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90% of Companies Plan to Return to the Office in 2024

Posted by Karen Young on Dec 11, 2023 12:37:48 PM

Current trends in the corporate world indicate a shift away from the once-prominent embrace of remote or hybrid work setups. Organizations such as Disney, Twitter, and Starbucks have recently altered their policies, now mandating increased in-office presence for their employees. While initial surveys suggested positive outcomes from flexible work arrangements for half of the employers, 33% have rescinded their plans for a permanent virtual or hybrid model. Even figures who once supported work-from-home policies, such as the CEO of Salesforce, have pivoted from previous opinions and now openly critique the push for returning to office spaces. Just as the shift toward work from home dramatically changed the landscape of the professional world, the return to office will cause a significant shift in policies, workflows, and liabilities.

Why are Companies Returning to the Office?

A recent poll of 150 U.S.-based CEOs indicated that most companies are planning to enforce a return to the office. This comes as a surprise to many employees, as many employees prefer work-from-home or hybrid setups in comparison to office-based roles.

So why are companies making the shift back to the office? There are a few core reasons companies believe office-based working will be more productive for their company ideals and goals. One key reason is the idea that remote working kills collaboration and teamwork. Studies have shown that employees who work together in the same building are more likely to collaborate, innovate, and come together as a unit. On the other hand, remote working enforces a more independent working style. As companies continuously look for ways to improve cross-team collaboration and efficiency, working from home doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Instead, companies are eager to bring their workers together and increase productivity.

Another surprising reason is utilizing the return to office to downsize. While many companies claim the core reason is to increase productivity and morale, experts say that it may be a way to cut numbers as some employees may resign over office policies. Economic uncertainties, concerns about a looming recession, and shifts in consumer spending habits might be motivating companies to implement office mandates as a means of subtly reducing their workforce.

This approach can reduce the legal implications of layoffs and avoid company-wide concern over layoffs if they are voluntary. Of course, returning to the office may reduce morale if employees prefer a remote or hybrid option, but this policy is predictable in comparison to mass layoffs.

How Will the Return Implicate Organizations?

Return-to-office policies can significantly implicate organizations, particularly in the realms of property management and employee benefits.

Property Management

For organizations enforcing a return-to-office policy, this means reevaluating their real estate needs. Many companies had downsized their office spaces or adopted flexible arrangements during the pandemic, expecting a more permanent shift towards remote work. However, a reversal to in-office mandates might result in challenges related to expensive leases or underutilized office spaces. This shift may require renegotiating leases, subletting unused spaces, or incurring additional costs to readapt the office layout to comply with new safety measures.

It also adopts new liabilities in terms of the property itself, third-party liability, and workers' compensation. Insurance coverages will change significantly if companies have physical office space vs. those who are remote or hybrid. Organizations need to secure robust property insurance policies and ensure they have liability coverage included.

In terms of workers comp, these policies will need to be altered to reflect the new physical space and ensure proper coverage for employees while working in the office is in place.

Employee Benefits

Return-to-office mandates can also deeply impact employee benefits. Employees who have grown accustomed to remote work may face challenges readjusting to commuting, potentially leading to increased stress, reduced job satisfaction, and decreased productivity. Most employees have grown accustomed to flexible hours, work-from-home stipends, and other remote-based benefits.

In addition, those with caregiving responsibilities or health concerns might find it challenging to adhere to strict in-office requirements, leading to dissatisfaction and talent attrition. Organizations should review their employee benefits package and ensure that it reflects an office-based position, providing enough value to employees to counteract any dissatisfaction with the end of working from home.

Will Return to Office Be Beneficial Overall?

The question of whether the return to the office will be beneficial overall remains uncertain. There is no definitive answer as several factors come into play. However, if companies can prioritize their employees' well-being and foster a supportive work environment that acknowledges the need for flexibility in today's daily routines, the professional landscape can adapt to the conventional ways of working. Balancing the advantages of in-person collaboration with the flexibility necessitated by the changing demands of modern life is crucial. In addition, structuring the company's risk management plan to adhere to new working policies will ensure any bumps in the road are fully protected.

Business Insurance with ECBM

ECBM's business insurance services can assess your current policy and make necessary adjustments to align with your updated working environment. Whether you're increasing on-site presence or implementing a hybrid model, our experience allows us to navigate these changes seamlessly. We provide comprehensive coverage that suits your evolving business needs at a fair cost. For more information on our services, contact one of our agents.