Leaning across their desk to ask a colleague a quick question, spontaneously heading out for a walk-and-talk brainstorm and knowing that everyone’s logged on to a stable Wifi connection. These are just a few of the reasons James Rogers, 26, loves managing their team from the office, instead of the kitchen table.
“We as a business are very much office first, and personally I believe we can be a stronger workforce when based in the office full time,” says Rogers, a digital public-relations lead in the London branch of a British-American global content agency. The firm started giving employees the option to return to the office part-time in April. “Our aim is to have as many of our team back in the office as often as possible in the coming months.”
Human-resources experts say Rogers’ attitude is indicative of a broad trend. Despite numerous global surveys indicating remote working has been a positive experience for a significant portion of employees, and that many (though not all) want it to continue, plenty of bosses disagree.
In the US, a whopping 72% of managers currently supervising remote workers would prefer all their subordinates to be in the office, according to recent research for the Society for Human Resource Management, seen by BBC Worklife in July. A June poll of UK managers for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) showed that about half expected staff to be in the office at least two to three days a week.
In Sweden, data-driven employee engagement firm Winningtemp, which serves clients in 25 countries, says it’s already noticing signs of a back-to-the-office push, particularly in markets where there are high levels of vaccinations. “I see a lot of companies forcing it right now,” says founder and CEO Pierre Lindmark. “They start saying, ‘OK, now, you took the second vaccine, you need to be at the office’.”
All this is fuelling debates about why exactly bosses are turning their backs on remote setups faster than many experts predicted, what it means for the future of remote work and how it will impact on employees who want to cling to their pandemic working routines.