James Bailey, professor and Stacy and Jonathan Hochberg Fellow of Leadership Development at the George Washington School of Business, discusses whether employees who have been working remotely since the pandemic are returning to the office, and how employers need to adjust to the shift.
The “Great Resignation” was a reality during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a global survey by McKinsey in July, 2022, 40% of those who quit their jobs over the past two years have moved to a different sector. Now, however, says Bailey, “We’re witnessing maybe the Great Return.” Some workers are actually going back to the jobs from which they resigned, not having found attractive alternatives.
The work-from-home model is also changing, albeit gradually. Some of the workers who are willingly returning to the office are those who prefer to separate their home lives from their workplaces. Others came to realize that they enjoyed their commute, as one of the few times in the day that they had to themselves.
There’s not enough data to determine whether employers are having success in enticing workers back to the office, but Bailey believes the move is vital to the maintenance of a strong organizational culture. “It distinguishes mediocre from outstanding firms,” he says. “You can’t form culture remotely. You have to interact with people.”
That said, he believes the hybrid model of splitting time between home and office will be with us for a while. It didn’t start with COVID-19, he notes — some companies have been maintaining flexible scheduling models for the past 20 years. “It just got accelerated at an enormous pace because of the pandemic,” he says.
From an organizational standpoint, Bailey sees little value in the remote work model. Despite multiple studies over the years, “There is no evidence whatsoever that you’re as productive at home as you are in the office.”
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.