The Return-to-Work Dilemma

In the return-to-work dilemma, it seems the biggest question that companies are facing right now is whether or not to mandate employees to come back to the office. So what has your company decided to do? Are you still contemplating the right thing to do? I want to offer you some thoughts and facts today that may help you in your decision.

When the COVID pandemic started, we all had to move to working from home on the fly. There was no notice and we had no time to plan, but somehow we figured it out, and for the most part we did well. Since then some of us have gone back to the office full-time, but some have gone part-time, and still some haven’t gone back at all.

Return-to-Work Options

So those are the three options on the table that I want to talk about today – Bringing your employees back into the office full-time, having your employees in the office a number of days per week and then the rest at home, or employees working from home full-time. Besides those options, as if that’s not enough to ponder, there are a few more things we need to consider.

If we mandate full-time in the office, does that need to be for all employees or just those whose work necessitates a face-to-face encounter, such as with a customer or a patient? If we consider a hybrid model where the employee can work a certain number of days from home and a certain number of days from the office, can they choose the days they come into the office or do you choose them for them?

Do you require a certain number of employees to be in the office on any given day? Does it depend on the role of the department? Can these days change from week to week? If you select full-time work from home, does that apply to non-exempt employees as well? Do you require all employees be working during certain hours of the day? Must they work from home, or can they work from anywhere else as long as they have the connectivity and equipment that they need?

Return-to-Work Pros and Cons

I’m guessing by now your head is hurting from thinking about all these things. There is no perfect answer, no magic wand to wave. Every company’s situation is different and the decision must be made for the good of the company and its employees.

So let’s talk about the pros and cons here. If you choose to have all employees in the office again, that’s fine. But keep in mind that according to a SHRM survey, that’s Society for Human Resource Management, they surveyed 1700 US employees, and 48% of them said that they will definitely seek a remote position for their next job.

So does that mean they will leave right now? Probably not, but know that they are thinking about it. On the other side, employees who worked from the office have faster access to technology, to leaders, to peers, as well as those informal, unplanned conversations in the hallway. If you choose a hybrid model, often this is agreeable to most employees.

In fact, again, SHRM tells us that 63% of employers right now are offering hybrid work opportunities to most of their employees. They understand the need to occasionally be in the office and they do miss seeing each other. That’s a benefit from being in the office, but the catch here is if they get to choose which days they can come in.

If days are assigned and one of those in office days is a day when they are on zoom meetings all day long, what is the point? They will feel frustrated because they could have done that from home. Also, if you choose this model, you must decide whether you want a certain percentage of employees in the office at all times, or if you want a percentage of each employee’s hours to be in the office and then they can choose the days.

Lastly, if you choose to allow employees to work fully remote from home, you must define what remote means. Can they choose their hours? Can they choose their location? Can they come into the office if they want to, or will you be closing the office? Something to think about if you choose a hybrid model or a completely remote model. You will need to ensure your employees keep their home addresses up to date in your HR system.

And you need to check on state tax laws. Often if an employee works in one state and lives in another, and now is working in both states, there could be tax implications that need to be considered. These tax implications are not just income tax related for the employee, but business related expenses that are required to be reimbursed for by the employer. This depends on the state that they live in.

The last thing I want you to think about is the language that job seekers and current employees are using. There are two terms used when talking about this topic and they are flexibility and autonomy. Flexibility in this situation is being able to choose whether an employee goes to the office or works from home.

Return-to-Work Their Choice

It is their choice. Likewise, autonomy means to employees that they not only decide where they want to work, but when they want to work and how they work. All these decisions make a difference to your employees. Now you will never satisfy all your employees with your decision, but what you must do is simply do what’s right for the organization keeping in mind, your culture, your industry, and your overall purpose.

If you do choose to have remote employees. I would recommend setting core work hours at the least, so employees will know when they can reach other employees that they need to complete their jobs. You’ll also need to create ways for the organization to know what is happening with those employees or even those departments.

What have they been up to lately? What are their successes? You need to keep your employees engaged and feeling part of the organization. There’s an article that was written in the Harvard business review last October of 2021, and it stated that “Organizations that give employees autonomy to choose their ideal way of working and support them with the right principles, training and tools will result in a more flexible, more motivated and more higher performing workforce.”

Isn’t that what we all want anyway? Deciding where your employees will work is complicated. That’s why companies like Inspiring HR Solutions are here to help. We can help you determine what is best for your company, your mission, your culture, and your employees. Reach out to me at

I’m happy to help.

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