When It Comes to Returning to the Workplace, is “Corporate Culture” just “BS”?

Employees are calling "bull" when leaders say returning to work is all about maintaining healthy culture; remote hybrids a must

“As vaccinations and relaxed health guidelines make returning to the office a reality for more companies, there seems to be a disconnect between managers and their workers over remote work.”

Recent articles popping up along with multiple areas of research uncovers that employees are not only feeling deceived about future work-from-home promises (or tricked into a false sense of security) but that the long believed idea of “corporate culture” might just be more corporate “BS” handed down from the higher ranks who don’t know how to work (or manage) in a remote culture themselves.

What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work

According to a new McKinsey survey of 100 executives across various industries, nine out of ten organizations focused on the future of work after the pandemic will be combining remote and on-site working. And while many organizations and executives are reassessing the number of people required in each role or function in an effort to decipher what tomorrow should look like, 68% of those respondents have no detailed plan either communicated or in place around returning to work.

So while many report that the state of postpandemic working will be hybrid – they aren’t sharing much more details than that.

Hesitation could be the blame for future attrition

In our own conversations, many companies are hesitant to be the first to make big announcements about remote work – many for fear of industry criticism and others for no other reason than they really aren’t yet sure what’s best for the company going forward.  And where this is the approach, it appears it’s starting to backfire.

Countless employees are already making moves (literally!) when leaders are accurately, or inaccurately, perceived to be making self-serving decisions or no decisions at all. 

Referenced in several places as an example of how not to communicate culture concerns, is the recent Op-ed by CEO of Washington Media where the original subject line (yes, it was later edited)  of “As a CEO, I want my employees to understand the risk of not returning to work in the office” was seen as a threat by many.

While some employees might like to continue to work from home and pop in only when necessary, that presents executives with a tempting economic option the employees might not like. I estimate that about 20 percent of every office job is outside one’s core responsibilities — “extra.” It involves helping a colleague, mentoring more junior people, celebrating someone’s birthday — things that drive office culture. If the employee is rarely around to participate in those extras, management has a strong incentive to change their status to “contractor.” Instead of receiving a set salary, contractors are paid only for the work they do, either hourly or by appropriate output metrics. That would also mean not having to pay for health care, a 401(k) match and our share of FICA and Medicare taxes — benefits that in my company’s case add up roughly to an extra 15 percent of compensation. Not to mention the potential savings of reduced office space and extras such as bonuses and parking fees.

The result of her “warning” was a full work stoppage by employees on the following Friday that rippled throughout the publishing community.

Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey shared that 87% of the workers that have been working remotely during the pandemic want to continue to do so at least one day a week.  Also related, the Prudential Road to Resiliency survey reported that three-quarters of all workers factor benefits into their decision about whether to stay or leave a job. 

The voice of workers is louder then ever... The C-suite should be listening closely.

“Aside from compensation workers who are planning to look for new jobs rank more flexible work schedules, mobility opportunities and remote-work options as the top ways to encourage them to stay with their current employer. Flexible work schedules also was at the top of the list of what would encourage all workers to stay with their employer.”
source: American Workers Survey: Is This Thing Working

Leaders who hesitate to make, and clearly communicate, balanced decisions around the future of post-pandemic return-to-work strategies could rightfully be blamed for future unwanted attrition.

The Conversation recently pulled information from 3,000 respondents of a research request related to relocation and remote work plans.  They report having found that a significant portion of those that had already moved distances that would require full or part-time remote work, had done so under explicit or implicit expectations of being able to continue that work environment when the pandemic subsided.

“Our early findings suggested some workers would quit their current job rather than give up their new location if required by their employer, and we saw this actually start to occur in March. …Only a small minority of workers in our sample said their company asked for input on what employees actually want from a future remote work policy. Given that leaders are rightly concerned about company culture, we believe they are missing a key opportunity to engage with workers on the issue and show their policy rationales aren’t only about dollars and cents.”
source: The Conversation

Chris Hoyt

Chris Hoyt

A veteran of recruiting and HR, Hoyt is a sought-after speaker with presentations including national conferences with SHRM, LinkedIn, HR Technology, ERE and others in the USA as well as UNLEASH, iRecruit, Australasian Talent Conference and more abroad. Chris has been promoting and leading full scale and enterprise-wide integrations of social media and mobile marketing within workforce strategies for his entire career. His expertise and passion for interactive/social recruiting, candidate experience, and both national and international recruiting strategies are all areas that Hoyt now leverages as co-owner and President at CareerXroads, a Recruiting/Staffing consulting and think tank organization that works with corporate leaders from around the world to break out of traditional recruitment practices and push the envelope in an effort to win the ongoing war for top talent.

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