Reports of TCS, Wipro, and other major companies mandating employees to return to the office keep surfacing regularly. However, the critical question remains: are these offices truly prepared to welcome back their workforce?
The prevailing assumption suggests that employers have been coercing employees to reluctantly return to their cubicles with ultimatums about returning to the office. However, recent research from tech giant Cisco appears to challenge this narrative.
According to a survey conducted by Cisco across the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, and Spain, involving 4,500 workers and 1,050 employers, a staggering 74% expressed enthusiasm about heading back to the office.
What's driving this sentiment? Following a period of pandemic-induced isolation, many are thrilled at the prospect of collaboration, brainstorming sessions, and fostering a sense of belonging – aspects that are challenging to replicate while working from home and communicating solely through platforms like Slack throughout the week.
Rather than resisting due to commute concerns, the data reveals that most resistance to Return to Office (RTO) initiatives stems from concerns about inadequate workplace provisions for hybrid work.
While nearly 80% of surveyed employers have called their staff back to the office, at least part-time, one-third of employees feel that the office environment isn't adequately prepared for their return.
Since the government's 2020 mandate for remote work, significant changes have occurred. Meetings are now predominantly conducted via Zoom, while offices have evolved into hubs for collaboration. Disregarding these transformations and anticipating employees to revert to previous work practices isn't resonating well with the workforce.
Over 50% of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with office setups where excessive space is allocated for solitary work. They perceive the conventional office layout, characterised by rows of desks with limited meeting spaces, as "counter-productive."
Instead, they advocate for environments that foster collaboration and cultivate company culture. That's precisely why employees on hybrid schedules are investing their time and resources to commute to the office rather than remaining isolated at home.
However, existing conference rooms are falling short of meeting their needs: 73% of surveyed employees feel that current meeting spaces do not enhance productivity in the office. Moreover, even employers acknowledge the disparity in experience between those attending meetings remotely and those physically present in the office.
"Employers acknowledge the disparity, and without making the office an appealing destination, they'll struggle to enforce a return-to-office mandate," the report cautions.
Despite 85% of employers recognising the importance of adapting their workspace to the new work landscape to attract and retain talent, only 65% of those surveyed have concrete plans to update their workspace, including the integration of hybrid work technology, within the next two years.
Despite being in a prime position to facilitate remote work, many tech companies began implementing return-to-office mandates last year.
According to Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, companies urging employees to return to the office for routine video meetings lack a convincing argument. "After all, they could conduct those meetings from home." That's why the company has been relabeling its offices as "collaboration centres."