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Women among staff most likely to leave with strict rules on return to office

Most of restrictions and worries during the pandemic are by now forgotten but discussions about pros and cons with working from home continues. A new survey shows that 48% of employees claim that rules about returning to the office prioritise what leaders want over what employees claim they need to to do good work. When organizations implement rigid return to office (RTO) mandates, high-performers, women and millennials are the most likely to quit their job”, according to the survey by market research firm Gartner. 

The survey shows that intent to stay among average employees was 8% lower with strict return-t-office (RTO) mandates. Among high-performing employees, their intent to stay was 16% lower with these RTO mandates, double the rate of average employees. Among millennials and women, the intent to stay was 10% and 11% lower. 

“Mandated on-site requirements can carry very steep costs for talent attraction and retention. This is especially true for high-performers, women and millennials – three employee segments who greatly value flexibility,” says Caitlin Duffy, Director at Gartner. 

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“Often these costs far outweigh the moderate benefits to employee engagement and effort.” 

The company says 63% of HR leaders report an increased expectation around employees spending days in the office. Despite this increased in-person expectation, 48% of employees say their company’s mandates prioritise what leaders want versus what employees need to do good work.

“While in-person collaboration can yield moderate benefits, such as increased employee engagement, organisations are finding it challenging to get employees to return to the office more frequently. Some HR leaders have been met with low compliance after encouraging employees to spend more time in the office, causing them to resort to stricter RTO mandates.”

“High-performers often react to RTO mandates as a signal that their organization doesn’t trust them with the autonomy to make the best choices about how they get their work done. Many of these employees feel that they have proven themselves and maintained high levels of performance throughout the pandemic and remote working.”

Beyond flexibility, female employees report they prefer remote settings due to fewer encounters with microaggressions and biases, as compared to when working in an office, the survey shows.

“When organisations mandate rigid in-office times and days, women disproportionately face greater schedule complications and significant monetary costs related to caregiving responsibilities”, Gartner says.

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Millennials are the generation most likely to have caregiving responsibilities.

“Though going into the office can be beneficial for millennials – offering focus time away from potential distractions at home – Gartner data revealed that millennial employees’ performance was lower at organizations with RTO mandates.”

The company says that to prevent employee attrition, HR leaders should avoid rigid RTO mandates and instead seek to implement RTO strategies that maximize talent and business outcomes:

  • Motivate employees to return to the office rather than mandate. Organisations can motivate employees to come to the office by designing their office space and hybrid policies to make employees feel capable, autonomous, and connected.
  • Consider policies that focus on-site attendance per year, not per week.
  • Enable employees to shape the RTO policy. Employees who contributed to their teams’ hybrid work arrangements and felt like their needs were considered demonstrated both higher engagement and work performance.
  • Provide a clear reason behind requirements for working on-site. Organisations that transparently communicated their reasons for wanting employees to come into the office saw positive impacts on engagement, discretionary effort and retention.
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