Standing your ground on WFH: Is it worth leaving your job for?

Working from home has changed society.

Working from home has changed society. Photo: Pexels

Videoconferencing company Zoom saw revenues spike during the pandemic as the shift to working from home came into play.

But the company recently told its staff to get back into the office for at least two days a week.

Zoom is by no means alone. A growing number of employers have been winding back the flexibility to work from home and require bums on seats in the office once more.

Research by recruiter Robert Half has revealed that 59 per cent of business leaders intend to increase the number of days that staff were required to spend in the office.

Many organisations are introducing a policy that mandates the number of days staff must spend in the office.

Employers want workers back in the office for meetings they think are better held face-to-face, to maintain corporate culture and to have better control over teams.

However, not everyone is happy. Employers are facing a backlash, with staff resignations increasing, with more expected to follow.

Robert Half director Nicole Gorton cautioned employers to tread carefully. She urged companies to pay attention to both the employee and the business’ needs and take time to get the mix right, or risk losing good staff.

“While the benefits of bringing people back are extensive, careful consideration needs to be taken when making changes to something of utmost significance to the staff, especially if a business’s work-life harmony benefits are what got candidates through the door,” Gorton said.

“Mandating makes people feel like they have been stripped of this choice. To manage this in a way that makes employees still feel looked after, employers could adapt a flexible approach and let staff pick which three or four days will fit their schedule the best to come into the office.”

Building in genuine flexibility

Working from home when she pleases means Sarah Schmalz can navigate parenthood with much more support than if she was in an office environment each day.

The Sydneysider joined Kimberly-Clark as the human resources director when she was seven months pregnant a couple of years ago and has another baby on the way.

She’s now heading up a push to roll out a much more flexible agenda for office-based workers, such as Flex Fridays that allows office workers to work from anywhere, or take the afternoon off.

Job-share arrangements also allows for flexibility such as parenthood or the transition to retirement.

“I work when my brain works, which is when it’s not occupied by mum guilt. This is how it should be, too.”

Schmalz urged employers to reconfigure their work arrangements to build genuine flexibility into people’s schedules to retain top talent.

“We recognise everyone’s individual circumstances and want to meet the needs of the person, because working 38 hours in one spot isn’t real life any more,” she said.

“People want the ability to work from home, and want that flexibility throughout their work schedule when it makes sense. Lots of people actually want to pick up their kids from school and so we’re building flexibility into the work day for our people.”

Standing your ground

If the boss is insisting that you return to the office, you’re going to need to decide whether to stand your ground, or leave your job.

Although it’s a decision only you can make, bear in mind that you might have some wriggle room first.

If companies aren’t offering flexible work arrangements and employees aren’t happy, those employees are often moving on to new roles.

“In recruitment, flexible work is often part of the attraction (if not a condition) of taking on a new role,” said Hannah Malka, group talent manager at Wall Street HR Systems and Services.

The firm says flexible work arrangements are here to stay and that employers ignore this at their peril.

“Our recommendation to our clients is to remain flexible, but encourage bringing people back together in the office in some capacity for business growth and wellbeing balance,” Malka said.

Job seekers have the upper hand right now, and are more likely to be granted flexible time if they ask for it.

“Proving your balance and the impact you’re having on the business is key to being heard for a request that goes against the push to be back in the office,” Malka said.

Greener grass

And a warning to employees. Remember, the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere, adds Jacqueline Smith, CEO and head coach of Absolute Best.

“We suggest taking some time to think about things from your employer’s perspective. Do you know why they’re making this decision? If you were the boss, would you be making the same decision? It’s unlikely that it’s just making such a big move on a whim.”

Before making any rash decisions, take a step back, take the emotion out and look at all aspects of your current role and consider if you love what you do.

“If the answer is that you fundamentally enjoy and want to ideally stay in the job, then think about why work from home is so important.

“It might be that you have moved further away from the office when work from home was normal. Or, you have just adjusted to a new routine without the commute. Are these things really a deal breaker for you?”

She recommends requesting a meeting with your boss and trying some open communication.

“If you love what you do, try being back in the office for a couple of months before making the decision to move on. Remember, it will take a little while to get into a new routine, so give yourself enough time before making a final decision,” Smith said.

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