Mandating a Return to the Office is Bonkers!

The future of work is going to be increasingly flexible and adaptable, with smarter working arrangements becoming the norm rather than the exception. Mandating a return to the office is bonkers. Leaders who do it are out of touch with evolving work trends and preferences.

Social Media is awash with stories of leaders who have advocated a return to the office to foster collaboration, uphold company culture, ensure productivity and maintain control, despite the potential benefits of smarter ways of working.

In reality, they adhere to traditional workplace norms, because they view remote or hybrid work arrangements as deviations from the established way of working. Arrangements that will challenge their leadership style or management approach.  It is a short sighted and lazy policy that is likely to backfire.  Here’s why:

DEI and Inclusivity

Mandating a return to the office hinders efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) by excluding individuals who benefit from remote, hybrid or flexible working arrangements. It sends a message to the world and your customers that you don’t truly believe in DEI. Do you really want to do that?

Why not prioritise inclusivity instead by offering flexible work arrangements that accommodate diverse needs and circumstances and that appeal to different life stages too. Not every role can work remotely, we all know that, but there is a myriad of other flexible working arrangements that business can deploy instead.


The Pandemic demonstrated that employees can remain productive outside of traditional office settings. Indeed, our clients achieve productivity increases of circa 13% through their smart workforces.  Mandating office attendance simply disrupts this productivity.

If you feel that you can’t control the productivity of your people, the place to begin is investing in the skills of leaders to enable them to manage distributed teams better. Asking people to return to the office won’t solve the issue – in fact you will probably see productivity dip, as the old quiet quitting sets in.

Not every role can work remotely, but every role can benefit from better flexibility.

Talent Retention

Employees value flexibility and autonomy in their work arrangements like never before. Ordering a return to the office will prompt talented individuals to seek opportunities elsewhere. So, mandating a return to the office is bonkers. Why not prioritise talent retention by offering flexible work options that align with employees’ needs and preferences instead? Not every role can work remotely, but every role can benefit from better flexibility.  Think 9 day fortnight or 4 day week instead!

Cost Savings

Smarter ways of working lead to significant cost savings for both employers and employees, including reduced commuting expenses and overhead costs associated with office space. Demanding office attendance will negate these savings. Instead, embrace smart, remote or hybrid work as a cost-effective alternative that benefits both parties. Your colleagues will be happier and they will give a better customer experience as a result.

Work-Life Balance

Smart working offers employees greater flexibility to manage their personal and professional lives, leading to improved work-life balance. A return to the office will disrupt this balance and increase stress levels. Instead, support flexible work arrangements that prioritise employee well-being and satisfaction. There are 60 plus ways of smart working in our Smart Workforce model!

Commute Stress

Reviving the commute to the office reintroduces the stress and time constraints associated with this daily nightmare. It will negatively impact employee morale and well-being. Instead, offer smart working options to reduce commute-related stress and improve overall quality of life.

Impact on the Planet

Requiring employees to commute to the office contributes to carbon emissions and environmental degradation. Why not embrace smart workforce options as a sustainable alternative that reduces the organization’s carbon footprint and promotes environmental stewardship?

Employee Morale

Forcing employees back to the office against their preferences, if they can do their job perfectly well in a hybrid fashion, can lead to decreased morale and engagement. Instead, empower employees by involving them in decisions about their work arrangements and respecting their autonomy.

Here’s what to do instead:

Collaboration Days

Designate specific collaboration days where teams come together in person to brainstorm, collaborate, and strengthen relationships, while still allowing flexibility for remote or hybrid work on other days. Make it the days fun and engaging.

Invest in Tech

Investing in technology ensures that the organisation can provide the same work experience to staff whether they are working remotely, in person, mobile or hybrid.  It ensures the business remains relevant and adaptable to future changes in the industry and market landscape and lays the foundation for long-term growth and sustainability.

Invest in Skills

Organisations who haven’t invested in skills for leaders who manage distributed teams are bound to struggle. Managers need a whole new set of skills – so make sure they have them.

And remember, Smart Working is about building 2 way trust – that means you also have to invest in the skills of your workforce too, so that they know how to build trust with their boss, colleagues and customers when they are not in the same room as one another.

Common sense really – but lots of leaders have missed this point.

Talk to us about the 60 plus Smart Working Options that we have deployed

Mandating the return to the office is bonkers on so many levels – take a breather and talk to our team of practitioners about the alternatives instead.  Book a free consultation with us.