Return to the office

Return to the office

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How some Big Tech companies fell out of love with working from home and are now calling their employees back to the office

The larger tech giants Google, Apple and Twitter are among the many employers who have fallen out of love with their employees working from home.  Yes, that did happen rather quickly.  We have moved from embracing the ‘you can work from anywhere’ maxim to being needed onsite. This week both Apple and Google have issued edicts calling their employees back to the office, following almost two years of remote and hybrid working.  The pandemic saw the world coming to a complete halt and forcing workers to do their jobs from their own homes.  Tech companies were unique in that they were well equipped to adapt to remote working and to support staff in the transition to working from Home (WFH). Sales of desks soared, and Instagram was full of those extolling the wonder of baking banana bread, hanging out the washing and answering emails.   The commute was not missed.

In May 2022, Apple asked their employees to return to the office (RTO) for three days a week, but the plan was shelved when Covid cases surged once more.  Now they, and Google, are insisting that staff work from the office for three days of the week.  The wording of the Apple request to its staff, is quite diplomatic and they call it a ‘pilot’ scheme which is starting on September 5th. So, it is restricted Hybrid working, with two days still spent at home. Tesla has not been so gracious when delivering their hard line back to the office rule. Elon Musk sent an email in June, demanding that his staff spend at least 40 hours per week be spent at the Tesla desks. “If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”

Personal collaboration

The companies who are attempting to restrict working from home are citing the loss of personal collaboration as a main issue in getting their employees to return to the office, even for a few days in each week.  Personal collaboration in the workplace refers to the meaningful interactions and information sharing that are part of work life on a daily basis. Short informal conversations or impromptu problem solving don’t really happen remotely.  Every email, scheduled zoom or video chat takes organising and is of its nature, more formalised.  The bouncing of ideas and the serendipity of bumping into a colleague for a spontaneous discussion is just not there.  Maintaining teamwork and a sense of common mission and purpose is a bit more challenging with employees scattered geographically.   While those who prefer to return to work declare that the loss of interaction with colleague and workmates can be isolating and that the work life balance of your home is disrupted, there are many who wish to keep their status quo of WFH or hybrid working. 

Resistance to the RTO (return to office)

It took just a few days for Apple’s staff to mount a stringent opposition to their employer’s demand for a return to three days at their desks. AppleTogether, an employee organisation issued a statement   saying there would be no “uniform mandate from senior leadership “on RTO and A Slack channel advocating for remote work at Apple has now grown to 10,000 members. Company executives who sent employees home in 2020, probably never imagined that this would be the scenario a few years later as they coax, tempt, and now demand a return to the office. But there is much resistance as many workers embraced the advantages of home office and hybrid working.

The Future

We can be sure that RTO, WFH and Work from Anywhere (WFA) alongside hybrid work policies will continue to evolve as employers continue to measure employee productivity, customer satisfaction. staff retention and morale in the workplace. Facebook Meta and Microsoft still embrace hybrid working. Dropbox, the file-storage company, calls itself the “Virtual First” company and staff are encouraged to spend 90 per cent of their time working away from the office. Airbnb boasts that employees can work wherever they want in their own country, and, for up to 90 days a year, in any one of 170 countries around the world.

Here at Dmac Media, we take an adaptable approach and put customer satisfaction first with good employee morale a close second. Production levels are measured in the same method for those working in the office as those from home.   

Dave McEvoy, Director explains    

‘At Dmac Media our main focus is on doing a good job and keeping our clients happy. Hybrid working is our preferred approach at the moment, and we maintain good communication and work relationships with the use of group and personal chat systems, video calls and the odd work event to keep us all on the same page. ‘

Flexibility is the key in maintaining our high production standards and a contented and productive work force. We have invested in technology, and we support our employees to   work  from home or from the office. The office is a pleasant place to be, and most people are happy to spend time there, either full time or adopting a hybrid approach. So far, no one has asked to WFA (Work from away) although we have staff in our Manchester office who maintain the same contact with the Irish office as those WFH here. We don’t forsee a full return to the office as necessary at this stage or in the future ‘

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