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Carrots and Sticks: Employers Look for Ways to Ensure RTO Compliance


Hand holds a note that says welcome back

Return to the office (RTO) or else?

Some employers are taking a two-pronged approach to getting their workers into the office: offering incentives to make the office more inviting and cracking down on those who fail to comply, according to new data from Resume Builder.

A large majority of the 800 employers surveyed in December plan to offer happy hours, catered meals or upgraded office space to lure employees away from their home office, kitchen table or sofa. They’re less likely to offer raises (40 percent) and child care benefits (37 percent) as incentives, according to the findings from respondents comprising C-level executives; directors; presidents/CEOs/chairpersons; owners or partners; senior managers; and HR managers.

Nearly all respondents—95 percent—said employees who don’t comply will suffer consequences:

  • 57 percent will see their bonus affected.
  • 54 percent will see their benefits affected.
  • 53 percent can expect a reduction in pay.
  • 33 percent will be fired.

Among respondents, 79 percent are tracking employee office attendance, primarily by using badge swipes. Beginning with the new year, 91 percent of employers are requiring workers to go into the office at least once a month—if not more frequently—while 75 percent will require workers to go into the office weekly.

In some cases, employees are fighting back against their employers’ RTO plans. Amazon and Disney workers have been among those petitioning their employers to reconsider such mandates. Amazon has said workers who don’t comply will be blocked from promotions, Fortune reported in November.

Employers need to consider why employees prefer working from home, pointed out Julia Toothacre, resume and career strategist for Resume Builder.

“Companies need to provide RTO incentives, but happy hours aren’t it. Compensation is how to get people back to the office,” Toothacre said in a news release. “Working from home saves money on food, gas, car maintenance and clothing and gives people time back in their day without a commute. Catered meals are a good start, but compensation for commuting, child care, pet care, clothing and such would go much further for people.”

A survey of 400 professionals by staffing and recruitment firm TalenTrust found nearly half (47 percent) have not been issued any RTO mandates and have been told none are forthcoming. But more than half—55 percent—would not turn down a new position that was onsite-only if the opportunity was appealing otherwise.

“While remote work has become incredibly popular, what we see is professionals who remain pragmatic,” said Kathleen Quinn Votaw, CEO of TalenTrust, in a news release. “If office-based roles provide the best career growth and compensation, they will accept it. But the preference absolutely leans remote whenever possible.”

Meanwhile, some companies have opted to embrace remote schedules and downsize their brick-and-mortar footprint. Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus drastically pared down its real estate and officially switched to a remote-first model.

“Especially in corporate marketplaces, two factors create work/life stress and attrition: high cost of living and long commute times,” Eric Severson, Neiman Marcus Group’s chief people and belonging officer, told Fortune.

“Those make it so stressful for workers to manage child care, elder care, family responsibilities, and be available when they need to be at work,” Severson said. “That’s why we did what we did.” He added that remote work has had no impact on productivity.

“I definitely would say to anyone who’s doubtful: Run a test. The academic research is unequivocal on this subject.”

SHRM Online collected the following articles on return-to-office mandates.

The Fight Over RTO Is Getting Dirty

In February, Amazon announced that employees would be required to come into the office three days a week, and since then, the e-commerce giant has escalated its battle with remote employees: sending emails to employees about their attendance, creating internal dashboards to display how many days a week each employee was coming in to the office, and telling managers in October that they could begin firing employees who weren’t meeting the return-to-office requirements.

(Business Insider)

Meta Gets Tough with RTO Plan, Warns Employees They Could be Fired if They Don’t Comply

Meta Platforms Inc. told employees that management will be watching how they comply with return-to-office rules and that workers could be fired if they don’t, according to a report in Insider. The Facebook parent is a significant tech employer in Austin, Texas.

Some workers were required to begin reporting for work in person three times per week under the policy that became effective after Labor Day. 

(Austin Business Journal)

Employers Are Upping Their Incentives to Bring Workers Back to the Office

Free lunch, game nights and live concerts are among the perks a growing number of U.S. employers are dangling in front of workers to bring them back to the office. Companies are also relaxing their dress codes, adding commuter benefits and even raising salaries to entice employees. However, the incentives have been hit or miss so far.

(CBS News)

Return to Office

Many employers are continuing their efforts to bring employees back to a physical workplace after several years away. Whether a full-time onsite requirement or a hybrid approach, employers are seeking ways to meet the needs of the business and remain competitive while balancing the requirements of their workforce. Here is the latest news on RTO, as well as member-only resources for managing remote, hybrid and flexible workplaces.

(SHRM Resource Page)

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