What Companies Are Getting Wrong About RTO

Feb 22, 2024

With hybrid environments becoming the standard for workplaces these days, more and more companies—and their employees—are navigating return-to-office arrangements.

Yet while much has been written about how to bring employees back into the office effectively, I’ve noticed a lack of coverage around what not to do—or what employers are doing wrong when it comes to establishing healthy and effective hybrid workplaces.

Anecdotally, I’ve seen a few ways in which employers are making the transition more difficult for themselves and their employees, and research backs up these observations. A few common missteps include:

  1. Implementing a one-size-fits-all approach: Not all employees have the same preferences or needs. Implementing a rigid, one-size-fits-all policy may lead not only to employee dissatisfaction, but to reduced productivity and engagement. It’s crucial for companies to consider individual preferences and requirements.
  2. Breakdown of communication: Clear and transparent communication is key. Companies may face issues if they fail to effectively communicate the reasons behind their return-to-office decisions, safety measures, and expectations. Keeping employees informed and engaged is essential.
  3. Ignoring employee well-being: Companies that neglect mental health support, flexibility, and work-life balance in their return-to-office plans may find it challenging to retain talent. Signs to look out for among employees include of increased stress, anxiety, or burnout; changes in the quality of both individuals’ and teams’ work; and expressed dissatisfaction or other complaints. The challenges of managing a hybrid work environment, especially if not well-balanced, can contribute to mental health issues.
  4. Lack of strong work-life-balance modeling: Companies need clear policies around work-life balance, and these policies should be enforced (and lived) by management. The last thing companies want is an employee struggling to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, leading to overwork or feelings of being overwhelmed.
  5. Overlooking hybrid work challenges: Managing hybrid teams effectively requires excellent collaboration, communication, and a sense of unity among team members. Companies need to make sure they are facilitating and supporting these processes, and look out for signs of social isolation and disengagement among employees. For example, if an employee becomes less engaged in team discussions, misses meetings, or experiences difficulties in communication, that may be a red flag.
  6. Technology challenges: A lack of access to essential tools or difficulties in adapting to remote collaboration tools may hinder an employee’s ability to do their jobs and lead to frustration and disengagement.
  7. Not following up regularly: Companies should be conducting regular surveys to check in with their people and gather feedback on their work experiences. Ask specific questions about challenges, preferences, and suggestions for improvement.

What are the pitfalls you’ve noticed—or even experienced—when trying to bring people back into the workplace?

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