Combating Employee Hesitancy to Return to the Office

According to the January 2022 Future Forum Pulse survey, there’s been a shift in what workers want post-pandemic. The report found that in Q4 of 2021, 78 percent of workers from six industrialized companies wanted location flexibility. The survey also found that 95 percent desired schedule flexibility. This is in light of the same survey finding that 72 percent of employees desire greater flexibility from their current places of employment. Those same workers reported that if they can’t find more flexible arrangements, they would seek out another employer that provides greater flexibility – compared to 57 percent expressing the same desire in Q3 of 2021.

According to a December 2017 Gallup report titled, “Thinking Flexibly About Flexible Work Arrangements,” along with helping develop and keep high-performing workers, creating and improving a flexible workplace also intensifies the tie workers have to their employer, as well as reducing employer expenses. While lowering costs is always attractive, it’s important to understand that not every role or type of business will have the same implementation opportunities.

When businesses formulate their flexible working arrangement, employers and employees must be on the same page, have clear expectations, and a way to measure that work is being completed in a manner similar to that in office. One important consideration is ensuring that remote employees are treated with the same consideration for potential promotions, projects, etc. Do managers and senior executives maintain the same level of treatment of employees whether someone comes into the office or works remotely and at different hours?

As for jobs that cannot be performed remotely, flexibility may not be very realistic. However, businesses can offer employees compensatory approaches to flexibility. Examples include a relaxed dress code and the ability, within reason, to choose lunch and break times. Employers also may offer the option for both an open floor plan and traditional office space to provide variety that leads to creativity and innovation.

Additionally, employers can create digital spaces where in-person workers can communicate with co-workers to discuss covering and switching shifts in their work schedules, helping them attend to their personal lives better and foster camaraderie. Businesses also can gamify employees covering each other shifts; for example, by offering a reward system if they take on extra shifts.

Permitting workers to select their preferred variety of tasks gives employees an awareness of freedom and can increase capabilities. By switching tasks within a pre-determined time frame or permitting employees to work at different offices or sites, employers can similarly provide a flexible working arrangement. This lets employees take on new responsibilities, workplace flows, and engage with different co-workers.

 Variations on Flexible Working Arrangements

Another option is to work around employees’ personal circumstances. It could be a school system holding classes every other month or a mixed schedule. It also could take the shape of a four-day work week, whereby employees work 10 hours a day. This could similarly benefit families with children, parents, etc. that have medical or other special needs that can be addressed efficiently by a shorter but equally productive work week.

Splitting a Position

Having two (or more) employees perform duties of one full-time worker is called job sharing. This happens via employees performing a part-time schedule, combining to create a single full-time position. It’s able to satisfy the role of a full-time job while meeting the needs of workers looking for part-time work.

Legal Considerations

One consideration for employers to maintain compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for non-exempt employees with flexible work arrangements is to strictly monitor hours worked. According to the FLSA, non-exempt employees must receive 1.5 times standard wages when they work beyond 40 hours within any continuous seven-day work week. Ensuring that workplace guidelines are crafted and implemented equally, as well as documenting the implementation, is one way to reduce the risk of discrimination claims.

While providing flexible working arrangements is unique to every business, offering it can provide many benefits, especially the potential to attract and retain high-performing staff.


Pulse survey