Flex is Next: Balancing the evolving tension between employers and employees over RTO

Britta Schellenberg
Britta Schellenberg

There are 3 key factors in any RTO plan: employees, the employer, and the ongoing COVID-19 virus. That’s a triangle. 

In yoga, there’s a pose called trikonasana (triangle pose) which activates your core muscles and strengthens balance and stability. 

As the highly-contagious Delta variant puts existing RTO plans on hold, the only workable response is maintaining flexibility. 

As VP of Marketing here at Robin, I read a lot about the hybrid workplace, and every two weeks I share my favorite articles with you.

Feel free to let me know what YOU think. 

Let’s start the conversation.

Zillow CEO in Fortune: Employee experience must guide RTO

In the August 9th Fortune magazine article, Delta’s rise highlights why companies should let employees guide return-to-office plans, Zillow CEO Rich Barton writes: 

“Even before Delta gained a foothold, millions of workers were quitting their jobs, and millions more . . . were seriously considering it. Employers risk accelerating that trend if they ignore employee preferences and bring everyone back to physical offices a set number of days a week, especially while a mutated coronavirus ramps up infection rates nationwide.” 

Employee experience, says Barton (and Robin), must drive any RTO plan. Why? Because people are more important than places. 

Workers typically know best what approach addresses their evolving needs. Barton has given Zillow employees the ability to choose when to come in: “We are not advocating for the elimination of the office, or for a work culture in which employees never see each other in person,” writes Barton. “Instead, the office should evolve into a flexible hub of collaboration and a welcoming place for employees and teams when they need it.”

Execs and employees differ on RTO, remote work

A 2021 PWC survey shows a wide gap between how executives and employees feel about RTO plans. For example, more than 2 out of 3 executives surveyed (68%) want employees back in the physical office at least 3 days per week. 

On the flip side, most employees (55%) would prefer to work remotely at least 3 days (or more) per week. We’re seeing that tension play out between companies and employees over RTO plans.

In light of the survey’s findings, PWC offers employers the following RTO advice: “Recognize that workforce needs and desires have shifted due to the pandemic. Employers need to understand the concerns of their employees and work with them to build policies and approaches. The return to work will be effective only when employees are on board. If they’re not, companies should be prepared to lose talent.”

Gartner: Trust gap needs closing

A recent Gartner survey quantified the large “trust gap” between leaders and employees now getting in the way of many RTO plans:

  • 75% of business leaders believe they take employees’ perspectives into consideration when making decisions, compared to less than half (47%) of employees who think they do.
  • 69% of senior leaders believe they work in the best interests of their employees; less than half of their employees (41%) agree with that.
  • About 3 out of 4 executives feel that communication from their organization is honest and open, while only about half of employees agree.

The results of this “trust gap”? Employee pushback on RTO plans, worsening employee engagement, and increased employee churn.

ComputerWorld: How to choose desk booking software 

Employees are rightfully nervous about RTO plans, especially as the Delta variant spreads along with more calls for mask and vaccine mandates. Selecting the right tools to support RTO has never been more important. Fortunately, ComputerWorld magazine offers some great advice on selecting desk booking tools:

  • Conduct pilot programs, gather employee feedback, and educate employees on how to use any platform you choose.
  • Ensure that any tool has strong security protections, including “enterprise-grade encryption, privacy standards compliance, and other security measures such as support for SSO.”
  • Use collected data to optimize office space. “Many of these systems provide tools that companies can use to track which desks get used, where the most popular areas are located, and so on.”

The article recommends some of the top solutions — and, yes, they included Robin.

Robin Blog: Creating a great employee experience for hybrid work

My colleague Sabrina Dorronsoro has written a great blog post about driving the hybrid work experience. She offers the following 4 steps:

  • Invest in tech to effectively connect. 
  • Reinvent your space. 
  • Make data-driven decisions. 
  • Communicate early and often.

Thank you for reading, and see you again in two weeks. Meanwhile, continue to do triangle pose and remain flexible — we’re all doing RTO yoga now!

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