Managers Deal With Employees Who Aren’t Coming Back

Not all workers want to return to the office
Not all workers want to return to the office
Image Credit: Braulio Montelongo

Let’s face it: being a manager is a tough job. We’ve got to find ways to motivate our team to work together in order to accomplish shared goals that will allow the company to meet its objectives. This is not an easy thing to do. Then the pandemic hit and everybody went home for a year. As the pandemic wanes, many firms are deciding that it’s time for their staff to come back to the office. They want the interaction that can only happen there – the exchange of ideas, the realization of things that need to be accomplished. Just one problem: not all of your team members want to come back into the office. What’s a manager to do?

Who Works Where?

Managers need to realize that some of our economy’s most in-demand employees are about to find out how much power they have over where and how they work. After months of return-to-work starts and stops, many tech companies have been telling remote workers it’s finally time to come back for good, or at least show up part of the week. Team members who left the Bay Area and other high-cost tech hubs earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic – or the ones who just prefer to work from home are now facing hard choices: should they move back, try the super commute, or should they hold out for a concession or new job elsewhere?

How this emerging power struggles play out will be a telling indicator of how much leverage remote-work converts in other sectors have as more managers call staff back to offices. A competitive job market, plus the relative ease with which businesses adjusted to work-from-home over the past two years, has emboldened many team members to try to say goodbye to offices permanently. Two-thirds of the workforce said they would probably find a new job if required to return to the office full-time, according to a survey. Of those who quit their jobs last year, 35% cited wanting to move to a different area

Managers need to realize that if highly skilled tech workers have trouble flexing their market value, though, it’s likely many other remote workers wanting to stay put will, too. Some team members have already thrown down the gauntlet. Office mandates are proving to be recruiting opportunities for some competitors. Managers can use their company’s flexible work policies, if they exist, as a lure for new hires. Workers in tech have long had the advantage: their skills are highly sought-after in nearly every industry. As the pandemic dragged on, flexibility started to become not a perk but something managers needed to offer in order to hang on to their talent. Eager to stay competitive, managers have increasingly accommodated their workers and in some cases, walked back their in-office requirements.

Changes Are Coming

Managers need to realize that nothing ever stays the same. Change may be coming. There are signs the balance of power may shift. Netflix, Lyft and other big names in tech have posted disappointing quarterly results. This is a signal that leaner times may be ahead, and skilled workers may not be in such demand. Some of team members called back have found jobs elsewhere. It is estimated that across the U.S. workforce, there have already been 4.9 million relocations as a result of remote work, according to data extrapolated from a survey of 23,000 workers. More than a quarter said they planned to move more than 4 hours from their current job this year – because of remote-work options, while 13% said they were looking at moving up to 2 to 4 hours away.

Some tech workers who have relocated and don’t have permission to stay remote say they’re currently in a standoff with their HR: they’ve been called back to the office but haven’t moved yet. They’re currently looking for remote-friendly roles both internally or elsewhere. Despite some signs of a downturn for the industry, tech workers who want to stay remote should have options if their employers won’t accommodate them.

The number of U.S. employers posting tech jobs hit a record level last month, despite initial rumblings of a downturn. Especially in tech, there are companies that are simultaneously either slowing or transitioning workers or sometimes laying off workers in one area of the company and then they’re hiring in another area.

What All Of This Means For You

The pandemic changed everything for managers. We used to be able to go into the office and our entire team was there. When the pandemic hit, all of sudden the office was empty and everyone was working from home. As the pandemic has eased, many companies are trying to get back to the way that things used to be. They want their workers to return to the office so that they can interact and exchange ideas like they used to. However, managers are starting to discover that not all of their team members want to do this. What does a manager need to do?

What managers need to understand is that the team members who are the most in-demand are the ones who hold the most power when it comes to determining where they will work. The demand for workers has provided these team members with the ability to decide that they want to continue working from home. Some workers have indicated that they would seek out new jobs if they were forced to come back into the office. When a company tells its workers that they have to come back into the office, this may create opportunities for other companies to hire those employees away. As the economy changes, workers may feel more pressure to come into the office. However, if team members moved during the pandemic, they may not be able to return to the office. The availability of many jobs means that team members will probably be in the driver’s seat for some time.

Managers need to make sure that they have a good understanding of the current market conditions that they are dealing with. They have created an effective team and they would like to keep it together. However, if their company starts to tell its employees that they have to start to return to the office, there is a very good chance that you going to end up losing some of your team members. Right now your team members have the power and as a manager you need to find ways to accommodate their work location desires. Find ways to keep your team members happy and you will have found a way to keep your team together.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When you bring new team members on board, should you try to get them to come into the office?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As managers, a great deal of each day is taken up with dealing with email. No matter if it is sorting through all of the new email that has arrived since we last took a look at it or it is crafting the perfect response to that email that we just got, all of this stuff takes time. A lot of time. How can a manager use our manager skills to get over our addiction to email?