Policy-based flexibility does not work. Never has, and it never will. Therefore, it’s not surprising that “back to office” mandates that lead with a number of prescribed days onsite, and not the work, are failing.
Why? Because flexibility is about the way work is done. It’s planning, coordinating and executing with strategic intention across workplaces, spaces and time based on the needs of the business and people.
One-size-will-NOT-fit-all in terms of what that looks like across an organization. Consistency is in the process, not the rules.
And, yet, organizations continue to mandate, by policy, the number of days in the office and wonder why it’s not working as confirmed by new research synopsized by Jena McGregor of Forbes:
1) 54% of employees who don’t “comply” either experience no ramifications or a verbal reprimand (often because the work is not driving presence so it’s hard to respond when asked “why am I here?”);
2) 58% of those who did experience penalties for non-compliance, those penalties ranged from poor performance reviews and reduced pay to termination (if they weren’t fired, those that were penalized will likely quit and be replaced by someone who also wants some degree of flexibility.)
3) Continued gap between what employees want and employers support in terms of remote work.
“Mandates’ may seem easier and fairer, but ultimately. departments/teams–following a consistent, fair process that managers AND employees are trained to execute–need to determine TOGETHER the flexible work model (where, when AND how) that makes sense for their business overall, for their customers, for the culture and for themselves.
For most, that will likely include days in the office based on what’s accomplished best when everyone is together onsite. The result will be employees less likely to “resist” and employers and employees more likely to align.