government workers to one day a week of working from home.

While there are "global nuances in real estate expansion," there is an interesting trend in businesses looking to make money from their real estate, including creating hospitality spaces (44 percent), Unispace noted.

As for those still using a hybrid model, burnout is apparently a problem.

Staffers early in their career were more likely to struggle with burnout in hybrid and WFH setups, with the survey claiming 65 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds indicated this was an issue, compared to just 47 percent of over-45s.

When the survey turned to bosses, the response was:

While 65 percent of employers recognize that this is an issue in their workforce, the same amount feel that employees are failing to balance their time effectively, while 30 percent believe office workers spend too much time on personal activities during working hours.

One of the main takeaways, according to the Unispace, was that employees were happy (31 percent), motivated (30 percent) and excited (27 percent) to be in the office when they did attend. "However, it is interesting to note that all three of these indicators drop for those with mandated office returns (27 percent, 26 percent and 22 percent respectively), highlighting that staff are more open to returning to the office when if it was out of choice, rather than forced."

If the survey's findings are correct, it's bad news for Meta, Amazon, Dell and many others that are calling staff back to the corporate nest. ®

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