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Leaders Need to Reframe the Return-to-Office Conversation

There is no easy solution for companies trying to craft policies that balance in-office and flexible working, as there are undeniable benefits to both approaches. But much of the recent messaging from company leaders demanding that employees return to the office has felt tone-deaf at best and dictatorial at worst. To be successful, companies need to engage in dialogue with employees and be explicit and honest about which outcomes are most critical.

A steady stream of high-profile companies across a wide range of industries — including Google, Farmers Insurance, Disney, UPS, Boeing, IBM, and Amazon — have required employees to return to their offices. While their messaging about these RTO mandates has ranged in form and tone, much of it has felt tone-deaf at best and in many cases adversarial or even dictatorial. Unsurprisingly, the result has been backlash from employees and an explosion of social media fervor, as in the case of the viral appeal of Internet Brands’ recent video message to employees.

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