Forcing a return to work won’t fly!

Many companies are, through policies, forcing a return to the workplace for full or part-time.

The often-stated rationale for mandatory attendance is the importance of in-person collaboration. Sounds logical - But not to a Wells Fargo IT executive who told me that he has been forced to return to work full-time in a cubical, on a floor with no other IT personnel, whilst his entire team is situated in different cities.

Apple employees are up-in-arms over a hybrid model of mandatory attendance on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Employees have written an open letter to the executive leadership team challenging the need for, and the possibility of, in-person collaboration within Apple’s siloed structure. This excerpt from the letter calls out the hypocrisy of the mandate from Tim Cook and his team.

“We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, yet, we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely? How can we expect our customers to take that seriously? How can we understand what problems of remote work need solving in our products if we don't live it?”

Before the Covid pandemic, companies told employees that work-from-home was not feasible, but after 2-years of doing so, and collaborating on digital tools like Slack, nobody is buying that argument now. To force the issue lacks humanity and the result of such a leadership style is driving the great resignation. The Well Fargo executive was speaking to me for help in coaching him to a new position in a different company.

It’s as if leadership teams are suffering from group amnesia or returning to an out-of-date playbook.

The New Leadership Playbook

Being an effective leader or manager in a post-pandemic world requires balancing empathy with accountability. The New Leadership Playbook is a practical guide to being human and understanding people whilst simultaneously driving for and delivering accelerated results.

The New Leadership Playbook contains seven leadership principles, which frame twelve plays. You will discover that clear expectations positively influence mindset and motivation, which in turn influences the right behaviors that drive accelerated results.

Demanding that workers return to the office ignores the seismic shift that has happened with employer-employee relations. Employees want the freedom to work from home, and the great resignation cannot be ignored. Resignation has an economic, human, and productivity cost. I spoke with an experienced human resource (HR) leader and former head of talent at Deloitte, Herdis Pala Palsdottir. Herdis noted that in her experience, many executives tended to overlook the cost of employee resignation and rehiring. One reason is that it may not be costing them a lot directly if they are not using external agencies to hire. However, the indirect cost can be very high as you will be eating up most of HR´s time.

Many studies show that the total cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to two times their annual salary, so leadership needs to be invested in this matter and analyze what can be done.

I have covered several strategies in The New Leadership Playbook that positively impact employee engagement and retention, thus making human and economic sense. These include:

  • What makes a good manager?
  • Setting clear expectations
  • Mindset and motivation
  • Communicating with why
  • Giving effective feedback
  • Encouraging ownership and self-leadership
  • Building confidence
  • Reducing conflict and increasing collaboration
  • Having career conversations
  • Creating a culture where people feel safe
  • Coaching for development
  • Encouraging diversity.

Whilst these strategies may not be enough to fully inoculate against the great resignation, they will help as things stabilize. What is certain is that forcing employees back to work, just won’t fly.

Have you read The New Leadership Playbook yet?

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