Click your heels, Dorothy!

I have a pet peeve. 

As talk of Covid has died down this year, I hear a lot of business moguls and corporate leaders encouraging workers to return to the office. As one executive said this week on one of the morning business shows, “If you have a chance to go back, go back to the office.”

Of course, the commentator followed up his call to return to the office with a chummy laugh as if to say: “Hey, who wouldn’t want to come back to this place?”

Well actually, a lot of people. Some two-thirds of those who have worked remotely during the pandemic do not want to return to the office, according to a survey conducted by the jobs platform FlexJobs.

Corporate leaders still seem to put a premium on “face time” in the office.

To make matters worse, respected author Malcolm Gladwell sparked a media storm and cries of hypocrisy recently by coming out against permanently working from home. “It’s not in your best interests to work at home,” said Gladwell, during an appearance on the Diary of a CEO podcast. “If you’re just sitting in your pajamas in your bedroom, is that the work life you want to live?”

A brand new world

I get that corporate leaders are trying to ramp up business efficiency and productivity, meet business demand, and get past the pandemic. But, I’m not sure I agree that remote work hasn’t provided results.

In my own life, it’s provided better work-life balance, meant less commuting, and actually increased my own productivity. I’m in good company. Off-site employees, according to an Engagement Survey by McLean & Company, tend to have higher overall engagement than onsite employees.

So my response to the leaders urging workers back to the office: Make me.

Who’s the boss?

Oh, my words sound worse than they really are. I’m not being difficult or acting insubordinate. I wouldn’t actually mind going back to the office.

Companies though have always controlled how quickly workers return to the office and I’m not talking about some broad policy announcement forcing workers to return to the office. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, clicking her heels, companies have always controlled their own fate.

I’m talking about corporate culture and how leaders treat their workers. The same things that keep good workers when other companies come calling will be the same things that get workers back into the office:

  • Career development and advancement;
  • Total compensation;
  • Caring and inspired leaders;
  • Meaningful work;
  • Sustainable work expectations;
  • Strong workplace flexibility.

Put your cards on the table

People happily work much harder when they feel that their work is appreciated. Most every company claims that they care about their workers. In a tight hand of poker, there inevitably comes a time when you have to “show your cards.”

It’s time for company’s to show their cards and what really matters to them: pushing a lazy narrative or building a great culture that means good things for employees and, ultimately, the client and customer.

16 thoughts on “Click your heels, Dorothy!

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  1. My daughter did an in person internship this summer, after her previous internships had been virtual because of Covid. She’s entering her senior year of college. She said hands down this was best actual experience, in person, because she got to learn so much more than she would have at home. She got onto projects she wouldn’t have known about, Met and shadowed people she’d never have met, learned how people negotiate and compromise, learned how to make your ideas heard, and found out about potential career paths and things to do. She said she can’t imagine not working in an office environment…and she’s an introvert by nature. She also said she felt a sense of camaraderie that was missing as well

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re so right, it’s a challenging issue. I completely understand why your daughter would say that. From a long-term culture perspective, on site has a number of advantages. My issue is more with how some leaders have forced the return to the office and the lack of recognition that employees might not want to give up some of virtual benefits they experienced over the past 2 years. I think the ultimate solution is a balance of remote and on site, weighing both business, customer, and employee needs. At least that’s how I would handle it, if some angel investor wants to fund my dream start up and make me CEO! No matter what, that’s awesome for your daughter — a great experience and stepping stone for the future.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Here’s what I think is the difference: if you want a 40 hour a week job, with cola as your raise, remote working will be fine. If you want a career, I think in person is the only way to go

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it’s more important for young people to be in the office. They will learn so much more and it will help advance their career. For people near the end of their careers, it doesn’t matter.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I agree 100 percent. Corp culture and collaboration matter too to more experienced professionals, but it definitely matters to entry and mid level folks. New folks need the day-to-day in the office to know what’s what. Thanks for stopping by.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I appreciate your thoughts LA, but I do disagree slightly. Companies have every right to force employees to be on location, that’s the way the game is played, but prospective employees also have every right to be selective and search out firms that offer a better balance. I’m probably on the far end of it, but I still care very much about my career. Thanks for stopping by LA, always appreciate your insights!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. You have an established career. That’s a great thing. But think about those who don’t…real life examples…my husband switched career paths in his mid to late thirties. He was unfulfilled in his job, knew he wanted to stay in finance but wasn’t sure. There was a group he interacted with a little, but being in an office environment he got to shadow them, build a relationship with the people, and eventually switch to that area which was a great fit and he excels at. My neighbor is a partner at a mid size accounting firm. The kids she hired to start in 2020 are on the same level as the group hired in 2021, if not behind, because left in a remote setting stifled their learning opportunities. My other friend had two people working for her…when it came time for a promotion she promoted the person who came into the office four days a week. They asked more questions, were willing to take on new projects and were willing to learn from others. The person working remotely logged in, did their job and only their job. They didn’t appear hungry. A lot of people are using things called toggles I think…it mimics keystrokes so it looks like you’re on the system. Some people have been fired because they were caught out, and it was easy to catch because the work wasn’t being done. I know one company where the employees must be in office on Monday’s because there was a noticeable lack of production. My husband does accounting and such…whenever there is a big error (and I get that it’s not life threatening but do you really want to report a mistake on your quarterly earnings or annual report in you’re a publicly traded company) have been made when people are not in the office. One person we know has an employee who doesn’t have a babysitter for her two year old, so the mother is never fully present on zoom and has said that her baby is crying and she needs to get out of meetings. Not all industries are set up to thrive in a remote work environment. It should be looked at company by company, job by job, employee. By employee. I’ll add that my daughter was told by more than one senior person that if there’s an option to go into the office you always go into the office. Out of sight, out of mind. Thanks for a great topic that needs to be talked about more!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I work in the office and never had a break from it, because my office is a lab. I see lots of articles glorifying home office, and I wish at this point in my life I could do that. However, there are also those people who like going to the office for various reasons. Those tend to be younger folks without family commitments or people who can’t afford living situations that require a peaceful and private room at home. Offices are expensive for companies to maintain, so having only a few folks coming in for short periods of time may not be feasible for them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, virtual situations do not work everywhere. I’m probably a mix – there are some things I love about the physical office and there are also some things I love about working from home. I feel for folks like yourself that have no options. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. My husband began working remotely due to COVID. It allowed us to leave California for Arizona and have a much more affordable life — which will help in the retirement years. He’s been told he never has to return to an office. He has been more productive at home without office interruptions.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Having worked from home for 10 years, it would be difficult for me to work around other people. I’ve thought about it, but the benefits of working from home far outweigh it. Young people will benefit greatly working in a public space. They need to learn their part in helping a company run smoothly and how to get along with others for the Team’s sake, but if you have a lifetime of skillset, working from home is magnificent, especially if you have kids at home.

    Thanks to technology, my list of skills has grown exponentially since Covid began. Working from home has taught me discipline I didn’t have previously while working. My focus has sharpened where I can focus in an instant and block out all distraction. Working from home is one of the best things to happen for my career and I receive a raise, plus bonuses annually. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

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