The showdown between WFH and RTO (return-to-office) policies is getting ugly, and people on both sides of the argument are determined to win.
You might’ve heard that Apple employees are protesting the new RTO policy that CEO Tim Cook plans to enforce. It would require employees to go into the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays — and again on a third day that is determined by their teams. Seems reasonable enough, especially for an Apple salary? Workers say nope.
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO, is reportedly pressuring employees to come back five days per week. (Half of business leaders want to do the same.) Some bosses are even threatening pay cuts for remote workers. Is it possible to create an RTO policy that satisfies executives and employees alike?
The Case for RTO
Employees are not the boss, this argument goes — the boss is the boss — and WFH is a privilege, not a right.
A line cook or grocery store cashier (the essential workers who risked their lives in 2020) can’t exactly log in remotely. How is it fair that society expects people earning minimum wage to wake up at the crack of dawn to commute while the upper-middle class gets to stay in their pajamas until 5 p.m.?
Plus, Zoom meetings lead to worse brainstorming and nonexistent company culture. The COVID vaccine has been available for over a year, and if you can watch Top Gun: Maverick in a theater for the sixth time, you can show up for your job. Your parents told you it’s called “work” because it’s not fun, right?
OK, that sounded harsh, we know. Here’s the other side …
The Case for WFH Forever
Employees are the lifeblood of any organization. To attract and retain top talent, companies need to keep them satisfied … and telecommuting technology has allowed for much greater satisfaction for millions. At Apple, workers claim to be “happier and more productive” working remotely.
They also claim that requiring an in-office workforce is bad for diversity. In fact, research does show that marginalized groups face transportation inequality. And WFH makes life easier for many workers with disabilities.
Plus, commuting is bad for the environment. If your company is committed to sustainability like you always claim, why are you making every worker burn fossil fuels?
The Great Compromise
Everybody needs to make some concessions here and we all know it. The hybrid approach may be the only solution to (mostly) appease all parties.
Employers: If remote work is doable and popular in your industry, give workers some flexibility and trust as long as their work is getting done.
Employees: In exchange for this flexibility and trust (and if coming into the office isn’t a legit burden for you), it’s a reasonable request to show commitment to the organization with your presence some of the time.
So, you’ve seen all sides. Which one are you on?