back to article HR expert says biz leaders scared RTO mandates lead to staff attrition

Evidence is mounting that tech companies' policies demanding staff return to the office are only serving to drive out the talent that became accustomed to remote work. According to a Gartner-led survey of 3,500 employees in the tech industry undertaken in November 2023, 19 percent of non-executives said they'd quit over a …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    I suspect some of the "big names" going against WFH are really doing it as a stealth lay-off strategy, but they might discover it leads to the best talent moving first.

    1. Herring`

      That's the way it works

      I remember at a previous employer when the IT head held a department meeting to tell us that we had to meet an impossible deadline or we'd all be out. Within a couple of months, all the people who could easily get another job (the most experienced) had done so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's the way it works

        Funny you should say that....

        I was one who took the hint, and got out earlier in similar circumstances.

        At the exit interview, I cited the reason why, 'redundancy by the back door'. Management said I was on the fast-track to the next level up.

        Strangely enough, they never mentioned that prior to receiving my notice.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: That's the way it works

          Sounds like People Team horseshit.

          Esp. Is it’s not been mentioned as part of your 121’s*/APR and is on your Career Progression Path.

          * assuming you get them- LOL.

          Where I am they are supposed to once a week. I am fortunate enough to have a line manager who does them … but some staff have never had one since it was mandates 3 years ago. A cringeworthy APR once a year is it for some.

    2. jgarbo

      Bosses should be happy with WFH - less office rent, furniture, cleaning, etc, proved increased productivity. BUT, he's not a real Chief without all his little Indjuns. Loss of power is powerful deterrent...

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Loss of the perception of power is powerful deterrent...

        There, FTFY.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Perhaps some researchers should look to see if those businesses are retaining more staff."

    Also,whether they are gaining some of the senior staff their competitors are losing.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No great loss if this "talent" aren't able to follow simple business rules and come to the office.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Let me guess - you're a micro-managing middle manager - although you may be unaware of the first part of that description.

      1. spireite Silver badge

        thought you said middling manager!

        1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

          A micro-managing middle manager or a middling micro-manager?...

          ...¿por qué no los dos?

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          We need a new word: mieddling - middling and meddling.

          1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

            "Miueddling"

            May as well go for the trifecta and include "muddling" as well.

        3. JoeCool Silver badge

          A middle finger manager?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        More likely a commerical property owner. They're having ever such a hard time.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge
          Pirate

          They are getting their asses handed to them. Huge amounts of bankruptcies in the commercial market with multi-million dollars properties selling for fractions of their loan amounts and billion dollar property management companies completely imploding.

          You have to search the news or keep and eye out for when it's reported, because it's being kept on the down low, as RE is a VERY speculative market and commercial RE even more so. i.e. over inflated and always was, but there are trillions at stake. Too much news ruins the speculation and fairy tale worth.

          Sound familiar?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Checking my ISA and pension investments - the funds do have a commercial property component. This, I think is not unusual so most of us with any sort of pension arrangement are, to some extent, commercial property owners. The sooner the idiot managements get their heads working and realise the property needs to be repourposed the better.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              From an investors' PoV I note that some commercial property in London is being converted to trendy new biotech labs. As this is one area where working at home isn't practical it seems a good idea although I don't see why this should be a technically easier option than converting them to residential. However as a sometime biological laboratory worker I see no reason why such labs should be in central London.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                As someone who is a graduate of said biotech subjects I also have no idea why they would build in London since research salaries are (and always have been) appalling and I can't image them paying enough for anyone to live in london and work in biotech. Other than the suits.

                1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

                  ISTR there were some in Harlow, which also had its own "tech corridor". Whatever you think of Harlow, it made sense: lots of space, easy to get to and surrounded by countryside. But that was decades ago: they've all gone now, either failed management, take-overs, offshoring, or selling up to developers and relocating into the middle of London, because 20 miles away is too far and it's outrageous that staff aren't spending another couple of hours a day (at least) commuting, etc. :| And of course the offices in the middle of London have tended to be much more horrible: typically overcrowded, often leased and maintained to varying standards of indifference and so on.

          2. ryokeken

            you can see that in nyc AND how's not going to market

            you can see that in nyc AND how' often it doesn't even go back to market for,speculative reasons maybe/probably?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I think there is a lot of gaslighting going on in collusion with the Press and government to ensure the profitability and value of commercial properties and the businesses that surround commercial districts (Pret, Starbucks etc etc). If you read the right wing comedy papers (daily mail, telegraph etc) you get a regular stream of anti-WFH stories.

          We've had an RTO order but it's largely fallen flat, the threats of removal of promotions and bonuses have failed since these were weak to begin with and when you crunch the numbers you're better off loosing them than paying for the commute.

          Also the regional arm of the business has reduced office seats by 90% and has had a pat on the head for saving money so now there isn't space for a RTO. HQ doesn't seem to know this.

          We've also got a skilled workforce that can walk more easily than most so threats to leave the business have some weight behind them.

    2. Steve Button Silver badge

      I guess you are the kind of person who would have sent someone home from an insurance company in the 90s for wearing brown shoes instead of black shoes (in a non customer facing role no less) !? That's not following "business rules". You just follow the rules as you perceive them, even if they don't make any sense.

      I don't want to invoke Godwin's Law here, but it's very tempting to make the comparison with "just following orders"

      1. MrBanana

        I remember recommending someone to apply for a job in our team for the role of support engineer, which we sorely needed. Although a customer, and our group knew him well because he called a lot, he was actually very knowledgable, and because he was able to ask the right questions, was able to fix a problem himself when given the right information. He was a perfect fit for our team. HR said everything looked good. Our manager nixed him because at the interview she "didn't like the socks he was wearing" - yes, because that is so important when answering the phone.

        1. Julz

          Is

          Sockism legal?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is

            I believe the term is socksism when you are being socksist

          2. MyffyW Silver badge

            Re: Is

            Socks are not a protected characteristic. Apparently red hair isn't either, but beards might be, indirectly.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Is

              Yeah, but that gets you into hairy territory ..

        2. keithpeter Silver badge
          Windows

          [snip]...she "didn't like the socks he was wearing"

          Would this be like the infamous Green Trainers issue in Birmingham in the late eighties/early ninetes?

          Just asking for a friend.

          Icon: you had to be around at the time.

        3. Brave Coward

          US has always been afraid of sockialism.

        4. Snake Silver badge

          That's too bad. I'm sure they failed to use this opportunity to identify the "manager" as both a sociopath and an inherent risk to the business's best interests - I'm sure they failed to lay her off. The Dilbert principle was strong there.

        5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          she "didn't like the socks he was wearing"

          No problem. For tech roles socks might be optional.

        6. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Caver_Dave Silver badge
        Devil

        And HR make up the rules!

        When my Father-In-Law died I took off the 2 days of bereavement leave in 3 chunks to cover the various things that are required to be dealt with when someone dies.

        When my Mother-In-Law died a few years later, I took 1/2 day to go around to register the death, see the Solicitor, collect clothes from Nursing Home. Then the day of the Funeral off and a later 1/2 day to finish off more legal bits.

        HR called me in for a meeting and I took the company book of rules with me (issued to all employees when they started). The HR Manager started off with "You know what you have done", to which I had to answer that I did not. He unilaterally had decided that Bereavement leave should be for the day of death and the day after to deal with the grief, and not to deal with all the necessary events associated with the death. (For both it had been a relief from illness and so there was no grief to deal with!) I stated that the rule book said nothing about when it should be taken and that it had been alright previously. He called in the MD who supported his new rule despite the evidence, and then supported me being docked a days wages for each of the two infractions.

        Unfortunately, he was removed before I could get a Tribunal Hearing sorted as I would have quite liked to see him squirm at that. (Yes, P. Orton, you!)

        1. keithpeter Silver badge

          Re: And HR make up the rules!

          Two days?

          Bloody hell that's Victorian.

          I had a week out to sort out the fallout after an unexpected death of a close relative.

          Mind you there was a lot of fallout - it was out of the blue.

        2. usbac Silver badge

          Re: And HR make up the rules!

          Time to find a better company to work for.

          Years ago, when my mother died, the CEO of the company I was working for came to see me and said "I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. Take whatever time you need". Maybe it was because he lost his father in a plane crash about 10 years before, and was very understanding. Either way, there are decent companies out there. They may not pay as well as some of the big soulless corporations, but there is more to life than money.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And HR make up the rules!

            As someone who has lost both a spouse and a parent (14 years apart, working for two different employers) I’ve only ever seen pretty much the same as usbac so I’m also shocked by the pettiness of the HR person in this story. Both times, I was told that “Our company policy gives you the right to three breavement days; which you can of course use as you see fit. But, well, just let us know when you’re ready to come back to work. We’re sorry for your loss. Here are some flowers. And full pay for the whole period.”

            My current employer (one of the two above) goes even further. I went on a couple of months of sick leave a few years ago as I was getting close to burnout, mainly dealing with the fallout from my mother’s passing. According to the rules in my country you only get a certain percentage of your pay from the government as sick pay. My employer immediately, on receiving the note from my doctor, informed me that they would cover the reminder; or rather, they paid me in full and asked me to let them know how much I got from the authorities and deducted that amount from the next salary payments.

            THAT’S caring for your employees and recognising that they aren’t just a replaceable FTE drone.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And HR make up the rules!

            10yr ago lost a spouse very suddenly and unexpectedly and ended up taking nearly 8 weeks off, my employer at that time was completely supportive during and after my time off.

            My mother died a couple of years ago and my current employer offered me more time off than I needed, no questions no demands and no HR involvment.

            There are better people to work for that what you had.

          3. hedgie Bronze badge

            Re: And HR make up the rules!

            When my father died, I think I was offered five days off, but only ended taking three, all just to deal with practicalities and support others. While I generally do like getting paid to not work, I needed an excuse to get away from grieving relatives. Since I'm one of those people who don't really get hit by the full emotional gravity of loss and bereavement until some time later, I just used a few PTO days a couple months down the line when it really started hitting hard. Thankfully, my boss is very easy to work with and has always rubber-stamped my time-off requests (or even pulling a last minute sickie and admitting that's what I was doing) as long as I arrange any non-emergency coverage myself. And yeah, those initial three days she took care of everything.

          4. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: And HR make up the rules!

            Two weeks after starting at a new company, I lost my Dad. Company benefits (such as sick leave, vacation, etc.) did not kick in until having been there for a month. Figured I'd have to take the time off w/o pay, but my manager also told me to take what I needed, and even sent flowers to the memorial. My pay was not docked.

            [...] there are decent companies out there.

            Yes there are. They are not easy to find, but the do exist.

        3. ckm5

          Re: And HR make up the rules!

          Should have just quit on the spot when they told you that.

        4. UnknownUnknown

          Re: And HR make up the rules!

          LOL. We have a book like that, but also an Employment Contract that says the Staff Handbook is *Excluded* from it.

          I think it’s a typo, and should say included as anything it refers to along the lines of conduct, behaviour, ethics etc are invalid. Self-evidently a ‘included’ staff handbook can be constantly revised and kept up to date. An employment contract rarely.

          ‘Not in the contract, it’s not recognised’.

      3. UnknownUnknown

        I had a HR Manager who said her initial impressions were based on the interviewees shoes clean, tidy and polished.

        If they weren’t that it was a recovery interview from the hello.

        1. HMcG

          As an interviewee, that's actually a very useful method for weeding out potential employers whose management exhibit the kind of stupidity that crashes companies. If your colleagues are being hired because they can polish shoes nicely rather than their ability to do their job*, that's not a company you want to work for.

          * Unless your job is polishing shoes, obvs.

        2. 0laf Silver badge

          Impression do matter. I you turn up to an interview unwashed (in fact smelling bad), weating dirty dishevelled clothing then you are fighting a steep uphill battle for the job since considering your fit within an office is part of the interview.

          Dirty shoes is a tell, especially if you are looking for someone who is detail minded. An interview is when you are on show to perform at your best. If you can't be bothered at that point then I expect your daily performance will be much much worse.

          Obviously it depends on the role and if you are interviewing for street sweepers you're not going to expect a suit at the interview, and if you're interviewing for a high level academic job you will probably expect a parade of reasonably extreme eccentrics as well.

    3. spireite Silver badge

      You have to realise thought that that 'talent' has more talent than anyone dictating the RTO

    4. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      I'm sure that they'd be quite capable of following such rules if they wanted or needed to.

      The point is that they clearly don't, and don't have to. They're simply exercising their right not to work for a company that requires them to follow rules that are pointless and/or majorly inconvenient when they know they can find something better.

    5. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Let's say you employed John Carmack.

      One day word comes down from corporate: everybody needs to start wearing a steak on their head at all times.

      John quits because he doesn't want to wear a steak on his head.

      Who lost in this situation?

    6. desht

      What bothers me most here is that 5 prats upvoted this crap.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Also micro-managing middle managers. We don't have many here but we do have a few. But how did they find their way here in the first place?

        1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

          They got an engineer to operate the browser for them.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: No great loss if this "talent" aren't able to follow simple business rules

      The post anonymously button used to be for when you had something business sensitive to say.

      Now it's an excuse for low quality trolling.

      This is why we can't have nice things.

      1. Ace2 Silver badge

        Re: re: No great loss if this "talent" aren't able to follow simple business rules

        Is there some sort of contest to see who can accrue the most downvotes or something? The mind boggles.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      When fulfuilling your role requires bending the rules

      When I'm in the office all I have to go through my task list is an over-secured HP "manager" laptop (just good for outlook, OneDrive and MS Teams) with all kinds of corporate spywares and not even "run as administrator" privilege.

      Whereas, at home I work on a 4 year-old Linux tower with 10 cores (i9-10900x), 256 GB RAM, 50TB disk, along with a few more high end servers and MSI laptops all under Linux. Kubernetes clusters run the show day and night; customer demos being in high demand; Windows instances are just sandboxed VMs with all kinds of improvements and uptimes number in months. Thanks to various tricks this is where the real action takes place. The corporate laptop gathers dust and that's all.

      Each time I'm required in the office, I spend more time in the pantry area exchanging gossips, harvesting rumours related to the next batch of layoffs, and learning which brown-nosing middle manager will get promoted than doing anything productive.

      But HR are happy and I'm still good in the "talent analytics" dashboards.

    9. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

      You seem to have confused "inability to follow rules" with "ability to identify rules that are stupid, coupled with knowledge of one's own worth".

  4. Jay 2

    Ain't nothing going on but the rent

    MD comes out of his little office and his gaze falls upon a rather large amount of empty desks. We're paying money for this office space he thinks. And it comes to pass that thou shalt come into the office at least once a week if hot desking (there are not enough hot desks to accommodate all the potential host deskers), or if you have a fixed desk, though shalt come into the office at least two or three days a week.

    Me, I'm happy with my flexible hybrid. I have my fixed desk and so do have to venture in. But I'm happy to do that and I get to choose which days (no-one really cares). That way I can work around my own life but also can choose to go in to meet up with people. Sometimes it really is easier to get stuff done in person opposed to Zoom etc.

    Overall I think horses for courses. Not everyone is the same and likes doing the same things. But I feel there has to be a little bit of meeting somewhere in the middle.

    1. Cruachan

      Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

      Very much so. I've worked places where it's "we need you in the office" and then no one comes near you or talks to you except via Teams etc all the time. Other places it's "come in when you need to". and if I'm working on a desktop rollout or Intune deployment and I need to get hands on with devices on a regular basis then that makes more sense.

      It also makes sense for (at least some) businesses to be flexible on it, as (in the UK anyway) with current contractor laws it's difficult to get people to travel for contracts.

      I also know people working in financial services in Edinburgh, and a lot of them are down sizing office space and/or looking to move out of the city centre, whereas in the past a big shiny city centre office was a requirement to prove that you were a big player.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

        You can have mighty fine offices but still be a terrible company/organisation.

        Fujitsu, Crapita, Sopa Steria, Oracle, Post Office, DWP etc.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

          Or from the article: "Dell, Meta, IBM, Google, Wipro and ... Roblox." That's a good starting list for companies I wouldn't even consider working for.

          (I did work for IBM, quite a few years ago. It was for one of the more ... casual ... divisions, and things were much better at IBM back then. I would not go back now.)

          And as for the impressively hypocritical Zoom — well, let them all fail, frankly.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

        We’re stuck in hybrid mode, even though management are trying to get as many as possible batch in to the office, because culture. Given that my team is spread over offices in multiple countries and teams we work closely with are in even more offices in one of those countries, the RTO “so that we can see each other face to face” is kind of dumb anyway.

        So often we have Teams meetings where one or two people are in a meeting room and others are in quiet rooms or at their desk in the same building, but just can’t be arsed to walk across the floor or figure out which room the others are in…

        I’m on permanent home office from earlier arrangements (15 years and counting) but usually travel to the office a couple of times per year (less since the pandemic) for a week at a time. Those are my least productive weeks of the year (including probably my vacation weeks); there’s just so many other things than work to do in the office - coffee breaks, lunch breaks, impromptu foosball tournaments, walks in the rooftop garden, figuring out where the team lockers are and finding someone you recognise from last time (free seating, naturally, but with team home zones…). (Plus the first two days usually consist of repeatedly answering the question “So, you’re here this week?” “No, I’m trying out the new Teams Astral Projection feature. Here’s your sign.”)

    2. TonyJ

      Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

      It depends.

      Of my current team, only two of us are even in England. I have two in Hungary, one in Scotland, one in Belgium, another in Germany on one is Slovakia.

      The customer account I lead is based in Germany but has offices across Europe and APAC.

      It makes no sense to go to an office to...have Teams calls.

      Now on the other hand, if everyone were within commuting distance, it may make sense to have perhaps a day a week in the office together, but even then - probably not that frequently as there is literally nothing we need to do face to face that can't be done remotely.

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

        Yes, on my multi-year projects, my team members are in:

        Core Team: 1 each in Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and 2 each in UK and Romania

        IT Support (if needed): Romania and USA

        Core Product Support: USA

        Subcontractor teams: Portugal and India

        And the customers are in mainland European countries, not necessarily including the above!

        I have physically met 2 of them in 5 years and we just do everything via Zoom - chit-chat and proper work.

        But we do have a UK Office, that someone who lives nearby visits once or twice a week to get the physical mail and deal with shipping (in and out).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

          Was going to say the same thing. I worked in a place where ALL developers were in Romania.

          The edict came that we should return FT to the London office on the basis that all being in the office is more conducive to teamwork.

          We called blx to it, since the team we worked with were all - (as you assume) - not even in the same country!

          What was the case however is that, pre-Covid, the company had signed up to swanky, over impressive offices that would literally stand empty which costing shedloads.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

          I've been working on teams spread across multiple continents for a quarter of a century. That hasn't been a problem.

          We used to occasionally get together physically, once or twice a year, for a week or so to do planning and other discussion-intensive activities, and some socializing. But I think the last time we did that was nearly ten years ago; videoconferencing has gotten good enough that it wasn't worth the travel costs. If we asked, management would probably agree to an occasional face-to-face, but for years now no one has.

      2. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

        Now on the other hand, if everyone were within commuting distance, it may make sense to have perhaps a day a week in the office together, but even then - probably not that frequently as there is literally nothing we need to do face to face that can't be done remotely.

        Well, there's always the Team Lunch....

    3. ckm5

      Re: Ain't nothing going on but the rent

      It means you have to live within commuting distance of the office. If you moved somewhere else that you can actually afford when you were WFH fulltime, IMHO your employer needs to pay a living wage for you to live within commuting distance......

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    "tech businesses need to re-consider the metrics"

    Either that, or re-consider their managers . . .

  6. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    It's a difficult balance. When you're experience in the job, and a bit older (maybe with family committments), then working from home is great. Gives you more time to do other stuff. You probably have too much human interaction with your horrible children anyway... A bit of peace and quiet is nice.

    But what if you're new to all this working malarkey and haven't built up either rexperience or organisational habits yet?

    I work in building services engineering and there's a lot of graduates come in every year. Everyone's done a general engineering course and so have a hell of a lot to learn, in quite a lot of different disciplines. Also there's a whole bunch of legislation to get to grips with. In the old days, you were with a design team, in an office, and when starting you were doing lots of odd jobs for senior engineeers while you picked stuff up. Nowadays you might be working from home, dealing with lots of drawings and emails and getting very little face-to-face time with the people that you're supposed to be learning from. Sure, you can ask questions, but for those little things you can't really keep phoning them, and so it's going to be a lot harder to get experience.

    This means that not only do you need your juniors in the office a bit to learn this stuff, but you also need your seniors around to teach them.

    In fact we, as a small company all did WFH back in 2010, as the company had grown from a one-man band to a small team, and only then got an office. We've now got one person home working who comes in once a week one on the road and two in the office.

    In my experience some people are suited to working from home, enjoy it more and are probably more productive doing it. But quite a lot of people get distractred and are less productive out of the office. And that's experienced people. Who's going to teach the newbies?

    I guess it depends on the job. And also on whether the company only hires people with experience - or has lots of trainees.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      We do train people "on the job", and in fact have a formal program for that as well (3 months some basic courses that are perceived to be neccessary, then you join a group to work, which involves a lot of training (some laws, some politics, some non-documented scheming of other companies that we need to work around, the "real" training, you know).

      I had three recent graduates enter during the pandemic, one unfortunately left due to medical reasons. The other two were trained reasonably well remotely, as we had a mandatory WFH phase, followed by the brain-dead "come in 50% of the time but do not meet your colleagues face to face"-phase (nobody could explain the reasoning behind that to me, so I stayed at home, as did my boss). So this works. I'm the first one to admit that it is way easier to just shout across the table to ask your questions, though! So a hybrid model, but one where you meet the whole team when you come in, makes some sense.

      I have indeed reduced hours so I only have to come in twice a week, and still work no more than 50% from home, it's their problem if stuff does not get done because I'm not allowed to work (and my boss supports that view) - that said, I use all sorts of rules bending to get the work done, or book time in such a way that the ... (in German we use "Korinthenkacker" - raisin shitters) don't get too upset.

      1. Dwarf

        @joe W

        Thanks for the new word of the day.

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      The one 'issue' with remote working is that it doesn't adapt well to being half arsed. If someone is learning 'on the job' by picking things up, they're often not receiving proper training, and it obviously doesn't lend itself well to multi site companies.

      Using senior staff for adhoc training is wasting their and the company's time as it has to be repeated each time there's a new starter, and there's a danger of losing institutional knowledge. Whilst if they create decent training once that can be reviewed, it's easy to operate on a cross country basis.

      Here (IT services) there are specific meetings every day where knowledge can be transferred, solutions to issues have to be written up so less experienced staff can learn, and operating procedures written.

      It's not perfect - perfect would be a proper training department writing extensive customer and staff documentation, having manufacturer backed training (i.e. Microsoft product training from certified third parties), and regularly identifying and teaching generic skills (such as 'what is a regular expression?'). Yes, I do realise that skills such as regular expressions are things you'd expect people to pick up as a matter of course, but they unfortunately don't.

      However we operate cross Europe and in both hemispheres, so it has to work.

      I would very definitely prefer instant messaging over phoning. Internal phone calls are not logged, transcribed, or searchable. I frequently get messaged with questions, but as it's IM it does not have to be answered immediately if you're busy on an important task.

      The above doesn't necessarily work well with people that only really learn from in-person or verbal training. However, if you cannot learn by reading frankly you need to find a different job, a profession that needs to be in person, or if they still exist a very large company that delivers high quality voiced training for everything.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        I see the logic, but I have basically never worked anywhere where you could count on thorough documentation or training materials. Some places had good user-facing documentation, some had crap or none, but all of them had patchy internal stuff. Speed was considered more important than documentation of something that frequently changed and could be worked out by reading the code (most of my experience has been with programming teams). In fact, I remember one of the projects I had to modify but wasn't maintained by my team so I hadn't used it before whose documentation basically just said "RTFC".

        Businesses will have to consider where their priorities are between speed and thorough training material, and if they decide that they don't want to provide that level, then they have to do training some other way.

        1. nintendoeats Silver badge

          I don't think it's even possible to have sufficient internal documentation for somebody to learn everything from it, at least not in software development. There are too many moving pieces, too many small decisions that turn out to be important, too much "it only works when %100 of everything is done right". You need a mix of good reference material and knowing who to call when you hit something that isn't documented.

          1. nintendoeats Silver badge
            Windows

            Just to expand on this thought, I left my last workplace with what I consider to be a magnum opus of internal documentation. There is still a bunch of stuff that I wish I had been able to guide people through manually before I left, because sometimes people just need to ask questions.

            Quoth Socrates (via the writings of Plato):

            ...writing shares a strange feature with painting. The offsprings of painting stand there as if they are alive, but if anyone asks them anything, they remain most solemnly silent. The same is true of written words. You’d think they were speaking as if they had some understanding, but if you question anything that has been said because you want to learn more, it continues to signify just that very same thing forever. When it has once been written down, every discourse roams about everywhere, reaching indiscriminately those with understanding no less than those who have no business with it, and it doesn’t know to whom it should speak and to whom it should not. And when it is faulted and attacked unfairly, it always needs its father’s support; alone, it can neither defend itself nor come to its own support.

      2. tiggity Silver badge

        I primarily work remotely as do most colleagues.

        New starters not an issue, they follow the documentation to get things initially setup, do the basic training courses (and as things are ever evolving, docs / courses often a bit outdated so they discuss (online chats / meetings) the problems they are having with other team members, their issues solved and docs / courses get updated.

        Once setup & online training courses done they have a mentor and they and their mentor work through various tasks as a pair*, in different areas of the system (may be new dev work, may be a bug fix) to get a feel for things. After paired mentoring over they can still reach out to mentor or anyone else when they have questions

        This seems to work well with no in office contact required.

        It requires effort, but up to date docs / course material is a win all round in the long term, and its more structured than what could happen in an n office situation without formal training, mentoring.

        As some colleagues hundreds of miles away in UK, or in parts of mainland Europe or even further afield then team meetups can only ever really be online anyway.

        * Based on current backlog, from what is there try to pick from different areas of the system: On occasion bring in other team member(s) if mentor themselves not too familiar with that area as may get new functionality required in area that has been "static" for years (e.g. legislation change related).

    3. nintendoeats Silver badge

      It depends on a lot of things, but one thing I have particularly found is that the culture of communication is really important, and ESPECIALLY whether people prefer text or video. Asking questions and learning over text is hard because the cost of asking and answering is too high. People skip details, or avoid tangents, or don't ask followups.

      I worked at a company where we tended to prefer video. There were many new people who started during full remote, and with one exception they did great (and the exception was not by their own fault, nor because of remote work). There was one person in particular who I mentored with nothing but voice chat, and he went from being an intern to being primary developer responsible for the module I had written.

      I moved to another company which was nominally 2 days in the office, but a lot of people only actually came in on Monday. They wanted to communicate exclusively through text. While there were many things wrong there, I found the fact that I had to fight to get people to talk about things "live" to be a real problem. There was no documentation, everything was learned by either reading the (incomprehensible) code or messaging people.

      Companies that value and foster a culture of communication should be fine primarily remote. Companies that do not...well they're screwed anyway, can't help them with that.

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      This means that not only do you need your juniors in the office a bit to learn this stuff, but you also need your seniors around to teach them.

      That is absolutely not my experience. Our new hires have been very successful whether they're physically close to an office or not.

      There is a great deal of anecdote and superstition in this domain. My own observations are, of course, just as anecdotal; but they certainly show that these absolute generalizations are rubbish.

  7. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    "Korinthenkacker"

    Raisin shitters I would pay double for that, nay treble! Who could have said the german people have a limited sense of humour?

    Its multifaceted and works on just so many levels.

    1. JWLong

      Re: "Korinthenkacker"

      Korinthenkacker

      A Korinthenkacker is a colloquial term in German that refers to someone who is excessively petty, pedantic, and finicky. The term is derived from the German words “Korinthen,” meaning currants, and “kacken,” which is a slang term for moving one’s bowels. Thus, a Korinthenkacker is someone who is so meticulous and particular that they are even stingy when it comes to their bodily waste, producing only small, raisin-like droppings.

      In a broader sense, a Korinthenkacker is someone who is overly focused on minor details and is quick to point out trivial flaws or imperfections. They may be perceived as annoying or nitpicky, and their behavior can be seen as a form of pedantry.

      The term Korinthenkacker is often used in a humorous or ironic way to describe someone who is being overly critical or finicky, and it is not typically used as a serious or formal insult.

      AI-generated answer. Please verify critical facts. Learn more

      I had to look it up!

  8. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    talent

    I suspect the meaning of talent in this context is a little overloaded encompassing the innate intelligence, the education, prior experience the individual brought to the organization plus the experience, the personal and professional development, symbiotic interaction with existing and new colleagues, judgement or acumen and reputation of trustworthyness accumulated over an extended period.

    Little wonder the real talent - not the bed hopping show pony but rather the longer serving reliable clydesdale - is heading for the exits.

    They are normally closer to the finishing line of their working like to begin with and are confident of their worth and the market value of that worth. Sayonara.

    "Don't hire anyone who doesn't have a mortgage. They just tell you to f_ck off."

    (But they might also be telling you something you need to know.)

    I will get my hat before I tell the cornflake joke. ;)

    1. Plest Silver badge

      Re: talent

      "Don't hire anyone who doesn't have a mortgage."

      I worked my arse off to clear mine by age of 45 as I hated that millstone around my neck, I wanted to some money in my pocket the second my kids were teens and about ready to bugger off to Uni, worked out perfectly, so well that I asked if my missus wanted to pack in working when she hit 47 and she's technically been retired for the last 3 years. nothing like always coming home to a cooked meal and a wife who's not "on the edge" 24/7 and ready to turn you into Mr Bobbit if you so much as mention dinner!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: talent

        Perhaps wait until AFTER the fellatio before you mention dinner, not during? Just a suggestion, which might help with marital bliss. It might not even be the rudeness of talking about dinner at a time like that, perhaps just the thought of gnashing into a pork sausage might set things in motion.

        1. TimMaher Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Fellatio

          I thought Fellatio was a character in Hamlet, until I discovered Smirnoff.

          There are more like that.

          I’ll get my.coat…

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Execs in the office?

    Pre-Covid, how many execs actually spent much time in the office? The sign of a “busy” exec was endless “off-site” meetings (aka: lunches, coffees with friends and other spurious events)

  10. Plest Silver badge

    A couple of days a week is OK for me as I only live 20 miles from the office but it's £20/day to get in, I don't mind the change of scenery but I'd rather stay home most of the time. I only go in on quieter days, especially the days the serious biz people are in as they keep to themselves and just get on with their stuff, it's nice and quiet. I hate the enforced team days in the office, jesus the noise and constant moronic "water cooler chatter" for 8 hours solid, total waste of my day as I get sod all done.

  11. Julz

    Perhaps

    If you could expense travel time to work attitudes might change.

    1. Cruachan

      Re: Perhaps

      Can't speak for everyone obviously, but not sure it would make a difference. I'm a contractor, so in the past have been able to expense travel time to work. That of course stopped when the pandemic hit and I'd personally rather have the 2-3 hours a day I spent commuting in that job to myself than the mileage expenses.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Perhaps

        I consider the time left over after work, commuting, sleeping, vacuuming etc, to contitute my actual life. It's not a lot of hours - I reckon on about 30hrs a week tops, and 1.5 extra hours commuting a work day is ~25% of it.

        When you correctly value your personal time, unpaid work hours commuting are no bargain.

    2. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps

      A limited number of our staff are on peripatetic terms; that is, their "base" is home'; but need to travel to various locations to carry out tasks. The travel time is included in their regular working day.

      I'd say retention is high, but it's not really. There are competing contractors that provide services to us that offer considerably higher pay - at cost of terrible hours and less security as when given project runs out you'll be looking for the next one.

      Steady and defined terms or a bit more uncertain but some boosts? The latter is getting more appealing the more the mortgage uncertainty goes down.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One day a week

    So we come in one day a week... guess which day we get almost nothing done?

    We take a 2 hour lunch "for team building purposes" and hang around and bullshit all day.

    Anon for obvious reasons...

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: One day a week

      To be fair, occasional social gatherings to chew the fat and moan to each other are very good for team building.

      Little to no actual work gets done, but you do tend to find out who to ask when you have questions later.

      That said, weekly is far too often.

      I find it strange that so many companies are wildly against a four-day work week, yet demand people come into the office to create a 3-day work week.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cost of living crisis?

    People (in the UK at least) have been whining about the cost of living crisis and how some have been setting up shop in cafes etc when it's been cold to save money on their heating, etc.

    Why use your own electric and heating in the winter while you do your employer's bidding?

    Besides, I peraonally like the separation of work and the rest of my life and listening to barking dogs, screaming kids while sat on a Zoom/Teams meeting might be endearing to you if it's your dog or kid but to the rest of us it's a bloody headache!

    I'm not a Manager by any means but I think it's time this stopped and if all employers did the same there'd e nowhere for this 'talent' to go.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Cost of living crisis?

      "Why use your own electric and heating in the winter while you do your employer's bidding?"

      Why pay your own fares to travel into work on your own time. Back when I worked in London the time door-to-door amounted to the equivalent two full-time days unpaid work per week.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Cost of living crisis?

        I don't know what the OP is doing when working from home, but the marginal cost of electricity for my laptop is a rounding error. And working from home hasn't affected how I set the thermostat, either.

        (At the Stately Manor it had setbacks during the day; at Mountain Fastness 1.0 the heating was primarily firing up the wood stove in the morning; and at MF 2.0 the cost of heating is negligible, between its vast thermal mass, excellent insulation, and passive thermal gain.)

        Even if there were an office right next door, going to it wouldn't save me anything.

  14. IceC0ld

    serious question, no, really :o)

    CAN the Co just suddenly decide that the WFH is now over, and everyone has to RTO ?

    curious, as in that sort of environment at present :o(

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      If your contract specified working remotely, then they can't easily change it on a whim, though they can do some things. If, however, you have a contract from before the pandemic which specified the office, then they can tell you that they are enforcing that again, and if they thought about this and put it in the contract, then they also can.

      These are the easiest examples, but if the contract doesn't mention it, then it is still usually going to work out that the companies can change your work location. If they move it unreasonably far from where you are, then you might have a case, but not if you chose to move away from it or if you could go in easily enough. The details will depend on the situation, but you can assume that they probably have the right to make that change and be correct most of the time.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      You need to read your contract to find out but you might have to take legal advice on how to interpret it.

      OTOH you could review the employment market for those with your skills. If it's good it puts you in a strong position. It's surprising how quickly things can change with your current employers once you hnbd in your notice although you'd probably be a fool to regard that as anything but temporary.

  15. Dwarf

    This is self inflicted

    Companies could not make a less productive working environment if they tried - and they tried really hard.

    A few reasons why people hate coming into the office :

    1. Small desks that make it cramped to work all day long, plus the fighting with the neighbouring clans who try to push their stuff into my space. This is how tribal wars start.

    2. Hoteling and Hot desking - book a desk, it sounds great, until you get to it and find someone more senior working there already.

    3. Having to clean up the previous inhabitants rubbish that they were incapable of putting in the bin / storing somewhere until next time they come in. If I find it on my desk for the day, its going in the bin. Is this really GREEN or just the previous inhabitant trying to mark their territory ? The modern way of animals urinating on things to say "this is mine, but it smells of pee"

    4. The background noise due to the fancy new "no ceilings, no sound deadening walls in offices and people having impromptu meetings next to my desk as no meeting rooms are available.

    5. Meeting rooms are always booked up and unavailable, or some one less important is overrunning and will only be 5 minutes (read 15 or 30 minutes)

    6. Oh, the commute that costs us in money and time, plus its unreliable, un-necessary and always on strike.

    Put bluntly, you couldn't create a less productive working environment

    Good people are good people, where they live is not important. Deciding that they should be X miles from some random building you have decided to buy / lease is completely irrelevant.

    Things should be output based, care about what people do, not where they are.

    Bad employees are still bad employees, even if you can't see them shirking in front of your face, so don't penalise the rest of us that are trying to meet your impossible deadlines and deliverables.

    If you can't figure this out, then don't be surprised when your competitors have and all the good people leave.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: This is self inflicted

      ...agreed

      Add to your 6. - Into the city, because of "image", resulting in higher costs and fewer options for everything.

      Add to your 3. - spend half an hour every morning (finding and) setting up monitors, keyboard, pencil holders and God knows what else you need to do your job, then another half hour in the afternoon clearing it all away again because of a "clean desk" policy.

      The place I used to work is going all in on "company culture" and "personal goals". I have never seen this much push from HR anywhere on anything in 40 years of working. Your promotion is now the only way to get a salary increase, and proof that you merit it is all up to you. Getting feedback is also up to you (all documented and stored on a server). Unclear what part your manager is supposed to play in this make-work scheme (all discretionary power having been removed years ago, he's just one of the herd now). Now you have the additional overhead of requesting (and writing for others) feedback, tracking progress on your personal goals (two to three short term and one longer term, all self-set and progress towards them your responsibility over and above your "real" job), which is "taken into account" at SEMI-annual review time and potential for promotion one micro-level may rest on how you are judged to have progressed.

      I retired at the right time. Now consulting and none of that "HR job enrichment" applies to me.

      1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

        Re: This is self inflicted

        > Your promotion [and jumping through all those hoops] is now the only way to get a salary increase

        At the risk of stating the obvious, that's unless you get one by jumping ship to another company instead.

        It seems to be a rule of thumb in IT that switching companies is a far quicker and simpler way to advance than navigating the obstacles to internal promotion *and* more likely to get you a bigger pay increase.

        Given that this *already* appears to be widely-known and followed within the industry, one wonders what this company's motives are- and what they expect to achieve- by exacerbating that, and making internal promotion so difficult that anyone with half a brain is going to leave as soon as they've outgrown their current position or need a pay rise.

    2. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: This is self inflicted

      Summed it up nicely. Couple of things to add.

      WFH being the new default means maybe 80% of meetings are on some sort of video call system. Without fail that means I'm immediately getting up from my hot desk and heading to one of the breakout areas or a meeting room so as not to disturb anyone else; to say nothing of the fact that such a call is identical in terms of body language and observation whether one is in the office or not.

      Storage for important stuff such as my textbooks; and and company library is constantly being eroded in favour of some new gimmick flavoured water machine or whatever.

      Regarding the commute; realities of roadwork nonsense and local council incompetence mean that there's always at least one major road out of action in any given direction for 25+ weeks a year. I'm close enough to bike to work but that also means sharing that overcrowded and jammed space with the clueless in their SUVs dropping their little darlings at one of the FOUR private schools (and the state school) that have all been crammed into one area for absolutely no good reason.

      And, WFH also means "working ones proper hours" i.e. your contracted 8, as opposed to 8 + meetings running late + commuting time.

  16. Old Man Ted

    This may be due to leases of large unused office spaces. Whole floors and associated kick backs. The bean counters who signed large and long leases with lots of personal kick backs are now in the firing line and trying to duck for cover.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      The bean counters who signed large and long leases with lots of personal kick backs are now in the firing line [...]

      I saw what you did there....

  17. david1024

    No

    TBH, if you are the most efficient 'at home'... Or are the best at home... And the boss says come back in or else, they've done the math and are willing to put up with whatever inefficiencies you perceive. It is their dime.

    I mean really, stop whining--change jobs. Complain about small desks the size of airliner seats because If you want them to fire you, that just makes it take longer and makes you look crazier for overstaying. Besides, if you leave early--without the crazy--you can come back later for a fat raise. (Or not and go somewhere else).

    Or if that really is your only choice--well buttercup...

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: well buttercup...

      What snookums? You think I shouldn't care whether the job is done properly and only worry about whether the middling manager above me is happy?

      No darling, that's not how it works for me or many others. We're capable developers who want to build stuff, if you can't help with that then "Get out of the way sugar tush!"

      1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

        Re: well buttercup...

        Seriously, who's easier to replace: a seasoned developer, or a warm body in a suit who took a How To Agile Good course.

      2. Michael Strorm Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: well buttercup...

        I think they were expecting you to build them up, Buttercup, not for them to be given a taste of their own medicine with an equally-patronising response.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boy, is it biting

    We've had 2 quite key roles open for over six moths now that no one is applying for.

    Actually that's not quite true. But no applications are being progressed once the candidates are told they have to be in the office. Especially as (being techies) they know they don't.

    Obviously you can't up the salary to solve this. And no amount of plugging cycle to work scheme seems to be able to do it.

    Writ large, that's one of the limits to productivity this useless government aren't doing anything about.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Boy, is it biting

      "Writ large, that's one of the limits to productivity this useless government aren't doing anything about."

      Unless you're employer is a government department exactly what do you think a government should be doing about it?

  19. Dave Null

    sceptical...

    as a long term MSFT employee (and full time remote for the last 6 years) there has been no RTO, so I suspect they're using non-representative data to produce this report...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. JavaJester
    Holmes

    Of Course the Talent Flees

    The genius plan of improving office culture by filling it with people who don't want to be there was bound to fail. The people who can quickly get remote jobs will do so.

    If this is a layoff-by-attrition strategy, it may backfire spectacularly. Unless exceptions exist for those who need it, RTO companies will be disadvantaged when recruiting top talent over their more enlightened peers.

  21. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

    Last time I was looking for work, talks were going well with one organization until they mentioned, very late in the game, that it was onsite five days a week.

    I replied that I had done the arithmetic and reckoned that, under the most favorable circumstances, my commute would consume an additional 8 hours of my time per week, or 20% of a standard work week, and as such I would be open to working with them if they also increased the salary we'd agreed upon by 20%.

    Haven't heard back from them yet so I suppose they're still thinking about it.

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