80% of execs regret calling employees back to the office

Or so says a worrying survey

We're all dumbasses walking around in adult clothes, but you'd hope that the managers in charge of ensuring the company does well and functions properly are relying on something a bit stronger than gut instinct, when we all know how variable that can be.

But a recent survey [PDF] has many such executives admitting exactly that: they didn't have the data and they just went with their gut. This is according to info from Envoy and Hanover Research, which surveyed over 1,156 senior executives (vice president or greater) and workplace managers in the US. According to their report, a whopping 80 percent of the execs say they would have approached their company's return-to-office strategy "differently" if they had access to workplace data to inform their decision.

The report notes that "this is cause for concern — since individual biases and limited perspectives can turn out to be costly" and adds:

Employees come and go at different times of the day and week, and adherence to onsite policies can vary greatly by location.

This makes it impossible for workplace managers to know how many people are onsite on any given day, and how to best allocate space and resources across the organization.

The report is dotted with quotes from building managers, catering crew, and facilities and real estate managers hoping their bosses are going to stop throwing them into the deep end by not providing data on who will be in when.

Who sits where?

Google appears to be a bit thoughtful about the logistics of its return, having spent half a billion exiting real estate contracts to "align with" its new headcount after laying off 12,000 staff.

After describing the empty desks that met those who returned to the office as a "ghost town" in March, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company had to optimize its use of what expensive real estate remained, and that coming into the office once or twice a week was not efficient. "We should be good stewards of financial resources. We have expensive real estate. And if they're only utilized 30 percent of the time, we have to be careful in how we think about it." The search giant recently sent workers missives threatening to take "next steps" if they don't come in three days a week.

And more and more businesses are sending their workers in, with even remote working poster child Zoom restructuring its hybrid model and sending folks to a desk. Judging by an email leaked by its staffers, Amazon appears to be sending warning letters to those who don't report for duty at an office for the required three days.

Did you really move to the countryside, though?

According to Eptura's Q2 Workplace Index, desk bookings across the UK have risen 73 percent year-over-year. Epitura provides software for workplaces, people and assets.

That report also noted that while during the pandemic much was made of people relocating to more affordable, desirable properties, farther from the office, the real picture is "somewhat different." Eptura said the vast majority of those it surveyed (73 percent) have always lived within commuting distance of their office (the highest being 81 percent in the US and the lowest being 54 percent in France). Overall, only 9 percent of those surveyed have moved away and not subsequently returned, it said.

Neither of these reports address the underlying questions many have, which are "what is the key driver for changing the policy and what is the hoped for outcome?"

Meta chief and human being Mark Zuckerberg has said that "engineers perform better in person," and we can only hope that is true. IBM's Arvind Krishna, meanwhile, is concerned about everybody's careers. And then there's pressure from the state to keep cafes open, plus pressure from investors who own commercial property, not to mention the pension funds who do – some of them the same funds that will ultimately look after affected tech workers. After all, $453 billion has been wiped off the value of office real estate since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whatever the motivation – a nefarious plan linked to the real estate market, performance-based shares or bonuses – many would sleep better at night knowing it's a rational act rather than execs reacting to reading about Elon Musk doing the same. What do you think, readers? ®

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