Blogs > Intentional Insights > What Do Employees Want When They Return to the Office? (Video and Podcast)

Jul 7, 2021

What Do Employees Want When They Return to the Office? (Video and Podcast)

tags: leadership,decision making,wise decision making,leadership development,decision-making process,leaders,dealing with COVID,return to the office

What Do Employees Want When They Return to the Office? (Video and Podcast)

Our assumptions about what others want are often incorrect due to the cognitive bias called the false consensus effect. Extensive research shows that most employees place a premium on telework and work-life quality after the pandemic. That's the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes what employees want when they return to the office.

Video: “What Do Employees Want When They Return to the Office?”

Podcast: “What Do Employees Want When They Return to the Office?”

Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. And today we'll talk about decision making on returning employees to the office and specifically figuring out what employees want. Employers often don't have much clarity about what employers want, especially during a time of disruption. And the pandemic has been a time of major disruption. So bringing employees back to the office is a very tricky question that depends on really understanding what they want. Because you know, you don't want to be forcing people to go back to the office, it's going to be pretty difficult environment, if you tried to force people, especially with the great resignation coming with so many people looking to leave their current positions, and find a new job in the midst of this great hiring boom, the post pandemic recovery. So what does the post pandemic workplace look like? It may not be what employers imagined. Employee leaders overwhelmingly have been successful through in person interactions, they have successful 2030, some 40 year careers through in person face to face in office interactions, and I really want to go back to January 2020. That's what they feel like doing. And that's what they feel like their employees should feel like doing. Because they assume that that's what employees want, it's easy to make that assumption, because that's what they want. leaders want that and they assume that employees want that. Unfortunately, these assumptions are often wrong, and problematic because of mental blind spots called cognitive biases. And the biggest one, the biggest one, applying to employees, where employers make assumptions about employees is called the false consensus effect, the false consensus effect. It's a problematic mental tendency, where we assume that those who are in our tribe, those who are in our in-group agree with us to a much greater extent than they actually do. So for example, though, our employees, the employees, the various leaders, their team members, have the same opinion about returning to the office permanent post pandemic porque arrangements. So that is an example. It's often a false assumption, something that really is not as accurate as we think we are in making that assumption. We happen in relationships all the time as well. By the way, this is why there's a pretty significant divorce rate in the United States. People make bad assumptions about their partners and in all sorts of relationships, you have to understand that the pandemic caused major disruptions where people really shifted their perspectives. I mean, over a year of telework, that has really shifted the perspectives and all the things associated with the pandemic, then society, the worries, the problematic lack of social interactions, face to face that cause people to have different habits, norms, values, and returning to the office, they often don't think what employers think they should think or actually think they think. So it's good to get research on what employees actually think. And so that's what you want to do to avoid judgment errors, avoid making hasty assumptions. And instead, look at this objective data, survey data research of all sorts on what employees actually want. So what do we do? What kind of data do we have? Well, there are eight major surveys that have been done, on what employees one that have been published in the spring of 2021. And so that's what the employees, that's where the surveys are coming from. And overwhelmingly, they show that employees want to continue working remotely for a large chunk of the time seven, some even permanently. So for a large chunk of their workweek. employees want to work from home, the large majority vast majority, and then a substantial minority want to continue working remotely full time, over two thirds, that's over two thirds, want to continue working remotely half the time or more. And that's kind of the lower bound of the surveys. Usually when you see questions of you know, how many people want to go back to the office for over half the workweek. With this you'll see something like maybe 20% 25%. It's rare that it goes and surveys up to 33% 1/3. So definitely over two thirds want to work remotely half the time or more, and over a fifth. Depending on a survey you'll see anywhere from 20 to 35% want to work remotely full time over two fifths and this ranges from 42% to 58%. With quit if working remotely wasn't a regular option if working remotely for at least half the work week wasn't a regular option, and some would quit if working remotely full time wasn't the regular So something you have to understand where employees are coming from. Now, employees feel pretty good about remote work, you know, you might have heard about complaints about remote work, or various problems. But overall, they feel quite good about it, as you can see from the fact that they want to do substantially, a lot of it, they want to do remotely, it's a crucial benefit, this perceived as a crucial benefit, something that they will sacrifice a lot of money for 8% of their salary on average. So that's a major chunk of change that they are willing to sacrifice. So this is really something for you to consider as employers. And as employees, neither, this is something for you to bring to your boss. And this is something they should know. Now, the surveys also show that there are a number of other benefits of remote work, where employees report having much more work-life balance when they work remotely, when they don't come to the office, employees feel more productive, they feel more engaged, they feel happier. So all of these are huge, large benefits, productivity, engagement, happiness, and they're glad to be in your company. Those are all major benefits. And they also feel less stressed. So not only are more productive, engaged, happier, but also less stressed. So that's great. We definitely want employees who are productive, engaged, happy and less stressed. Now, there are some problems with telework. So working from home is not all fun and games that are some challenges that need to be addressed. And that can't be addressed effectively. They want fewer meetings. Now that's not too difficult to address as an issue of telework. Over half the field burned out partially because the hours are stretched, there's insufficient boundaries on their time, which can be addressed. And over three quarters, get zoom fatigue, again, tied to the meetings, lots and lots of meetings, which you can definitely have less of. So you want to solve a large number of challenges with telework to make it easier going forward. Other telework issues include that there's a lot of challenges with employees getting sufficient money for their home offices for their equipment, equipment, like good laptops, good microphones, good video cameras, good bandwidth for their internet. So broadband and stuff like that are issues and for their furniture, good ergonomic furniture, nice comfortable home spaces, quiet home spaces. Another issue is that other folks may not be great at virtual communication, collaboration. So this is a challenge if they feel that, hey, there's a lot of challenges with others and themselves, not having the greatest skills in virtual communication, virtual collaboration. Those are areas I've been really surprised to see companies failing to invest in getting training in these areas. So getting training in virtual communication and virtual collaboration is something that would be really important for companies going forward. And research done during the pandemic backs up the survey results. That's the survey results. There's a lot of research showing that these survey results are quite accurate. employee productivity rose following the transition to telework. So for example, there was a 5% increase more than 5% increase from March August 2020, compared to March August 2019. So in that period of time, six months from March to August 2020 compared to March to August 2019, there was a 5% increase in productivity, which definitely shows that people going to work at home contributed to the rise in productivity. 90 and 94% of workers feel equally or more productive than before the pandemic working at home. So this is all about telework, of course. So talking about teleworkers only. And employers overall are pretty convinced of efficiency. So when we look at employers, and when we ask them, are you going to make workers more productive? Are they more efficient? They say yes, which makes sense because of course, workers don't have nearly as much money and they don't have a community. I've had to go from their bedroom to their home office, right? Instead of spending a couple of hours on the commute, stressed out and so on. And they don't have a lot of the hassles that come from working in the office. So coming in various distractions going through security, all of that sort of stuff, so they can spend more time being productive and actually doing work. Now, there are a number of other reasons telework will stick around some companies, a lot of companies made serious investments in it for remote work. So they keep using this because they now have this much less of an obstacle. Employers, employees spend money and resources for home offices. There are some companies that fund home offices for their employees. And of course, employees themselves spent a lot of money on improving their home offices as well. So that's another benefit and there is a big Big reduction in stigma around telework, which was a big issue. But people who are teleworking were perceived as folding it in. And now teleworking is normalized. That's the big thing. So that's what you need to understand about workers and what they want when they return to the office. And again, the large majority of workers over two thirds more likely over four, three quarters on average. So two thirds of the lower bound want to work from home over half the time, about 20 to 20 to 35% want to work remotely full time, and over two fifths would quit if they weren't given the opportunity to work remotely, at least half the time. And the number would quit if they weren't given the opportunity to work remotely, full time. So those are things that you need to understand about workers and what they want. And the false consensus effect is a dangerous judgment error, which causes leaders to misperceive what their workers want and what they will be willing to do. If they don't get what they want. While we're seeing a number of companies with good workers, the top talent is leaving, because the company is really bungling the return to the office. All right, this has been another episode of the wise decision maker show. I hope you liked it. Please leave your comments and thoughts on the show. I'll be glad to hear them. You can leave them in the show notes as comments. And you can of course, email me at Gleb at disaster avoidance experts dot com with your notes with your quote, questions, comments, again, that's Gleb at disaster avoidance You'll find a lot more information about the show in the show notes and I hope you subscribe to the show on whichever venue you've checked out. Check this out, whether it's videocast or podcast we have both. Alright, I hope you have benefited and that hope this show will help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. Till next time, my friends.

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Originally Published at Disaster Avoidance Experts June 8, 2021.

Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is an internationally-renowned thought leader in future-proofing and cognitive bias risk management. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-proofing consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, which specializes in helping forward-looking leaders avoid dangerous threats and missed opportunities. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019), The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020), and Resilience: Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic (Changemakers Books, 2020). His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, and other languages. He was featured in over 550 articles and 450 interviews in prominent venues. These include Fortune, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, CBS News, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Time, Fast Company, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for mid-size and large organizations ranging from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, including 7 as a professor at Ohio State University. You can contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, LinkedIn, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, and gain free access to his “Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace” and his “Wise Decision Maker Course” with 8 video-based modules.

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