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Are employers missing out on a crucial opportunity in forcing a return to the office?

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Then, he added: “However, we’re doing a lot of hiring for managerial roles right now to prepare for the post-pandemic recovery. One of the first questions applicants ask is if they have to move and how much time they can work from home, especially younger ones. Also, our internal surveys show that 29% of our employees want to stay fully remote and 58% prefer a hybrid model. I guess I have to accept the fact that the new generation of leaders and employees doesn’t have the same preferences that I do. Our most important resource is our people. I need to make sure that I’m tapping that resource most effectively.”

I admired his willingness to update his beliefs and do what’s uncomfortable for him. People are indeed the most important resource of any organization.

Yet so many leaders are failing to live by that maxim. They instead prefer to do what’s comfortable for them, even if it devastates employee morale and engagement. They fail to recognize how doing so deeply undercuts the bottom line through decreasing productivity, growing turnover, and subpar recruitment, while harming collaboration and innovation.

The call by many leaders for employees to return to the office full-time represents an egregious and self-defeating example of top executives choosing to do what’s comfortable for them over what’s best for their people and their bottom line. We can see that in some reversals by large employers who realized they screwed up. That’s why Google, after many months of insisting all employees return to their campus, backtracked from its plans and permitted full-time remote work to many in the face of mass employee resistance and resignations. Amazon did the same for similar reasons.

These trillion-dollar companies lost many billions through their self-defeating actions due to top employees leaving, serious hits to employee morale and engagement, and having to change the basics of their return to campus plans. If these top companies, with supposedly the best leadership and policies, can screw up their return-to-office plans so badly and hurt their innovation advantage, no wonder leaders of less-resourced smaller companies do so as well.

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