1st Nov 2023
3 Min Read

Mandated return to office – a culture war in the making?

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
Digital Transformation
"Two-thirds of CEOs think staff will return to office five days a week, survey finds."
This was the headline of a Guardian article pulling from a recent survey by KPMG. Our head of digital, Tony Stewart, breaks down this complex workplace issue where our digital spaces could be at the front lines.

Mind the gap

When it comes to styles of working, there’s a growing expectation gap. On one hand, we have employees’ preferred working patterns and flexibility in a post-Covid world. On the other, we have CEOs wanting more control over where and how their employees work.

According to the same Guardian article: “Nearly two-thirds of bosses believe that workers will return to the office five days a week within the next three years, while a majority of company leaders think pay and promotions could become linked to workplace attendance.”

There’s a culture war in the making here. And the lid isn’t going back on the box.

The Guardian interviews Jon Holt, the chief executive of KPMG UK. He’s quoted as saying that there’s not a “one-size-fits-all approach” to back-to-office mandates. He also points out that this could easily “create tensions between leaders and employees”.

You reckon, Jon? 👀

We’re talking carrot and stick here

Hybrid working is a complex cultural workplace issue. But with my digital hat on, I can see that our online workspaces are a key battleground on which this culture war is taking place.

Why – as the article and survey results suggest – should salaries be held to ransom if a colleague doesn’t come into the office? Simply leaning into existing digital platforms and defining what good, productive flexible working looks like will help businesses thrive without butting heads with their employees.

In my opinion, too many CEO’s (63 per cent% in fact) plan to use ‘the stick’ to get folks back in the office when ‘the carrot’ of a collaborative and social online infrastructure could be better for everyone.

My hot take?

If leaders better understood how their employees work and how they use online spaces to collaborate, they wouldn’t be so worried.

Let’s help leaders to supercharge their digital workplaces and lean into modern collaborative methods. So how do we help them believe in our digital strategy? Is there even a digital strategy for your leader to believe in?

If you don’t have a digital strategy or haven’t defined best practices for working in a hybrid world, you can understand why leaders might feel a bit nervous.

And if you have a digital workplace strategy, does your hybrid working model complement it? If it doesn’t, I fear that many workplaces are going on gut and we’ll soon see more CEOs using the stick, which is never good for the employee experience.

So invest in the carrot. It’s likely to be a much better bet than the stick and will avoid an unnecessary confrontation between leaders and employees.

Are you ready to reinvigorate your return to office?

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Using the powerful combination of insights, behavioural science, and high-impact communications, we’re helping businesses move into a more meaningful and productive era of work.

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