Employers Navigate Return-to-Office Policies Against WFH Expectations

WFH vs RTO

New Study Shows Workers Want a More Flexible Hybrid Work Week

WFH vs. RTO. The remote working phenomenon that captured the pandemic world has impacted everything from employee satisfaction to commercial and residential housing markets. In the marketing executive search world, remote and hybrid schedules (or lack thereof) still play a critical role in just about every hiring negotiation. But now that COVID restrictions have been officially lowered, options for remote and hybrid office policies are under new scrutiny. Is “the new normal” about to shift yet again?

Less than a year ago, we wrote about The Great Resignation. While many of the fundamentals are the same, there is new data that demonstrates just how entrenched employees are with their WFH flexibility.

Is a hybrid work environment the solution? Many companies and candidates believe it is. Bloomberg published an article that shows the share of once-per-week office visits globally for second quarter is right at 50% (a 6.5% increase from the first quarter of the year). That’s half of all workers who visit their office ONE DAY A WEEK. Roughly 35% of respondents are going in two/three times per week, while those in the office four/five days a week have shrunk from 21.5% to just under 15%.

The consensus is that WFH has many benefits for employees, benefits they don’t readily want to give up. But for companies, the issue is a bit more complicated.

As the leading high-end marketing executive search firm, MarketPro has clients on all ends of the spectrum—some require a full-time office presence, some a hybrid schedule and others are fully remote.

Recent headlines accentuate the RTO challenge:

Bosses are back at work—alone
Would a taco get you to RTO?
RTO deadlines loom after Labor Day

The latest data shows that companies are starting to set return-to-office dates, especially in light of the CDC issuing its streamlined guidance for COVID-19 protocols. Reactions from workforces have been mostly negative. Employees are demanding flexibility. That means different things to different people, but of the marketing executives we recruit, there are very few who prefer an in-office presence on a full-time basis.

In this talent-driven market, it’s hard to retain and recruit employees if you’re not offering some level of flexibility. McKinsey & Company recently released a study that demonstrated that workplace flexibility was one of the top factors driving retention. By mandating requirements to return to the office, even part-time, companies realize that many of their employees will likely seek employment elsewhere to secure the flexibility they seek. In this talent-driven market, it’s hard to retain and recruit employees if you’re not offering some sort of flexibility.

But for many, flexibility isn’t enough. They insist upon working fully remote. Some have even relocated away from the office, in what has been one of the few silver linings of the pandemic. In the US alone, 14-23 million Americans are planning to relocate to a new city or region as a result of the growing acceptance of remote work. For these workers, embracing a new lifestyle in another part of the country means returning to the office is simply not an option.

What are companies to do? Certainly, it depends on several key factors:

  • Company culture
  • Type of role and industry
  • Difficulty in attracting and retaining talent
  • Workforce sentiment

Now, with talks of a recession looming, companies are evaluating the optimal size for their organizations. Opposing forces are colliding as companies navigate how to attract and retain top marketing talent, while realizing that downsizing may be a reality in recessionary times. Some may even use a return-to-office mandate as a way to “trim” their workforce without having to go through layoffs.

But at what cost?

For our clients, knowing the landscape of what other companies are doing is another component to understanding the difficulty in attracting and retaining top marketing talent. The talent market remains highly competitive, as employees continue to shift jobs in search of higher compensation and workplace flexibility.

If your business model operates best with employees in-office, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck. It does mean that, to remain competitive, you must research what your competition is offering (or simply consult with MarketPro). It may be necessary to adjust other aspects of your offer—salaries, benefits, perks—to offset the lure of flexible working. This applies to both potential and current employees.

Keep in mind that it will likely take longer to find executives in your geographical market and/or someone willing to relocate. We wrote about two candidates recently who passed up seven-figure salaries due to requirements that they reside in the company’s market area. It just goes to show how unwilling people have become to compromise their newfound lifestyle priorities.

It goes without saying that attitudes and priorities have changed during these pivotal years. More than ever, it’s not only the potential new recruit you have to convince; oftentimes, it’s also a spouse and children. Quality time with family, mental health and work flexibility have taken priority. The pre-pandemic “career comes first” credo has largely diminished, at least for now. The resulting hurdles must be addressed going forward if you want to remain competitive.

If you’re in need of high-end executive level marketing talent, give us a call at MarketPro. We can help you navigate the new recruiting landscape and attract top talent in today’s market.

Written by Rob Collins, Principal

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MarketPro Inc. is the leading high-end marketing executive search firm delivering top-performing innovative marketers. As a team of former marketing professionals, we are uniquely qualified to separate A players from everyone else. Celebrating our 26th year, we are a certified woman-owned business with headquarters in Atlanta and clients nationwide. Visit us on LinkedIn.