Many firms, big and small, took bold and very public steps to forever disperse their global workforce. Some going so far as to divest of global real estate and office facilities in the process.
Now, three years later, the tide has turned with more companies reversing this position. Some are seeking to entice their employees into the office. Others, including Elon Musk with his well-publicised dislike of home working, are prepared to mandate a return.
In May 2023, the UK government expressed the view that 100% home working damages capacity for creativity and innovation. This just as The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium were agreeing on a new multilateral framework that paves the way for easier cross-border remote working.
For every company that continues to reorganise itself around a distributed workforce, there is another stressing the need to, at least, bring people closer, then to agree a hybrid working model: part in-office and part remote.
It’s a sensitive subject – we can all feel that – especially as each of us recovers at our own pace from the tumult of the last three years.
Do workplace mandates ever work?
Many recruiters continue to cite remote working policies as the number one question raised by candidates during interview.
Do employees respond well to being told to come back into the office? And what of new employees?
Is 100% in-office working really attractive to potential future employees in a renewed war for talent?
When organisations go to greater lengths to stand out from the crowd, it’s important to consider the role of remote and hybrid working practices in developing an attractive EVP (employer value proposition).
For every member of Generation Flex, there are those that have very different wants and needs from work. Working remotely may be attractive for some, but what of those for whom it has the opposite effect? Those seeking an end to isolation, or perhaps older employee groups for whom the office was the long-accepted norm?
So, what is it going to take?
As this Business Insider piece shows, benefits like generous relocation packages definitely help bring new employees back into the workplace. As can the expectation that new starters show their faces as often as possible – at least in the early months. This facilitates onboarding, enables network building and fosters an appreciation for the working culture of their new employer.
But before mandating a return to office, perhaps also consider the alternatives – is your organisation truly fit for a hybrid workforce?
The watchouts are numerous – here are a few:
- Do you and your employees understand the corporate and personal income tax risks, limitations and reporting requirements of working remotely, across state or international borders?
- Have you got the necessary knowledge of social security systems to enable cross-border remote working, and the resources to manage it?
- Do your employment contracts reflect the necessary legal protections for both you as the employer, and your employees?
- Do you have an onboarding process set up to enable meaningful integration of remote & hybrid workers, and the structures, tools & technologies to enable collaboration and knowledge sharing to full effect?
- Do you know where all your employees are in an emergency? Remember, you have a Duty of Care to be on top of this!
The debate is certainly not over.
If you’re interested to find a model that works for you, or you need expert HR support for your globally mobile workforce, AGS Relocation is here to help with an extensive range of HR and relocation services to support your goals, whatever they may be.