If you’re unfamiliar with this iconic line from the 1967 movie "Cool Hand Luke," I recommend putting it on your watch list–it’s a classic! The quote reflects the lack of communication between a rebellious prisoner and the prison warden–and points to the pair's inability to establish understanding and convey critical messages. It’s an important lesson when it comes to leader/employee relations, particularly when it comes to critical issues like remote work. A lack of communication can create dissonance and ultimately lead to unwanted turnover.
According to an August article in the Harvard Business Review, remote work increased from a pre-pandemic level of 6% to more than 50% in the spring of 2020. Since that time, it has decreased and leveled out at about 28%. High-profile CEOs, such as JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, have expressed pessimism on the effectiveness of remote work, while Mark Zuckerberg, founder, chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Meta, stated his belief that engineers get more done when in the office. Other high-tech giants, previously ardent supporters of remote work, now require employees to return to the office at least a couple of days each week.
Recent research conducted in August and September of 2023 by KPMG (KPMG 2023 CEO Outlook) polled 1,325 CEOs on topics that included their current and future-focused views on talent. Of these global CEOs, 64 percent anticipate a full-time return to the office within three years. Further, the survey indicated that 87 percent of the CEOs polled are likely to provide rewards, such as favorable assignments, raises, or promotions, to employees who make the effort to return to the office.
Contrast these results with a flexjobs poll of 8,400 individuals conducted between August 2, 2023, and August 17, 2023. Survey results indicated that the more leadership requires staff to report back to the office, the more likely employees will seek new jobs that offer the flexibility they desire. Surprisingly, the survey found that 63% of the individuals polled are willing to take a pay cut to work remotely. The survey results also indicated that 56% of the surveyed professionals know someone who has quit or plans to quit their job due to return-to-office mandates. Fully remote work remains the preferred work mode (51 percent), with hybrid work a close second (at 46 percent). Only three percent reported a preference for fully in-office arrangements.
To stay competitive, companies must determine what works for their organization and the need for specific talents and skills. Remote workers allow companies to hire the best talent for their operations, but becoming a multi-state employer brings its own complexities and challenges. Allowing some employees to work remotely while requiring others to report to an office can also cause employee relations issues. Balancing the work experience for employees whose work cannot be performed remotely can also create the perception of imbalance in the workplace. It can be a tightrope to walk, but removing the “failure to communicate” can make it work!