Engagement and a Return to the Office

One of my first employers paid the fees and related travel, for a half day and evening at a local college, for me to acquire additional business education. Internal career opportunities were always posted but there was often a nudge to apply for those positions for which the organization considered me worthy. There was always the sense that someone was keeping an eye on my career.

I was never asked to complete a questionnaire about the office – likely causing me to think about those things that were unsatisfactory. I was never asked if I was engaged or considered leaving the Company. I was also encouraged to be constantly challenged.

Today fewer employers invest in enhancing employees’ general business skills. Training tends to be technical and on-the-job, and often screen-based. Employees expect to be asked how they feel about their work environment and whether it should change. While this exchange is aimed at extending tenure it also creates an expectation that suggestions will be adopted. Once you ask people for proposed improvements you need to be prepared to respond.

In response to the increasing costs of child/elder care, for example, employers began to permit remote work and were forced to expand that accommodation when COVID came along. Employees want that practice to continue, whereas employers can only see an increase in training, more technology, office refurbishment, oversupply and even another banking crisis.

US banks prepare for losses in rush for commercial property exit

Typically, banks are reluctant to accept losses on loans that will retain their full value as long as borrowers make repayments on time. But fears of an increase in delinquencies — especially on debt secured against office properties that have experienced falling demand due to the enduring popularity of working from home – are causing some to take the plunge – FT 5th June

About half of Big Multinational Companies plan to reduce Office Space by between 10-20% – FT 6th June

Articles have begun to discredit work-from-home (WFH) productivity but there is little statistically valid data and none that factors in the effects of avoiding a grinding commute or reducing the stress of home care responsibilities. Nonetheless, some employers emboldened by the economic slowdown, have quietly sought a return to the office.

Having spent considerably to raise the level of employee engagement it appears counterintuitive to adopt a practice directly opposite to the requests of employees. Active disengagement, severe distrust and higher turnover will likely result in less time spent “producing”.

Productivity will need to outpace the negative effects of higher turnover and quiet quitting to increase, otherwise, the return to the office and not WFH, will be the cause of lower output!

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

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