The future of work depends on solving the RTO/WFH divide

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Amazon, Apple, Google, Salesforce, and Twitter are some of the tech-forward brands requiring employees to return to the office (RTO), even after some publicly declared permanent work from home (WFH) policies. This is partly sparked by a belief that people are more productive when they work in-person with colleagues. It’s also likely motivated by expensive office space that executives don’t like seeing empty. In Seattle, Amazon’s office space totals more than 9.5 million square feet. That’s a lot of empty desks.

On the other side of the RTO argument sit Intel and Cisco, along with five other Fortune 100 companies, who have no plans to force employees back to the office. And, regardless of policy (RTO, hybrid, or WFH), almost 30% of Fortune 100 companies reduced their corporate real estate footprints to rein in costs (and not because of layoffs, according to the site BuildRemote).

Autonomy and accountability

Companies demanding employees come back to the office are overlooking something absolutely critical: over the past three years, people have changed how they live and work—and how they are willing to work. The 2023 Future of Working and Learning Report: Shifting Employee-Employer Dynamics study found that one of the top priorities for businesses is attracting and retaining talent. The report also showed that employees clamor for more flexible work practices.

I can relate. Prior to March 2020 I worked at an office, while my wife (who is in the healthcare industry), worked two weekends per month so that she could balance work and taking care of our kids. The result: she took on most of the home responsibilities, and it was challenging to find family time.

When the pandemic hit and I began working from home, we both quickly realized this was an opportunity to change our routine for the better. I suddenly became available to handle school drop-off, doctor appointments, bringing the kids to extracurricular activities, and those random appoints to fix a broken faucet or whatever else goes wrong. This meant my wife was suddenly free to work during the week instead of only on the weekends, giving us more quality time together as a family.

Three years later, I’m fortunate to still work for Racepoint Global (RPG), which has embraced the “Work from Anywhere” approach. We trust our people — called Racers — to work wherever and whenever is best for them. And this flexibility works because it’s tied to accountability.

By empowering our people to work in a way that’s best for them, we have happy employees who stay at the company an average of 5 years. In an industry known for its turnover, this accomplishment stands out. According to PR Week’s 2022 Agency Business Report, the average industry turnover was 29.3%, with many of the large agencies approaching almost 40% turnover.

This flexibility allowed one Racer to work from Australia for a week while embarking on a trip to the South Pacific. I personally have worked on planes, trains, and automobiles, as well as in a good number of coffee shops while my daughter embarked on possible future careers in hip hop and gymnastics.

RPG trusts me to service clients from wherever I am, the same way I would if I sat in a physical office (in reality, I’m more productive at home). This means I can manage school drop-off, dance lessons, and sports practices, last minute trips to the doctor, and whatever else comes our way. The flexibility, autonomy, and trust RPG offers me, makes our family life so much easier — and both my wife and I can pursue jobs that fulfill us because of it.

More family time because of flexibility

Back to my original point: WFH isn’t a temporary shift, it’s one that has impacted lifestyles, significant others, kids, families, and careers. Companies need to understand and embrace that employees don’t want to go back in time. Pew Research reports that 71% of those who work from home say doing so helps them balance their work and personal lives.

Today, my wife works at a new job (same work, different company) where she works significantly less weekends. The result of my flexibility and her new job means more time for us as a family. We can take trips, go on hikes, or just relax and have fun together.

I’m sure we’re not the only family that made decisions based on the flexibility that remote work provides. I only hope other companies realize the importance of this before they lose great people, who realize they don’t have to make that compromise.


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