Bosses Are Winning The Battle To Get Workers Back To The Office

In the ongoing battle between bosses and workers over returning to the office, recent data shows more people are trudging back to the workplace. In the first week following Labor Day, office usage in 10 major metro areas neared 50% of 2020’s pre-pandemic attendance, reports Kastle Systems, a key-card property management company that tracks entries into office buildings.

There were more workers in the office last week than there have been since the pandemic started. However, in-office attendance is still lower than what it was before the virus outbreak. The in-office numbers may be low since Kastle’s data doesn’t include many of the city’s biggest real estate owners, including large law firms, banks, financial services and Wall Street firms.

Separately, the Partnership for New York City, a business industry trade group, surveyed more than 160 major Manhattan office employers between August 29 and September 12 to take the pulse of how many employees returned to the office or are still working remotely. Results indicate that 49% of Manhattan office workers are currently at the workplace on an average weekday—up from 38% in April.

Under 10% of employees are in the office five days a week. The number of fully remote workers fell from 28% in April to 16% as of mid-September. Train ridership is another indicator reflecting a return-to-office pickup after Labor Day. Many companies used the long weekend as the last gasp of freedom before ordering their employees back to headquarters.

After the long holiday weekend, 200,000 passengers rode the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan. The number of riders was the highest level since March 2020. Commuters from Westchester and surrounding suburbs riding the Metro-North Railroad in the City hit a high point compared to the pandemic period with 174,900 riders. Additionally, New York City public transit data showed an increase in returning workers with subway ridership, having 3.7 million riders for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.

The Partnership for New York City predicts that there will ultimately be a tipping point when the majority return to office. According to the Partnership’s analysis, 54% of workers will ultimately return to an office setting by January 2023. Even the tech industry, which has been the most resistant to going back to an office, is nearing the tipping point. Currently, average daily office attendance by tech professionals is at 47%, and that number is expected to increase to 50% by January.

Shifting Power Dynamics

There is a power dynamic shift taking place between the employee and employer. Throughout 2021 and early this year, workers were in high demand. Desperately needing staff as the economy reopened, companies catered to the workers. Seemingly overnight, the mood dramatically changed. As inflation raged, wreaking havoc on the economy, along with other geopolitical and macro events, thousands of people were downsized, hiring freezes put in place and job offers rescinded.

Americans now find themselves in a period of austerity. As this plays out, the dynamics between employees and employers will dramatically change. Companies will start clamping down and wielding their power, and the first order of business will be the return to office. A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that supervisors have “negative perceptions” of the work-from-home trend and said they’d prefer their staff to operate from an office setting.rity

The managers who responded to the survey were brutally honest. Nearly 70% replied that remote workers are “more easily replaceable than onsite workers.” About 62% contend that “full-time remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives and 72% say they would prefer all of their subordinates to be working in the office.”

The Hybrid Model

The dominant style of work is the hybrid model, promoted by tech companies, which calls for people to work from the office two or three days out of the week and the rest of the time from home—or wherever they so choose. However, while tech leadership offered fully remote and hybrid options, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google scooped up commercial real estate after prices plummeted, due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The companies are making a bold contrarian bet that Manhattan will bounce back and there will still be a need for people to work in offices. Facebook leased enough space in New York City to triple the amount of people that can work in the city. Apple, which has been in New York for at least a decade, plans to expand its footprint there. Google and Amazon are snatching up space in the city more than any other place in the United States.

Amazon recently paid about $1 billion to acquire the Lord & Taylor flagship building in Midtown Manhattan from WeWork. Collectively, the tech behemoths can accommodate over 20,000 workers. In hindsight, it looks like the tech giants were hedging their bets by offering flexible options, while scooping up real estate in case they needed to change their work style.

The Showdown: Workers Will Continue To Push For Remote Work Options

You will likely soon see a showdown. Many surveys over the last year or so show that employees adamantly responded that they would rather quit than commute back to an office. People have grown accustomed to a better work-life balance by being at home. They appreciate the autonomy and freedom that comes with the flexibility of choice. Their productivity and hours spent working are above reproach.

Runaway inflation has driven the costs of commuting into big cities. The prices of fuel, automobile maintenance, food, business clothing and other necessities will eat into their paycheck, which is already depressed, due to inflation, making the money worth less than it was only six months ago. The long, exhausting, soul-sucking and expensive commute, along with random acts of terrifying violence, is keeping workers from returning to their offices.

In the ongoing tug-of-war battle over companies pushing people to come back into major cities, such as Manhattan, business executives conveniently gloss over these real issues and pretend they don’t exist. If you are commuting into the Big Apple from one of the boroughs, Westchester, Long Island, the suburbs of Connecticut or New Jersey, your commute can easily take two-plus hours door-to-door roundtrip.

The timing is generous, as it doesn’t include the daily frustrations of train delays, constant work being done on the tracks and mechanical issues with the bus where everyone needs to get off and is left stranded on the side of the road until another bus can pick them up. When you come home, you’re tired and burned out.

You also have to worry about your physical safety. New York City can be a dangerous place. According to data from the New York City Police Department, “crime increased by 34.2% in April 2022,” compared to the same period last year. There has been a “43.5% increase in grand larceny” and “burglaries also increased by 39.4%,” compared to last year, which was high to begin with. In April alone, there were 1,261 robberies, 2,044 felony assaults, 3,867 instances of grand larceny and 105 shootings. These represent the reported acts, and the number of unreported incidents is likely much higher.

The most recent data from the New York City Police Department showed an overall increase in crime during August 2022 by 26% compared with August 2021, 38% increase in robbery, 34.7% increase in grand larceny and a 31.1% rise in burglary.

Rationale For Businesses To Promote In-Office Work

David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, epitomized Wall Street’s view of not being in the office, saying remote work is an “aberration.” Wall Street banks are the most ardent proponents of getting people into the office. It’s reasonable that the leadership feels this way. The securities industry is highly regulated. They need to consider money laundering, insider trading, ponzi schemes, churning client accounts for higher commissions and other inappropriate activities. If all the bankers, brokers and traders are under one roof, it’s easier for the compliance, legal, risk, audit and regulatory personnel to keep tabs on them.

There is another rationale at play too. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams has been a strong proponent of businesses getting their employees back into the office. As crime and violence escalated in the Big Apple, as there were fewer people around, Adams contends that with commuters coming back, there will be safety in numbers.

There is also an economic reason. If commuters from New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut suburbs won’t return, the ecosystem of restaurants, mom-and-pop shops, retail stores, nail salons, gyms and other small businesses will likely fail. This would cause job losses, empty streets, invite more crime and deter both workers and potential tourists from coming into New York City.

The Benefits Of Returning To An Office

Starting a new job is stressful. It’s even harder when you’re doing it remotely. If you’re just beginning to build a career, working remotely may serve as a roadblock to your future success. After over two years of being at home, you most likely lost touch with some or all of your social contacts. If you remain remote, you run the risk of feeling isolated and it will be difficult to cultivate a group of like-minded people.

For young adults, going to the office has positive social benefits. You will meet new people, make friends and build a network of alliances that could help you throughout your career. There are a host of benefits to being at the office. You can find mentors to help navigate your career. There will be serendipitous meetings in the hallways, cafeteria, elevator and bathrooms. These impromptu interactions add up over time. It makes your work life better—or at least more tolerable—by having cohorts that share the same experiences.

Source: Bosses Are Winning The Battle To Get Workers Back To The Office


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The Future of Remote Work, According To 6 Experts

Whether you’re a remote work booster or a skeptic, there are lots of unanswered questions about what happens next for remote work, especially as Covid-19 restrictions continue to fade and as fears of a recession loom.

How many people are going to work remotely in the future, and will that change in an economic downturn? Will remote work affect their chances of promotion? What does it mean for where people live and the offices they used to work in? Does this have any effect on the majority of people who don’t get to work remotely? If employees don’t have to work in person to be effective, couldn’t their jobs be outsourced?

It turns out there’s a dangerous line between arguing for remote work and arguing yourself out of a job. And since remote work makes employees less visible, they will have to find other ways to let higher-ups know they exist or risk being passed over for pay raises. Remote work will also have long-lasting effects on the built environment, requiring office owners to renovate and allowing employees the potential for a higher quality of living. Finally, what happens during a recession largely depends on whether your company decides to save money by reducing real estate or laying off the employees they never met.

One thing that’s clear is that remote work is not going away. There are, however, a number of ways to make it better and more commonplace, and to ensure that it doesn’t harm you more than it helps.

To get a better idea of what could be coming, we asked some of the most informed remote work thinkers — people who study economics, human resources, and real estate — to make sense of what to expect in the future of remote work. Their answers, edited for length and clarity, are below.

Five years from now, what percentage of the US population will work remotely?

Johnny Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management: I think that number will never exceed 30 percent fully remote. What percentage will have some remote work? Probably 60 to 65 percent. There are some roles that will never be remote. But even in retail, employers are trying to figure out how to give that worker population some ability to work remotely. One retail company I talked with is going to make it so that the people who work in the store five days a week now do one day a week in customer service remotely.

Nicholas Bloom, economics professor at Stanford University, co-founder of WFH Research: Currently, 10 percent of the US workforce are fully remote and 35 percent are hybrid remote. In five years, I think both numbers will be pretty similar. Pushing this up is continued technological improvements in working-from-home technology. Pushing this down is the pandemic ebbing from memory.

Julie Whelan, global head of occupier research at Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis: The last few years has proven that people are able to work remotely. Now, we are trying to mix a combination of in-person and remote work — that is where the challenges shine. I am not convinced we will see a large jump in fully remote work; I think jobs that are fully remote will always remain the minority.

What has to change for more people to be able to work remotely?

Matthew Kahn, economics professor at the University of Southern California and author of Going Remote: How the Flexible Work Economy Can Improve Our Lives and Our Cities: Firms must have clear performance metrics — ideally ones that can be verified using quantitative data, so that remote workers understand in real time how they are performing. Firms must also figure out how to configure “virtual watercooler” interactions so that remote workers are less likely to feel like they are out of the loop.

Arpit Gupta, assistant professor of finance at New York University Stern School of Business: Companies need to have better ways to onboard new workers and get them involved in corporate culture. They also need to improve remote workers’ ability to connect with different parts of the organization and create better ways to manage new idea generation and creativity. Finally, they need to ensure improved promotion prospects for purely remote workers and the ability to go completely remotely from one firm to another.

Bloom: The main driver of working from home is whether it makes business sense for the organization, and if employees are happy doing this. This is driven by technology and the job task. Over time the technology is slowly improving to support working from home. I have been working on this topic for almost 20 years, and the changes over that period have been incredible.

Twenty years ago, working from home meant telephone calls and emailing or mailing small files. Now it’s all video calls and the cloud. Within 10 years, I predict new major technologies will arise to make this far better. In terms of job tasks, these are also changing to support working from home. For example, my neighbor is a doctor and pre-pandemic was in the office every day, but now sees patients remotely two days a week, as her job tasks now include televisits.

Taylor: We as management have to get comfortable with a total paradigm shift. We constantly say, “That can’t happen.” And the fact of the matter is we have to be willing to challenge our notions of what can’t happen and say, “Can it?” We’re in this dynamic stage where we’re determining whether or not it works. So the question, “Can you work remotely?” is really not the question. Is it possible? Yes, during the pandemic we proved that it’s possible. The question is, will there be trade-offs?

How might remote work affect jobs that aren’t remote?

Gupta: Changing consumption patterns will create more demand for goods and services — and the people who provide them — in the suburbs and remote-friendly destinations, relative to office central business districts in current metropolitan areas.

Bloom: Many non-remote jobs interact with remote workers. Think of retail and food service workers in city centers. If office employees move to remote work, these service workers have to change their location of work, too.

Taylor: More jobs might become partially remote. For a nurse, we’ll give them three days in the hospital and two days as a tele-nurse. So we are thinking a sharing of responsibilities to get to hybrid, even in those roles that absolutely, at the end of the day, largely have to be in person.

Will remote workers find it harder to advance than their in-person colleagues?

Taylor: Yes, point-blank. More than two-thirds of supervisors (67 percent) consider remote workers more easily replaceable than onsite workers, and 62 percent believe fully remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives. Managers acknowledged that when they are looking to give an assignment, they oftentimes forget the remote worker. Proximity matters.

Something that is of particular importance to me as an African American is, for years, we argued that we weren’t able to build relationships with the majority community. We didn’t have access to them and therefore visibility. Well, you really lose access and visibility if you’re at home and they’re in the office.

“Working remotely significantly reduces your opportunities to build relationships with people who can influence your career”

I’ve heard this argument that office culture is a white male-dominated relic of the past. That might be. But as long as those white males are in the office making decisions about who is going to be promoted, then you are very likely putting yourself at a disadvantage. It’s not a question of, is that right or wrong, fair or not. It’s just what it is. Working remotely significantly reduces your opportunities to build relationships with people who can influence your career.

Whelan: There is a risk that those people who get more face time are naturally at an advantage to advance faster than others. However, if an organization truly supports flexible work, then behavior around promotions and compensation gains needs to be discussed early, observed closely, and action should be taken if desired outcomes are not met. Just because people may work remotely some of the time — or all of the time, depending on company policy — that doesn’t mean they cannot be visible. So it is incumbent on everyone, including the employee themselves, to make sure people remain visible, front-of-mind, and reviewed based on job performance despite a remote status.

Kahn: The answer to this key question hinges on whether a given firm promotes based on a type of nepotism or based on objective value added to the firm’s core goals. Face-to-face interaction does build up trust and friendship. If bosses play favorites, then the remote workers will have a disadvantage in getting promoted. Those bosses who seek to promote based on a meritocratic criteria will emphasize the value of the quality of face-to-face interactions over the quantity of face-to-face interaction at work. Such an emphasis of quality over quantity of face-to-face interaction will alleviate concerns that remote workers are second-class citizens, as they may visit the headquarters just a few days a month.

Those firms that figure out these new work configurations will have an edge in attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce.

Bloom: Fully remote workers may find slow career progression, particularly those who are early in their careers. As individuals advance in their careers, however, personal mentoring becomes somewhat less important. It is also worth noting most remote workers in the US are not fully remote. They are mostly hybrid, coming into the office for three days a week on average, and as such, they get a good dose of personal interaction. So, yes, fully remote workers may face some career advancement costs, but hybrid workers likely will face little or no costs.

What’s going to happen to all the offices?

Whelan: Offices will still exist — they will just evolve. The most sought-after locations, the most desirable amenities, and the most productive space design will continue to morph as population migration and work patterns settle into a new place. The workplace today is anywhere you have a mobile device and an internet connection. But the physical office as a place to gather, innovate, and connect cannot easily be replaced.

Bloom: In the short run, not much. The reason is scheduling. Most firms are either letting employees choose their working-from-home days, which typically means Monday and Friday, or are scheduling teams or the whole firm to come in on the same days, often Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. As such, they cannot cut space. Nobody sublets an office on Monday and Friday.

In the longer run, clever scheduling software, like Kadence, will organize teams and working groups to come in on different days: Say the industrials team is in the office on Monday and Tuesday, and the residential team on Wednesday and Thursday. But from talking to hundreds of firms, this is probably some years away from being a major reality. Until that time, office demand will be soft but won’t see major drops.

If you want to look for big impacts on real estate, then focus on city center retail. With office workers working from home about 50 percent of days, retail expenditure in central New York, San Francisco, and other big cities has collapsed, and that retail spending, jobs, and space is moving out to the suburbs.

Kahn: In high-quality-of-life cities, these commercial buildings will be converted into housing as well as schools and centers for our population’s aging senior citizens.

Taylor: There is no question that we’re going to have less demand for the traditional office space. Will it go away? No.

To what extent will remote work affect where people live?

Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin: Remote work is already affecting where people live. A record nearly one-third of homebuyers looked to relocate out of their home metro in the second quarter of 2022. That’s up from roughly 26 percent before the pandemic. Many people who have the flexibility to move have been doing so during the pandemic, often taking their higher housing budgets with them and, in turn, contributing to higher home prices in the places they’re moving. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in popular Sunbelt cities like Phoenix, Miami, and Austin, which have seen a surge of in-migration from more expensive coastal metros like NYC, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Taylor: We are absolutely seeing people move further away. Hell, I’ve even seen people who have to be in-office two days a week say, “Hey, I live in a totally different city, and I can commute in.” So I can live in Atlanta, work in Washington, DC, buy a plane ticket for those two days, get a hotel, and the math says it’s actually cheaper and better for me to live where I want to live and commute — even if the company doesn’t pay for it, because I don’t have to pay for housing in DC.

Kahn: In expensive superstar cities, working-from-home workers will be more likely to move to the suburban fringe, where land is cheaper and the homes are newer. Remote workers will also seek out beautiful areas that offer them the leisure opportunities they desire. Real estate prices in Santa Barbara, California, have boomed since March 2020 due to its beauty and its proximity to Los Angeles. Perhaps surprisingly, medium-size cities such as Baltimore will gain. Located along the Amtrak Corridor, Baltimore offers easy access to Washington, DC, New York City, and Philadelphia and features much lower housing prices.

How will it affect pay?

Fairweather: Some companies are localizing pay for their workers who relocate and work remotely, but plenty are letting remote workers keep their high salaries. The biggest winners will be coastal workers who move to more affordable places and maintain their salary. They’ll find their money goes much further, not just for housing but for other goods and services.

The biggest losers are people already living in popular migration destinations who may not have the option to move somewhere less expensive, and whose salaries may not go as far as they once did, thanks to both higher inflation and rising home prices in their area. However, some people living in popular migration destinations may be happy that their home values have increased and their local businesses have more high-earning customers.

Bloom: Working from home is a perk, so it means any individual firm offering hybrid-WFH can pay about 5 to 10 percent less. But, of course, there are also general equilibrium effects in that firms compete for talent in a labor market. If every firm offers working from home, no individual firm can cut pay without losing employees.

Will remote work cause companies to hire more contractors or more people outside the US?

Taylor: An employee came to me, and she made a really, really compelling case: “Johnny, I don’t need to come into the office.” She literally gave me a three-page memo making the case for why she could work remotely. And I smiled and said, “Be careful what you pray for. In the process of saying, ‘I don’t need to interact with other people, I’m an individual contributor,’ you’ve literally made the case that your job can be outsourced. And now I don’t have to cover your pension plan, I don’t have to deal with a salary increase every year, I don’t have to do any of that.” And guess what? I did exactly that. I outsourced that role.

Let’s face it, most of us could have a fully contracted environment, but what we want is a culture, people who have a long-term commitment. We want to build leadership; we need management. And we do that by having consistent relationships and getting to develop our people, so there’s a lot of upside to employing people internally and reasons that we don’t outsource. But there’s a lot of space between not doing it and doing a little bit.

Gupta: Yes, to both outside contractors and outside the US employees. But these workers will be more integrated into existing job functions and teams, rather than outsourcing entire processes.

Kahn: This offshoring is a serious possibility. Those firms that require some monthly face-to-face interaction at the corporate headquarters will be less likely to engage in offshoring.

Bloom: This is already happening, from what firms tell me. Anti-immigration policies initiated by Trump have accelerated this process by reducing the ability of foreign workers to migrate to the US. So dozens of firms have said if they can’t get workers to their jobs in the US, they will move their jobs abroad. Working from home has shown how easy it is to have fully remote employees and teams, and in an era of tight domestic labor markets with restricted immigration, moving jobs overseas is one common solution (the other being automation).

But I should point out currently that this is probably good for most US citizens. US labor markets are incredibly tight, generating painful inflation and shortages of goods and services. Try taking a flight, booking a restaurant meal, or hiring a contractor. It is extremely hard, as there is too much demand for labor right now. So having some foreign workers fill that gap in is good news. Of course, if the US hits a hard recession and unemployment rises drastically, that benefit will be less clear.

What will happen to remote work in a recession?

Gupta: I actually suspect remote work will increase. While firms have bargaining power against employees, they mostly want to cut costs like real estate leases, pushing people remote.

Firms are also less interested in onboarding new employees into corporate culture and long-term innovation — two important use cases for the office. It’s more about keeping things going, which can be handled by existing workers at home.

Kahn: Scenario 1: The boss has discretion over who to fire and is more likely to fire the remote worker, because the boss doesn’t really know this worker and hasn’t built up a friendship with the worker.

Scenario 2: Since remote workers do not bear a fixed daily cost of commuting to the office, such workers can more easily reduce their hours to meet the firm’s new demand for labor. In this case, remote workers may be less likely to be fired.

Taylor: Reversing this — putting this genie back in the bottle — is not going to happen. What I think is more likely to happen during a recession is that productivity will become even more important. And so then you will see employers looking really, really hard at the data because they’re going to have to make choices between employee A and employee B. And so employees who are more productive and more efficient are the people who are going to make it through.

Fairweather: Historically, recessions have lasted longer because it takes time for workers to move to job opportunities. If a salesperson in Cleveland lost her job, she may have had to move to San Francisco to find another sales job. But with remote work, you can do a sales job from anywhere. Hopefully this recession is shorter than historical recessions because of remote work.

Source: The future of remote work, according to 6 experts – Vox

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Monitoring Employees Makes Them More Likely to Break Rules

As remote work becomes the norm, more and more companies have begun tracking employees through desktop monitoring, video surveillance, and other digital tools. These systems are designed to reduce rule-breaking — and yet new research suggests that in some cases, they can seriously backfire. Specifically, the authors found across two studies that monitored employees were substantially more likely to break rules, including engaging in behaviors such as cheating on a test, stealing equipment, and purposely working at a slow pace.

They further found that this effect was driven by a shift in employees’ sense of agency and personal responsibility: Monitoring employees led them to subconsciously feel less responsibility for their own conduct, ultimately making them more likely to act in ways that they would otherwise consider immoral. However, when employees feel that they are being treated fairly, the authors found that they are less likely to suffer a drop in agency and are thus less likely to lose their sense of moral responsibility in response to monitoring.

As such, the authors suggest that in cases where monitoring is necessary, employers should take steps to enhance perceptions of justice and thus preserve employees’ sense of agency. In April 2020, global demand for employee monitoring software more than doubled. Online searches for “how to monitor employees working from home” increased by 1,705%, and sales for systems that track workers’ activity via desktop monitoring, keystroke tracking, video surveillance, GPS location tracking, and other digital tools went through the roof.

Some of these systems purport to use employee data to improve wellbeing — for example, Microsoft is developing a system that would use smart watches to collect data on employees’ blood pressure and heart rate, producing personalized “anxiety scores” to inform wellness recommendations. But the vast majority of employee monitoring tools are focused on tracking performance, increasing productivity, and deterring rule-breaking.

For example, a social-media marketing company in Florida installed software on employees’ work computers that takes screenshots of their desktop every 10 minutes and records how much time they spend on different activities. The company then uses this data to determine productivity levels and identify rule-breakers. Similarly, Amazon tracks smartphone data for its delivery drivers to monitor their efficiency and identify unsafe driving practices.

Given their prevalence, one might expect that these sorts of systems would be effective in reducing harmful workplace behavior. And indeed, studies have shown that in some contexts, monitoring can deter certain specific behaviors, such as theft by restaurant workers. However, our recent research suggests that in many cases, monitoring employees can seriously backfire.

When Monitoring Backfires

In our first study, we surveyed more than 100 employees across the U.S., some of whom were subject to monitoring at work and some of whom were not. We found that monitored employees were substantially more likely to take unapproved breaks, disregard instructions, damage workplace property, steal office equipment, and purposefully work at a slow pace, among other rule-breaking behaviors. Of course, this survey only determined correlation — so to prove causation, we ran a second, experimental study.

We asked another 200 U.S.-based employees to complete a series of tasks, and told half of them that they would be working under electronic surveillance. We then gave them an opportunity to cheat, and found that those who were told they were being monitored were actually more likely to cheat than those who didn’t think they were being monitored.

What drove this effect? In general, people are motivated to do the right thing by a combination of external factors (such as the threat of punishment or promise of reward) and their internal moral compass. Prior studies in support of employee monitoring generally focus on the former: situations in which targeted monitoring informs an immediate external response to a specific form of misconduct, such as retail workers who know they will be fired if they’re caught stealing on camera. But in many workplace contexts, employers cannot rely on carrots and sticks alone.

In these cases, employers must also depend on employees’ internal sense of morality — and our studies showed that monitoring employees causes them to subconsciously feel that they are less responsible for their own conduct, thus making them more likely to act immorally. Specifically, when we surveyed the participants in our studies, we found that those who were monitored were more likely to report that the authority figure overseeing their surveillance was responsible for their behavior, while the employees who weren’t monitored were more likely to take responsibility for their actions.

This reduction in agency in turn made the monitored employees more likely to act contrary to their own moral standards, ultimately leading them to engage in behavior that they would otherwise consider immoral.

To Boost Agency, Treat Employees Justly

Clearly, monitoring can have some major negative side effects. But is it possible to gain the benefits of monitoring employees without pushing them to abandon their morals? Being monitored is likely to always have at least some negative impact on people’s sense of agency and moral responsibility, but our studies did identify one mechanism that can reduce this effect: When employees feel that they are being treated fairly, they are less likely to suffer a drop in agency and are thus less likely to lose their sense of moral responsibility in response to monitoring.

In our experiment, we increased perceptions of employer fairness both by varying how respectfully the administrator interacted with the participants, and whether they received the cash reward they had been promised, and we found that monitored participants were less likely to cheat if they felt they were treated justly.

So what does this mean for employers? There are countless ways leaders can enhance perceptions of justice (and thus preserve employees’ sense of agency). As a starting point, rather than unilaterally implementing a monitoring system, leaders should find ways to give employees visibility and input into when surveillance is appropriate and when it should be off-limits — and then stick to those boundaries.

For example, financial services instant messaging platform Symphony enables managers to monitor employee conversations only to the extent necessary for record-keeping and legal compliance, with strict guidelines in place preventing any surveillance without a strong justification. Leaders should also find ways to give employees access to their own data, as well as aggregated, anonymized data collected from relevant teams. That data should in turn be used in ways that benefit employees (for example, to inform wellness initiatives or professional development opportunities).

And of course, leaders should do their best to communicate openly and transparently with employees about what data will be collected and how it will be used — in fact, one survey found that even just explaining the scope and purpose of monitoring can boost employees’ acceptance of the practice by about 70%.

When used right, monitoring employees can prevent accidents, boost performance, and improve overall wellbeing. But our research demonstrates that it can also reduce employees’ sense of agency and personal responsibility, potentially increasing the prevalence of the very behaviors that these systems are meant to deter. To mitigate this risk, leaders must ensure that they treat employees fairly, foster accountability, and frame monitoring as a tool for empowering — not punishing — employees.

By: Chase Thiel, Julena M. Bonner,John Bush, David Welsh, and Niharika Garud

Source: Monitoring Employees Makes Them More Likely to Break Rules

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Why The Return To The Office Isn’t Working

Andres is back to the office three days a week, and like many knowledge workers, he’s not happy about it. He says that while he and the other executive assistants at his Boston law firm have been forced back, the attorneys haven’t been following the rules. That’s partly because the rules don’t quite make sense, and people in all types of jobs are only coming in because they have to, not because there’s a good reason to go in.

“People have adapted to remote work, and truthfully, the firm has done a tremendous job at adapting in the pandemic,” said Andres, who would prefer going in two days, as long as others were actually there. “But I think it’s more the returning to work that they’re struggling on.” He, like a number of other office workers, spoke with Recode anonymously to avoid getting in trouble with his employer.

Andres enjoys working from home and thinks he does a good job of it — and it allows him to escape a long commute that has only gotten 45 minutes longer thanks to construction projects on his route.

The majority of Americans don’t work from home, but among those who do, there’s a battle going on about where they’ll work in the future. And it’s not just people who enjoy remote work who are upset about the return to the office.

Those who want to be remote are upset because they enjoyed working from home and don’t understand why, after two years of doing good work there, they have to return to the office. People who couldn’t wait to go back are not finding the same situation they enjoyed before the pandemic, with empty offices and fewer amenities. Those who said they prefer hybrid — 60 percent of office workers — are not always getting the interactions with colleagues they’d hoped for.

The reasons the return to the office isn’t working out are numerous. Bosses and employees have different understandings of what the office is for, and after more than two years of working remotely, everyone has developed their own varied expectations about how best to spend their time. As more and more knowledge workers return to the office, their experience at work — their ability to focus, their stress levels, their level of satisfaction at work — has deteriorated. That’s a liability for their employers, as the rates of job openings and quits are near record highs for professional and business services, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

There are, however, ways to make the return to the office better, but those will require some deep soul-searching about why employers want employees in the office and when they should let it go.

The current situation

For now, many employees are just noticing the hassle of the office, even if they’re going in way less than they did pre-pandemic. This is what’s known as the hybrid model, and even though people like the remote work aspect of it, for many it’s still unclear what the office part of it is for.

“If I go into the office and there are people but none of them are on my team, I don’t gain anything besides a commute,” Mathew, who works at a large payroll company in New Jersey, said. “Instead of sitting at my own desk, I’m sitting at a desk in Roseland.”

Mathew’s company is asking people to come in three days a week, but he says people are mostly showing up two.

Further complicating things is that, while the main reason hybrid workers cite for wanting to go into the office is to see colleagues, they also don’t want to be told when to go in, according to Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford professor who, along with other academics, has been conducting a large, ongoing study of remote workers called WFH Research.

Employees say that management has yet to really penalize people for failing to follow office guidance, likely out of fear of alienating a workforce in a climate where it’s so hard to hire and retain employees. Many others moved farther from the office during the pandemic, making the commute harder. The result is circular: People go into the office to see other people but then don’t actually see those people so they stop going into the office as much.

With 70 percent of office workers globally now back in the office at least one day a week, the excitement many people felt a few months ago is wearing off. For many, that novelty is turning into an existential question: Why are we ever here?

“It was sort of like the first day of school when you’re back from summer vacation and it’s nice to see people and catch up with them,” Brian Lomax, who works at the Department of Transportation in Washington, DC and who is expected to come in two days a week, said. “But now it’s, ‘Oh, hey, good to see you,’ and then you go on about your day,” an experience he says is the same as working from home and reaching out to people via Microsoft Teams.

Most of the people we spoke to use software like Teams, Slack, and Zoom to communicate even while they’re in the office, making the experience similar to home. If one person in a meeting is on a video call from home — say, because they’re immunocompromised, or they have child care duties, or it just happens to be the day they work from home that week — everyone is. There’s actually been an uptick in virtual meetings, despite the return to the office, according to Calendly. In April, 64 percent of meetings set up through the appointment scheduling software included videoconferencing or phone details, compared with 48 percent a year earlier.

One issue is that hybrid means different things from company to company and even team to team. Typically, it seems employers are asking workers to come in a set number of days per week, usually two or three. Some employers are specifying which days; some are doing it by teams; some are leaving it up to individual workers. Almost half of office visits are just once a week — and over a third of these visits are for less than six hours, according to data from workplace occupancy analytics company as reported by Bloomberg. The middle of the week tends to be much busier than Mondays and Fridays, when there are empty cubicles as far as the eye can see.

There’s also a disconnect between why employees think they’re being called in. Employees cite their company’s sunk real estate investments, their bosses’ need for control, and their middle managers’ raison d’etre. Employers, meanwhile, think going into the office is good for creativity, innovation, and culture building. Nearly 80 percent of employees think they’ve been just as or more productive than they were before the pandemic, while less than half of leaders think so, according to Microsoft’s Work Trends Index.

Employers and employees generally tend to agree that a good reason to go into the office is to see colleagues face to face and onboard new employees. Data from Time Is Ltd. found that employees that started during the pandemic are collaborating with less than 70 percent of colleagues and clients as their tenured peers would have been at this point. Slack’s Future Forum survey found that while executives were more likely to say people should come into the office full time, they are less likely to do so themselves.

The nature of individuals’ jobs also determines how much, if at all, they think they should be in the office. Melissa, a government policy analyst in DC, is supposed to go in twice a week but has only been going in once because she says her work involves collaborating with others but not usually at the same time. She might write a draft, send it to others to read, and then they’ll make comments and perhaps, at some point, they all get together to talk about it.

“I see a lot of these ads for these teamwork apps — they always show these pictures of people sitting at a conference table and they have paper and all sorts of things on the wall and they’re really collaborating on product development or something,” Melissa said. “And I’m like, that’s not what we’re doing.” Still, she thinks that from managers’ perspectives, in-person is the gold standard, regardless of the actualities of the job.

“It feels like they just want people in the office,” she said.

It also depends on the pace of work. A financing services employee at Wells Fargo in Iowa said he works more efficiently at the office but that since his job consists of working on deals that come in sporadically throughout the day, that efficiency means he ends up wasting a lot of time playing on his phone or pacing around the office in between.

“What makes this so frustrating is that my wife will send me a photo of her and my 10-month-old son going out for a walk,” he said. “If I had a break at home, I’d go on a walk with them.”

Employers are certainly feeling the frustration from their employees and have been walking back how much they’re asking employees to be in the office. Last summer, office workers reported that their employers would allow them to work from home 1.6 days a week; now that’s gone up to 2.3 days, according to WFH Research.

Companies are rolling back return-to-office, or RTO, plans at law firms, insurance agencies, and everywhere in between. Even finance companies like JPMorgan Chase, whose CEO has been especially vocal about asking people to return to their offices, have loosened up.

Tech companies have long been at the forefront when it comes to allowing hybrid or remote work, and now even more tech companies, including Airbnb, Cisco, and Twitter, are joining the club. Even Apple, which has been much stricter than its peers in coaxing employees back to the office, has paused its plan to increase days in the office to three a week, after employee pushback and the resignation of a prominent machine learning engineer.

It seems like, for now, office workers have the upper hand. Many don’t expect to be penalized by management for not working from the office when they’re supposed to, partly because they don’t think management believes in the rules themselves.

“Our retention is better than expected and our employee engagement is better than expected, so I don’t think [our executives are] seeing any downside,” said Rob Carr, who works at an insurance company in Columbus, Ohio, where people are expected to be in three days a week but, as far as he’s seen, rarely go. “Honestly, if they were, I think they’d be cracking down, and they’re not.”

Carr himself goes into the office every day, but only because he and his wife downsized houses and moved a short bike ride from his office. Otherwise Carr, who is on the autism spectrum and says he doesn’t do well with in-person interactions, would be completely happy working from home as he is from his empty office.

“Hats off to Apple for innovation,” Carr said, “but they are, certainly from a Silicon Valley perspective, an old company.”

What to do about the broken return to the office

Solving the office conundrum is not easy, and in all likelihood it will be impossible to make everyone happy. But it’s important to remember that going to the office never really worked for everyone, it was just what everyone did. Now, two years after the pandemic sent office workers to their living rooms, their employers may have a chance to make more people happy than before.

“The problem right now is you’ve set something that’s unrealistic and doesn’t work, and when employees try it out and it doesn’t work, they give up,” Bloom, the Stanford professor, said. “If employees refuse to come in, it means the system isn’t working.”

To fix that, employers should explore not only why they want people in the office, but whether bringing people into the office is achieving those goals. If the main reason to bring people back is to collaborate with colleagues, for example, they need to set terms that ensure that happens. That could mean making people who should be working together come in on the same days — a problem around which a whole cottage industry of remote scheduling software has cropped up.

That said, Bloom believes there’s no golden rule on how often it’s necessary to go in to get the benefits of the office. Importantly, when workers do come in, they shouldn’t be bogged down with anything they could be doing at home.

“First, figure out how many days a week or a month constructively would it be good to have people face to face, and that depends on how much time you spend on activities that are best in person,” he said, referring to things like onboarding, training, and socializing.

Employers need to be realistic about how much in-person work really needs to happen. Rather than making people come in a few times a week at random, where colleagues pass like ships in the night, they could all come in on the same day of the week or even once a month or quarter. And on those days, the perks of coming in have to be more than tacos and T-shirts, too. While fun, free food and swag aren’t actually good reasons to go to the office.

How much someone needs to come into the office might also vary by team or job type.

“For me, coming in to do teaching and to go to research seminars, that might be twice a week,” Bloom said. “But for other people, like coders, it may just be a big coding meeting and a few trainings once a month. For people in marketing and advertising, mad men, that’s very much around meetings, discussions, problem-solving — that may be two or three days.”

Another thing to consider, especially for those who truly like the office, is how they can get that experience with fewer of the downsides.

Currently, even employees who still like their offices a lot aren’t necessarily using them. Real estate services company JLL found that a third of office workers are using so-called “third places” like cafes and coworking spaces to work, even when they have offices they can go to.

Matt Burkhard, who leads a team of 30 at Flatiron Health, is one of those workers. He says he works better at an office than at home, where he has two young children. And while Burkhard enjoys going into his office and goes there once or twice per week, though he won’t be required to do so until later this summer, the trip to Manhattan isn’t always feasible, especially if he has to do child care for part of the day. So he’s been going to Daybase, a coworking space near his home in Hoboken, NJ, three or four times per week.

“I’m just a lot more focused when everyone is in the same place working,” Burkhard said, noting that he hasn’t asked his company to pay for the $50 a month membership fee.

For many office workers, the current state of affairs just isn’t working out. So they’re doing what they can to make their experience of work better, whether that means renting coworking space or not showing up for arbitrary in-office days. They don’t necessarily hate the office. What they hate is not having a good reason to be there.

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Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home

A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job. She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up.

The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds. Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done.

“I had just had it,” said Twidt, 33, who lives in Marietta, Georgia.

With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.

While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.

And for Twidt, there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions.

“They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

It’s still early to say how the post-pandemic work environment will look. Only about 28% of U.S. office workers are back at their buildings, according to an index of 10 metro areas compiled by security company Kastle Systems. Many employers are still being lenient with policies as the virus lingers, vaccinations continue to roll out and childcare situations remain erratic.

But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

“High-five to them,” said Sara Sutton, the CEO of FlexJobs, a job-service platform focused on flexible employment. “Remote work and hybrid are here to stay.”

The lack of commutes and cost savings are the top benefits of remote work, according to a FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people released in April. More than a third of the respondents said they save at least $5,000 per year by working remotely.

Jimme Hendrix, a 30-year-old software developer in the Netherlands, quit his job in December as the web-application company he worked for was gearing up to bring employees back to the office in February.

“During Covid I really started to see how much I enjoyed working from home,” Hendrix said.

Now he does freelance work and helps his girlfriend grow her art business. He used to spend two hours each day commuting; now the couple is considering selling their car and instead relying on bikes.

One of the main benefits, he says, is more control over his own time: “I can just do whatever I want around the house, like a quick chore didn’t have to wait until like 8 p.m. anymore, or I can go for a quick walk.”

Of course, not everyone has the flexibility to choose. For the millions of frontline workers who stock the shelves of grocery stores, care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, or drop off packages at people’s doors, there are scant alternative options to showing up in person.

But among those who can, many are weighing their alternatives, said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who’s researched why people quit jobs. Bosses taking a hard stance should beware, particularly given labor shortages in the economy, he said.

“If you’re a company that thinks everything’s going back to normal, you may be right but it’s pretty risky to hope that’s the case,” he said.

At least some atop the corporate ladder seem to be paying attention. In a Jan. 12 PwC survey of 133 executives, fewer than one in five said they want to go back to pre-pandemic routines. But only 13% were prepared to let go of the office for good.

Alison Green, founder of workplace-advice website Ask a Manager, said she’s been contacted by many people with qualms about going back, citing concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and Covid precautions. Some have said they’re looking for jobs at companies they feel take the virus seriously, or will let them work from anywhere.

Some things are indeed lost with remote work, Green said, like opportunities for collaboration or learning for junior employees. But, she added: “I think we need to have a more nuanced discussion than: hustlers only do well in the office.”

For Sarah-Marie Martin, who lived in Manhattan and worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when the pandemic struck, the months at home gave her time to redraw the blueprint of her life.

“When you have this existential experience, you have time to step back and think,” Martin said. “In my previous life, I didn’t have time to get super deep and philosophical.”

The mother of five moved her family to the New Jersey shore. And once the push to get back to offices picked up, the idea of commuting hardly seemed alluring. This spring, Martin accepted a fully remote position as chief financial officer of Yumi, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby food.

Gene Garland, 24, unknowingly opened the floodgates to people’s frustrations about office returns. After his employer, an IT company, in April told people they needed to start coming in, two of his close colleagues handed in their resignation letters. Garland, who lives in Hampton, Virginia, tapped out a tweet:

Hundreds of people responded, with many outlining plans, or at least hopes, to leave their own jobs. Garland says he himself has no plans to quit, but empathizes with those who do.

“Working inside of a building really does restrict time a lot more than you think,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid of the cycle where you work and work and work — and then you die.”

Twidt, the compliance specialist in Georgia, had already lined up a new job by the time she handed in her resignation letter: a role at a Washington-based company.

The recruiter that approached her, Twidt said, asked what it would take to get her on board. She replied that she would prefer something 100% remote. Some employees have enjoyed working from home so much that they’d rather quit their jobs than go back to the office full time, a new survey found.

Out of 1,000 US adults polled in May, 39% said they’d consider quitting if their bosses weren’t flexible about them working from home. The Morning Consult survey was first reported by Bloomberg. The survey showed that 49% of the respondents who said they’d consider quitting were millennials and Gen Z — i.e., adults born after 1980.

Many global companies are embracing a hybrid work model as staff start to return to offices post-pandemic. Finance giants, who were known for having a strict work culture, are now adopting more flexible work models. Some have decided to redesign the workplace for more collaboration, and keep solo tasks for remote working. Others plan to cut back on office space entirely.

But some firms, such as JPMorgan, are not won over by the idea of remote work and want to see the majority of their workforce in the office. Jamie Dimon, the company’s CEO, said on May 4 that remote work “does not work for young people” and “those who want to hustle.” Chris Biggs, a partner at the consultancy firm Theta Global Advisors, told Insider that employers need to be “tuned into people’s mental health” as staff return to the office.

“You could do a lot of damage to those who don’t want to go into the office,” he said, adding that employers shouldn’t force people to come into the office.

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

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Source: Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home – Bloomberg



Refusal of work is behavior in which a person refuses regular employment. As actual behavior, with or without a political or philosophical program, it has been practiced by various subcultures and individuals. Radical political positions have openly advocated refusal of work. From within Marxism it has been advocated by Paul Lafargue and the Italian workerist/autonomists (e.g. Antonio Negri, Mario Tronti), the French ultra-left (e.g. Échanges et Mouvement); and within anarchism (especially Bob Black and the post-left anarchy tendency).

In employment law, constructive dismissal, also called constructive discharge or constructive termination, occurs when an employee resigns as a result of the employer creating a hostile work environment. Since the resignation was not truly voluntary, it is, in effect, a termination. For example, when an employer places extraordinary and unreasonable work demands on an employee to obtain their resignation, this can constitute a constructive dismissal.

The exact legal consequences differ between different countries, but generally a constructive dismissal leads to the employee’s obligations ending and the employee acquiring the right to make claims against the employer. The employee may resign over a single serious incident or over a pattern of incidents. Generally, a party seeking relief must have resigned soon after one of the constructive acts.


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