back to article Study finds a quarter of bosses hoped RTO would make employees quit

A study claims to have proof of what some have suspected: return to office mandates are just back-channel layoffs and post-COVID work culture is making everyone miserable.  HR software biz BambooHR surveyed more than 1,500 employees, a third of whom work in HR. The findings suggest the return to office movement has been a …

  1. Joe W Silver badge

    And the interesting thing is...

    .... the best people quite, those that can score a better paying gig somewhere else. Yeah, sucks for the rest. And the company, in the end.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: And the interesting thing is...

      Not necessarily the best people. Some people were too trusting when told that remote work would be permanent, and moved to a new location where they could afford a bigger house or a house in the first place, be nearer family or the part of the country they liked best. They didn't have a choice but to quit if the company wants them to come in three days a week and the commute would be extremely difficult or completely impractical.

      If a company really was instituting RTO as a way of getting people to quit so they didn't have to do layoffs they would never get what they want, even if the quitters were overall of average employee quality. You could have too many people in a particular department quit, taking a lot of institutional knowledge with them, and too few in another so you'd still have to do layoffs while at the same time hiring in the hollowed out department.

      One thing I will call out as BS are the claims I keep seeing that companies want employees to return to work because of real estate. Most companies don't own their own buildings, and they have to pay the same lease cost whether or not someone is sitting in a seat. But there are still some savings not having to light, heat/cool, perform maintenance etc. on unoccupied sections of a building, and even if it is at a discount you might be able to find someone to sublease it. Even when they do own the building, the same applies. Other than being able to claim a larger book value for your building by showing a higher occupancy rate it doesn't matter - and that's a mirage because if they try to sell it it is only worth what a potential buyer think it will make leasing it out. Unless the company agrees to a long lease they won't realize that higher book value in a sale. Making employees return to the office makes no sense at all from the standpoint. The ones who care are those outside of the company like owners of real estate, and businesses in the area that benefit like restaurants and coffee shops, and a CEO is not going to take them into account in their decision making.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        "Most companies don't own their own buildings, and they have to pay the same lease cost whether or not someone is sitting in a seat."

        True, but when they see the smpty seats they can't fool themselves they're wasting money. If they bring everyone back they can.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          Three of the companies I have worked for "leased" the premises - from the owners property trusts or other kinds of related parties.

          It was one fairly standard way of getting money out the company into something more stable i.e. property.

          One of them is now offshoring manufacturing, and a significant factor is that the factory site has become extremely valuable over 30 years, and is worth more than the business shareholding the controlling family still have.

          1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: And the interesting thing is...

            Quote

            "One of them is now offshoring manufacturing, and a significant factor is that the factory site has become extremely valuable over 30 years, and is worth more than the business shareholding the controlling family still have."

            I know of one company that did that, their site in north London was worth a fortune, so they transfered the business down here and sold the London site, sadly all the skilled staff stayed in London, so their new south coast plant took ages to start making money as the new staff were trained up.

            They say that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.... well the south coast plant had just edged towards break even when they shut that down as being 'too expensive' and moved off shore to Turkey(as I remember)

            They still did'nt make any profits as the new Turkish staff had to be trained up ......

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: And the interesting thing is...

              "They still did'nt make any profits as the new Turkish staff had to be trained up ......"

              That's all sorts of fun for a company that has been only in its home country for it's life. Even moving from the East coast to the West coast of the US can be a big shift in culture although Spanish is widely spoken (or English depending on the type of company). To go from England to Turkey wouldn't be a great thing as a total move rather than an expansion. Different languages, customs, holidays and culture. Each country also will have different permitting and tax customs so learned workflows go out the door.

        2. BlueCollarCritic

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          That real-estate excuse is just an excuse. Most executives are insisting on RTO b/c they can't stand the idea that they can't at their leisure walk over and hover around and observe the employees to ensure they aren't spending even 1 second not working. Most executives who aren't self made (they didn't create the business and or grow it from nothing) have this concept that their being robbed by an employee if for any minute during teh work day they aren't doing what teh executive would consider working. It's confession via projection since most of those executives don't actually work most of the day. AGAIN this is NOT ALL just way too many.

          I've worked in retail, Technology, Software for close to 4 decades and I've seen how these bad executive types behave. When I was an asst mgr at a men's clothing store one night one of teh keyholders told a part timer to go get some boxes of clothes and start hanging them; re-stocking. I told the part timer to go back to what they were doing. We had only 1 PT person covering teh floor b/c I was at dinner and the keyholder was as siting another group. After dinner the key holder asked me why I told teh Part timer to effectively go back to not working. I had to explain to him that the person was working; doing their job watching teh sales floor. Just because no one was there that didn't mean the person wasn't working, Too many executives have this same foolish idea bout work; that unless they see you moving then you must be robbing the company of money.

          Too often executives are over paid member of wealthy/connected families who without those connections would never make it to an executive level. I don't care what a CEO is doing for their company, there should NOT be the huge pay gap there is between the executives in a company and everyone else. When a company succeeds it's rarely because of just what one person, the executive, has done and yet when teh execs get their bonuses and raises how often are the rest of the employees left out? If they are the business owner that's different because their $$ is at risk but for executives who don't own the company (and having a large shareholder stake isn't the same as owning it) aren't the owner, they shouldn't be getting rewarded when the rest of the employees are not also rewarded. It doesn't have to be the same amount but at least teh same percentages so if an exec get's a %50 raise then so should everyone else or at least most but certainly not just the CEO or even just teh executives should ever get bonuses while non-execs are left out.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        "One thing I will call out as BS are the claims I keep seeing that companies want employees to return to work because of real estate."

        My partner's daughter works for a company who did just that. They finished an ofice move pre-COVID and spent the next few years WFH, followed by an immidiate and mandatory RTO. The reason was the real estate.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          My partner's daughter works for a company who did just that. They finished an ofice [sic] move pre-COVID and spent the next few years WFH, followed by an immidiate [sic] and mandatory RTO. The stated reason was the real estate.

          There, FTFY

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          "The reason was the real estate."

          And they probably think they're getting better value from office plus staff when office plus staff are in the same location as when they're not. The question should be "are they getting the same value from staff?". If so the way to get value from the office is to off-load it if they can. Your partner's daughter should consider getting out if her employer's manglement doesn't realise they've fallen for the sunk cost fallacy.

      3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        Many companies have shareholders who also are invested in commercial property. One company I worked at had a shareholder who owned the building company operated from.

        So they mandate RTO to artificially keep the value of their properties up.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          So the shareholders who don't also have property shares are being ripped off by those who do.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: And the interesting thing is...

            Most shareholders in publicly quoted companies are likely to be institutional investors - so the odds are will have extensive portfolios which will included property and construction.

      4. ThomH

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        > But there are still some savings not having to light, heat/cool, perform maintenance etc. on unoccupied sections of a building,

        Possibly more than you'd think if you haven't worked in an American office; for some reason they almost-universally insist on keeping indoors cooled to around 20 degrees, all the way through summer. One of my previous employers had a big collection of bright-orange hoodies for wearing in the office, another offered actual blankets. There was an influential book at some point in the past that suggested keeping employees just a little bit cold to improve productivity but mostly it's just a third-rail issue: guaranteed tribal warfare upon any discussion of touching the thermostat.

        So one of the worst parts of RTO is having to decide between sweltering on the way to the office or freezing once you get there.

        1. Yankee Doodle Doofus Bronze badge

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          > "...in an American office; for some reason they almost-universally insist on keeping indoors cooled to around 20 degrees, all the way through summer."

          You can always put on more/warmer clothing, but you can only take off so much, especially in an office setting. Here in the U.S., we have a decent number of heavier people who would be sweaty and miserable at anything over 20 degrees celsius. Others may bitch about it being too cold, but they are unlikely to quit their job over it when they can just put on a sweater. If they are also more productive, that's just a bonus.

          1. DancesWithPoultry
            Windows

            Re: And the interesting thing is...

            > Here in the U.S., we have a decent number of heavier people who would be sweaty and miserable at anything over 20 degrees celsius.

            There is an obvious solution to that problem.

            1. Yankee Doodle Doofus Bronze badge
              Joke

              Re: And the interesting thing is...

              > "There is an obvious solution to that problem."

              Sure, but genocide is rightly frowned upon these days.

          2. Korev Silver badge

            Re: And the interesting thing is...

            > Here in the U.S., we have a decent number of heavier people who would be sweaty and miserable at anything over 20 degrees celsius.

            I'm a [BMI] healthy weight and suffer from that exact problem. I've had discussions with the people who are always cold and asked them which item of clothing they'd like me to remove next (leaving me in my underwear)...

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One thing I will call out as BS

        "One thing I will call out as BS are the claims I keep seeing that companies want employees to return to work because of real estate. Most companies don't own their own buildings, and they have to pay the same lease cost whether or not someone is sitting in a seat. But there are still some savings not having to light, heat/cool, perform maintenance etc. on unoccupied sections of a building, and even if it is at a discount you might be able to find someone to sublease it."

        You may call it BS, but that probably down to a lack of understanding on your part.

        CRE is very expensive (much more so than residential real estate), and the CRE leases tend to run for a very long time (often more than 10 years) and with strict clauses (which often also prohibit sub-letting or only allow to do so at notable costs) which makes them very difficult to near impossible to exit. Which now means the company is bound to spend a massive amount of $$$ every year on a building, irrespective whether they use it or not, for the duration of the lease. To recoup some of the costs, most jurisdictions offer tax deductions or other tax easements, but to do so the company must show use of the building, which normally means a regular occupancy rate above a certain threshold.

        Now if too many employees are working remotely, the company can't show sufficient utilization, and if they can't show sufficient utilization then they can't write off the leasing costs through tax. And because of the leasing terms, the company also can't just offload the unused building, so it's stuck paying for an asset they can't utilize. That's often a difference of Millions of $ per year (the company may be able to write off some of the costs for the unused building as loss but there are strict limits to what can be written off, and other profits may be counted against it so ir rarely provides sufficient relief).

        So no, RTO because of commercial real estate costs isn't BS. It's reality.

        1. ryokeken

          so many assumptions for such an emphatic nope

          i already said it in the subject

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: One thing I will call out as BS

          If companies who made better choices are able to poach the best staff from those who made worse choices then the latter are liable to go broke sooner or later and the inflexible landlords are going to lose their tenants anyway.

          I suppose some property owners are going to let their tenants quit if they want to, repurpose* part of their buildings into something more sustainable such as mixed residential/business**. Those who aren't are going to find their more flexible competitors got there before them so they're picking up the crumbs.

          * Yes, an upfront cost but needed to retain some value in the property.

          ** This may be an issue with planners. OTOH the planners have actually planned an unsustainable commute-based economy. By definition if it's unsustainable it can't be sustained and will collapse. Those authorities which catch on quicker will make the necessary adjustments. Those who don't will find themselves running the sort of derelict areas found in ex-industrial areas.

      6. BlueCollarCritic

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        Well said!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: And the interesting thing is...

      "the best people quit"

      And they'll have no means of measuring that because they probably didn't even know who they were.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        No probably about it.

        I've left quite a few gigs where my coworkers, immediate boss and even their boss was straight up telling me I was quite the professional, so I'm thinking I've finally landed somewhere I can stay, yet HR and accounting was kicking me out the door.

        You know, the old last in, first out.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          "I've left quite a few gigs where my coworkers, immediate boss and even their boss was straight up telling me I was quite the professional, so I'm thinking I've finally landed somewhere I can stay, yet HR and accounting was kicking me out the door."

          I work in the field of organisational strategy. I ought to be calling out poor decisions, poor performance, asking uncomfortable questions, and (some of the time) being a corporate irritant. What I've learnt time and again that that is what companies say they want, in practice they only want people who turn the handle, and don't give too much challenge. And at any redundancies, it'll be the faces like mine that don't fit who are on the list. I've even seen a £4bn business flown into the ground because the CEO wouldn't accept the advice of the head of strategy (my boss). Discussions got very heated, and eventually, at the point where my boss was about to be sent packing, he backed down and stopped going on about the "cost to serve crisis". That meant he kept his job, at least for the four years it then took for the company to go bust.

          1. Charles Bu

            Re: And the interesting thing is...

            One of the best comments about work I've ever read. Thank you for confirming all my suspicions that were always implicitly denied by a load of corporate rats and their bilge about their "culture".

            Please can you somehow repeatedly get this millions of views and reactions on LinkedIn where brown-nosers and "leaders" asking us to "go on a journey" can actually have it put under their noses and where they can't sweep it under the carpet?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And the interesting thing is...

            "What I've learnt time and again that that is what companies say they want, in practice they only want people who turn the handle, and don't give too much challenge. And at any redundancies, it'll be the faces like mine that don't fit who are on the list."

            The best advice anyone can ever get is to learn this fact as early in their working life as possible. It is Never different at any company, no matter how much the HR parasites try to paper it over with 'engagement programs' and 'side benefits' that really just mean you're expected to participate even more in the work culture and open yourself up to even more opportunities to show that you don't fit.

          3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: And the interesting thing is...

            "That meant he kept his job, at least for the four years it then took for the company to go bust."

            In four years he didn't find an aopportunity to jump ship to somewhere better run? That's a hell of a risk just for the opportunity to say "told you so".

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        ""the best people quit"

        And they'll have no means of measuring that because they probably didn't even know who they were."

        Beyond that, they aren't controlling who they are encouraging to leave since they might get in trouble by making some people return with no clear reason while allowing somebody else doing a similar job to remain WFH. If they just want to Elon the headcount, this is what would do it.

      3. Shalghar Bronze badge

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        Or they have no means of measuring that because the "metrics" (KLOC, anyone?) are measuring anything but real value.

    3. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: And the interesting thing is...

      "the best people quit,"

      Personally I am not convinced about that, the best people often have good and well payed jobs and are in comfortable roles. That's not an easy thing to give up as it usually takes years to get there.

      Moving companies guarantees that you will have to do a lot of ground work to get back into a good position and dependant on age that could quite easily become almost impossible ( unless you work for small PME sized companies).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        "Personally I am not convinced about that, the best people often have good and well payed jobs and are in comfortable roles. That's not an easy thing to give up as it usually takes years to get there."

        I've worked in a lot of roles for different large organisations that involve a lot of contact with senior management and the board, different sectors, different ownership structures. The majority of senior roles are invariably filled by an HR-run "capability" process that gets in safe-bet bullshitters who answer irrelevant questions fluently, whilst box-ticking the various buzz words used to evaluate the performance of candidates. As most will have noticed, there's also a short cut for execs to ensure their favourites do well in such "even handed" selection processes. As a result these organisations end up with group think, and with leaders who are confident and well spoken but owe fealty to any sponsoring boss, and almost always have no real expertise in technology, operations, or strategy. People from a sales or marketing background do disproportionately well.

        Put another way, management selection gets you people very like politicians, who have the gift of the gab, but aren't really trained or qualified to undertake the position they hold, and who struggle to offer real commitments, or to take responsibility. And then once you've got this management culture, it replicates itself, through the delusion that such processes get you the best person for the job. A classic example is where jobs are advertised externally and then go to an internal candidate. Nobody ever things what a remarkable happenstance, that in the whole wide world, the single most talented person for this job happened to be right here under our own roof.

      2. My-Handle

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        My experience is that the "good" people don't often end up in comfortable roles, purely because they're the type of people to take ownership of problems or issues and resolve them. They usually end up being quite overworked precisely because they get things done. What they're paid often bears little relation to what they do and a much closer relation to how good their negotion skill was when they were initially employed. Promotions rarely happen because management dare not promote them out of their current role because they're too damn good doing it.

        I can remember one colleague who worked his absolute ass off. Out of a three-to-four-person department (including his boss), he was the main one who got stuff done. He got no help and no significant raises and eventually jumped ship due to being massively overworked and getting a better offer elsewhere. Company had to hire two more people to deal with the shortfall and productivity still fell.

        I agree that transferring roles is never easy, and any good worker will be giving up a lot of earned respect and reputation. But often it's the only way to get promoted these days, especially in IT.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          Really good workers often get poached.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          I'd suggest that in the organisational world the reliable consistent staff won't be in the short list for any kind of promotion, because a) they can be relied upon so why give them an inducement to stay- they are already staying and b) promotions is a way to shift ambitious staff who are always ahead of the latest in-thing and threaten managers' jobs into some other department

          The Peter Principle is only half right, I'd suggest - in that the often-promoted are frequently competent mostly in the art of getting promoted - and the "Level of their Own Incompetence" is actually the point where they meet their match in ladder climbing.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: And the interesting thing is...

          "Promotions rarely happen because management dare not promote them out of their current role because they're too damn good doing it."

          And they have no mechanism for promoting them in it.

      3. Jadith

        Re: And the interesting thing is...

        In my experience the people that stay the longest are usually the ones so bad at their jobs they have to stay put.

        If you want to move up, in pay or position, the answer is usually to find something elswhere for one of two reasons. One, year over year pay rises barely cover inflation, if they do at all, but moving companies can get you 10-30%. Two, moving up usually means you have to wait your turn, which can mean the person currently in that position has to retire, leave, or get let go, which can take years if not decades.

        The ones that stay put usually have no ambition, motivation, or ability to develop professionally, prefering to coast as long as they can. This tends to lead to folks with decaying skill sets as the industry changes and they don't keep up, which leads to greater difficulty if they ever did try to find a job elsewhere, meaning they stay put for longer.

    4. Groo The Wanderer Silver badge

      Re: And the interesting thing is...

      Yep, the best, the brightest, and the most capable of finding another job in this highly competitive market leave, and only the dead wood that should have been laid off remains... same as always.

  2. ecofeco Silver badge

    Hoped they quit?

    Why can't they just fire them?

    Rhetorical question. You can't fire the teachers pet. Nor find that unicorn to replace them. Nor pay them what the skills are really worth.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Hoped they quit?

      You are only ever worth what someone else is willing to pay.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Hoped they quit?

      In most of the developed world (and SOME US states) there actually exist all sorts of annoying ponderous rules against firing people willy nilly and you'd have to pay them compensation and such. Much easier if they f#ck off of their own accord because then you don't own them anything.

    3. ScarryJerry

      Re: Hoped they quit?

      If there were proper HR procedures in place and the 'bosses' were not such jerks, they would not have to rely on such sneaky tactics.

  3. Infi 1

    I guess my (now ex) company won then as I tendered my resignation when they tried to force us back into the office 60% off the week. Sadly for them they've also just lost their entire payroll team (including the manager) and half of the HR team, who have also either gone already or been offered other jobs and are just waiting for their new contracts before tendering their resignations.

    And all because senior management don't like that they don't see us in the office every day looking busy (though they wouldn't admit that was the reason). No, we were at home actually BEING busy getting the job done!

    Speaking to the payroll manager just before he got his job offer the company are apparently also struggling to find replacements for the staff they've lost. Oh well ...

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Speaking to the payroll manager just before he got his job offer the company are apparently also struggling to find replacements for the staff they've lost. Oh well ..."

      There's also the issue of who will be around to train anybody new. If I had to train somebody, that would mean my output would go down while getting very little from the new hire until they were up to speed. If the new person doesn't work out, that just extends the pain as I'd have to start with the next hire from scratch once again. Do I leave at that point? If I don't like training noobs, I might. If it's something I enjoy, I'd stay. If I started getting flack about my output falling off, I'd start shopping for a new position elsewhere.

  4. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Who

    ""The distrusting and performative cultures some companies are cultivating are harmful to bottom-line growth," Grantham said, adding that RTO policies are okay, but not if they don't consider individual employee needs. "

    The article goes on to say that HR and the companies in general didn't put in place an metrics to see if RTO was a positive for the company or not.

    Companies can't cater to employee needs on an individual basis. Perhaps in a few very limited cases a key employee will get special consideration, but not overall. The company has to do what is best for its own health going forward.

    1. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: Who

      @Mach*. Still in larval phase, eh ? We greybeards have seen many companies deliberately take actions that damaged them. From local overworked national outposts being told by USA manglement to sack staff to satisfy Wall Street rather than increase cash flow, profits and customer needs, to insane purchases of software with no immediate or obvious use. Hi Leo !

      I suggest the manglement class select for sociopaths and "sound candidates", ie fellow sociopaths rather than competence.

      Notice what happens to companies when founders magic goes. What calls itself management and leadership becomes detached from reality, customer base, its own market sector. Bonuses, ie looting what legacy is left.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Who

        Even small companies can do this. My late father managed a highly profitable coat tactory. The owners had another, older, place nearer home that they ran themselves. When that one started to lose money and business they closed dad's branch, and kept the older one running, with dad as a somewhat nominal manager because they still kept trying to run things their way. The company died.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Who

        "We greybeards have seen many companies deliberately take actions that damaged them."

        I'm long past only grey hair and into the Doc Brown color and style.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Who

        "Notice what happens to companies when founders magic goes."

        "Hi Leo!" again!

      4. Telman

        Re: Who

        I think you mean psychopaths...........

    2. ChoHag Silver badge

      Re: Who

      > Companies can't cater to employee needs on an individual basis.

      Nothing is stopping them except their tightfistedness as they put their own profit above the health and welfare of the people making it for them.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Who

        And only then in the short term.

    3. eldakka

      Re: Who

      > Companies can't cater to employee needs on an individual basis.

      As long as those needs are reasonable, why not?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Who

        "As long as those needs are reasonable, why not?"

        It would depend on the number of employees. For a company such as GM, they have a love/hate relationship with the UAW as they appreciate that many things about worker management is negotiated all at once and on the hate side have to deal with the UAW.

        When I had a manufacturing company, I had to handle many employee policies in a general way. There just wasn't enough time in the day to do it otherwise. That was with less than 100 on staff. I could have (ack) hired an HR person and then everybody would get compensated less to pay for that person(s). When I first bought the company I hired some temp space to get it back into some sort of production to hang on to a couple of big customers with OEM contracts they had with the former owners. That meant a facility near to me as I had little time (days) to arrange things. I did think of the company's employees and found more permanent premises closer to where they all lived. I mainly did that so I could retain as many of them as I could afford and didn't need to train new people on top of everything else. It was an opportunity that dropped into my lap. One might call leasing a building near the employees as a sop to them, but it made the most business sense.

        1. eldakka

          Re: Who

          It would depend on the number of employees.

          I don't see why it would depend on the number of employees.

          It's not like the CEO would have to personally make the decision for every one of their 50k (for example) employees. That's what delegation is for. It'd be delegated to HR and to an employees line manager (or maybe their line manager) to make the decision (based on organisational and business-unit policies), therefore no manager-type would ever have to make the direct decision in more than a few score of cases.

          I mean, they already do that anyway for things like Occupational Health and Safety around things like appropriate seating (someone might need a special chair to do their work due to health conditions), equipment - I worked with someone who was legally blind and had (years ago) Dragon Naturally Speaking and and other tools/aids to enable them to work. I doubt the CEO of the 30k employee organisation was even informed of let alone had to make the decision for the adjustments made to enable that employee to work.

          After my organisations new Enterprise Agreement came into force about 6 months ago, the whole process of requesting Working from Home is done in the HR tool - SAP (cringe) - from start to finish. There's a form you fill out (what days do you want to WFH, what days (if any!) are in the office, etc), send it to your line manager who endorses or rejects it, then it goes to their line manager who, 90% of the time, follows their subordinates recommendation (if you don't trust your direct subordinate, then what's the point in having them ?). If your immediate line manager rejects it, you can appeal to their line manager, but unless your line manager is a complete dick (possible) or what you are asking for is way outside the policy (also possible), it's pretty much a tick-and-flick exercise.

          When I had a manufacturing company, I had to handle many employee policies in a general way. There just wasn't enough time in the day to do it otherwise. That was with less than 100 on staff. I could have (ack) hired an HR person and then everybody would get compensated less to pay for that person(s).
          That's a spurious argument, and I hate it when people/companies go down that narcisstic line of thinking. Your companies/business lack of revenue to follow the law (i.e. work conditions, pay, safety, etc.) and basic human decency (treat your employees as humans, assets, not cost centres) does not give you the right to ignore those things. If you don't have the revenue, then what you don't have is a viable business. Either you've got the revenue - a viable business - or you don't, in whch case you just aren't a viable business.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Who

            "I don't see why it would depend on the number of employees."

            How big of an HR department do you want to finance? If you have to formulate and keep track of agreements, accommodations and requirements for each employee on an individual basis, you'd need a good size department for that.

            1. eldakka

              Re: Who

              > How big of an HR department do you want to finance?

              Why would this effect HR? They set the general policies and allow the line managers to do their job - manage their staff. HR should only get involve if there's a dispute, e.g. the employee disagrees with the managers refusal of something-or-other and sends it to HR to sort out.

              The fact that organisations push these types of decisions back up to some central area (e.g. HR) and strip these types of decisions away from lower-level managers is a problem for the organisation to deal with. If they work in that fashion, then they are the ones who have set up a structure that may require expanding their HR department, and that's a problem for them to deal with.

              The "we can't afford this", or "we'll need to hire more HR", or "this will complicate our processes" is a problem for them to solve, not a problem for the employees to solve.

              Again, this is narcisstic thinking, the "this is how we do it and this imposes a cost, and what you want will increase that cost" is a problem with how the organisation is set up (has extraneous processes that impose cost) or the organisation is likely not a viable financial vehicle - it's gotta cut corners, like the example given earlier "to afford this I have to reduce staff wages".

              Organisations need to function in the legal and cultural and moral environment they trade/operate in, if the revenue they gain from those operations is not sufficient to cover the costs of those operations, that is the companies issue to deal with, even if that means they can't and have to fold (or cease operations in that particular region/state/country).

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Who

          "When I had a manufacturing company"

          Past tense noted.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Who

            "Past tense noted."

            Manufacturing in the US is being discouraged and there was no way to keep competing with Chinese firms. I'm happier now working on my own and not under pressure to make sure everybody gets paid on-time and customers get their orders as promised. It also lets me do several different things that don't fit neatly into a formal company.

    4. My-Handle

      Re: Who

      They don't need to draft up a set of policies / benefits etc for each individual employee. The sensible thing to do is draft up a handful of flexible policies that can be made to suit a wide swathe of their employees, which can then be tweaked as necessary by each employee and their manager to suit the situation.

      Being able to update these policies in response to business and employee needs also helps, whereas issuing dictats based on poor management decisions does not.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Who

        "The sensible thing to do is draft up a handful of flexible policies"

        Not in the US, you don't. It's "one rule to bind them" or you could have a very hard time justifying something to a labor board or court. If somebody argues that you flexed one way for somebody else that it was due to some protected class argument that's the reason you didn't flex for them. Prove that they're wrong.

        OTOH, if you make an allowance for somebody with a medical condition to visit the restroom more frequently without raising the ire of a supervisor, that could be done and you could call that being flexible if you were also talking with somebody else that didn't claim a need and there was a suspicion they were just bunking off to fiddle with their phone.

    5. Shalghar Bronze badge

      Re: Who

      "Companies can't cater to employee needs on an individual basis."

      So what exactly happens at the annual performance evaluation or the selection for trainings ?

      The company tends to its own needs concerning the employee on an individual basis.

      So when its about the company, employees can be handled individually but when its for the employees, and indirectly(!) also for the company, we cant have that, thats too much hassle ?

      Its not as if the CEO would have to do all this by himself, we´re not at DIlberts.

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Who

      "Companies can't cater to employee needs on an individual basis."

      Who said anything about an individual basis? If a lot (?most) employees prefer W@H and are more productive doing that it's not doing things on an individual basis to not mandate return to office.

  5. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Newspeak

    What I gather from the article is that the abominable word "performant" does not mean, as one would expect, "highly-performing," but instead means, "giving a false image of being highly-performing."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Newspeak

      A pedant writes...

      "performant" - performing well / to spec ( its a relatively new word )

      "performative" - insincere / fake behaviour in order to impress others

    2. teebie

      Re: Newspeak

      "Giving a good performance"

      You know, like an actor does.

      Not a doer, an actor.

  6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    UK - tribunal cases to rise...

    "Tribunal cases to rise as UK firms push back on remote working, experts say

    Some employers emboldened by ruling against FCA manager’s claim over working at home full-time"

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/article/2024/jun/04/employment-tribunal-cases-remote-working-from-home-office

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

    That is what my bosses are saying - that we collaborate better face to face.

    It is the same bosses who have shifted the work offshore - so now, most of the people in the team I need to collaborate on a daily basis are offshore - and due to timezone differences, on the days I WFH, the time overlap between on-shore and offshore is greater, as I am not spending the time commuting when offshore are already working - Soon, it will just be me onshore - which I take as time to update the CV before the inevitable happens

    1. Dennis_the_performance_dork

      Re: Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

      Feels . . . all the feels. I mostly worked with a team in China, India, and occasionally California as an East Coast USA guy. They pulled this on us at my former employer even back before the pandemic. Gotta be in the office at least 3 days a week, swipe that badge, or you're getting in trouble.

      Going into the office was a social experience -- "Sally's" birthday party, team lunches, listening to "Mr. Important Executive" talk about why NoSQL Blockchain AI in Containers with an Agile Methodology would save the universe, two hour talk with way too much PowerPoint (which, of course, Mr. Important Executive could not figure out how to work) because I didn't want Mr. Important Executive to think I wasn't interested. There's also mandatory meetings and scrums and stand-ups, and somehow, I got on like four teams worth of them. Then, of course, you have to go to Happy Hour with said executive's little cronies after all that excitement about virtualized hybrid cloud microservice architecture.

      Most days in the office, I'd get maybe, if I'm generous, an hour of actual work completed.

      Then, we switched to a "Hot-desk" open plan environment where you don't have your own space. So now I spent that hour I was actually productive a day looking for a free desk, setting my laptop up, figuring out where to go to the bathroom, getting a locker like I was in high school, etc. instead of actually getting anything done.

      I might be an outlier. Maybe most folks can code or spin up a bunch of VMs or analyze a bunch of performance metrics while eating cake at "Sally's" birthday party. My best ever manager did once tell me, "Dennis, you're unmanageable. I just point you at stuff and say go." I can accept that.

      Then I get to go home, eat a bite, and start my work day with my teams in China and India, and then I'd get some actual work done. If I had a family, children, other responsibilities, that wouldn't be happening.

      Super super glad I'm no longer doing that type of work. Now I freelance consult. I make less money, less reliably, but I get more done and spend less time on the garbage bits. Funny how they start to value your efforts more when they're paying you by the billable hour. . . "Sally's" birthday party would have cost a hundred dollars for me to attend.

      1. TimMaher Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: “Sally’s “ birthday party.

        Just there for ten minutes then?

      2. My-Handle

        Re: Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

        Dennis, you're unmanageable. I just point you at stuff and say go.

        Funny, I got comments like that as well. I've seen other commentards around here remark similarly. It's almost like the ability to resist pointless managerial crap and focus on the problem that actually needs sorting is common in IT / Engineering type roles.

      3. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

        Re: Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

        'Most days in the office, I'd get maybe, if I'm generous, an hour of actual work completed'

        Now Peter, I'm going to go ahead and let you pare that down to a good solid 15 mins m'kay.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

        "Then I get to go home, eat a bite, and start my work day with my teams in China and India, and then I'd get some actual work done. If I had a family, children, other responsibilities, that wouldn't be happening."

        I was talking with a real estate agent last weekend at an open house where there was a detached annex in the back. Perfect for a WFH office. Completely separate, full bath, small kitchen and 3 rooms to use for whatever. The trick would be training the kids to understand that you aren't "at home" to be bothered unless it's important (your important, not theirs).

  8. Denarius Silver badge

    is it just me ?

    The rise of the HR classification seems correlated to more insane manglement ? is this because despite HR cheerleaders saying HR improves quality of employees, it really creates places in the power hierarchy for lower level sociopaths to enjoy hurting people which is why CEOs like to introduce such company positions ?

    If I ever got bored enough I would like to see what drop in company profits and growth occurred before and after the imposition of such groups, adjusted for technology change, inflation.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: is it just me ?

      Somehow, HR and marketing both seem to think they run the companies these days. Followed closely by accounting.

      And for some reason, the CxOs let them.

      But don't tell sales, they KNOW they run the company.

    2. YetAnotherXyzzy

      Re: is it just me ?

      One lesson I wish I had learned years ago is that once an employer decides it needs a dedicated HR person, it's time for me to move on.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: is it just me ?

        "One lesson I wish I had learned years ago is that once an employer decides it needs a dedicated HR person, it's time for me to move on."

        If it's just one to make sure insurance, pension contributions and company-wide things like that are kept on top of as well as being up to date on employment law, sure fine. The rest of it should be done by department/group supervisors. How would HR know how to manage holiday/day off requests? There's policy, but that info has to get back to managers so they know if they need to shift things around to cover for the absence. Why not have the manager send the info to HR so the day off is accounted?

  9. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Pretty much a total erosion of ...

    of trust, mutuality and good will.

    I have to wonder how many of the remaining RTO victims, on getting up in the very early hours of the morning to begin their long commute to the dread office, are thinking "what novel what can I screw the bosses today?"

    Not difficult, believe me - simply "accidentally" flipping a single bit in the wrong place can have at some point devastating consequences.

    Even if the aggregate effect were to torpedo their employer's business its hardly likely to shorten an employee's expected term of employment based on the results of this survey.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “socialising and moving around the office”

    Wash your mouth out!

    Disgusting.

    Head down, bum up, screens on.

    Don’t move away until the code is done.

    Rinse and repeat.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SVPs urging RTO whilst WFH

    ..I work for one of the most highly valued companies in the world. A recent call saw the RTO mandate reinforced by a gaggle of execs who were all on camera from their beautiful country homes..

    1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

      Re: SVPs urging RTO whilst WFH

      I was working for a government agency when the pandemic hit its stride. Our department's boss' recommendation? Leave the city and go to wherever we usually summer. He was from the social class that uses "summer" as a verb, so he didn't realize that for most of us, we summer in the same place we winter, spring, and autumn.

  12. Iggle Piggle

    Luckily where I work, the bosses saw downsizing the building as a bonus for them. This means that we are meant to be in the office 50% but realistically this means 40% so two (out of five) days a week. Technically that is RTO but in practice the bosses are very flexible and if there is a reasonable reason not to come in on a scheduled day then they are OK with working from home just so long as it doesn't become a habit. Also a lot of our meetings are still virtual with offices in the USA and those tend to be in the afternoon so again the bosses are flexible enough and allow people to make the journey home to join the meetings from home and avoid the evening traffic.

  13. Iggle Piggle

    I thought generally that making the employees uncomfortable so that they leave has the effect that those that leave tend to be the competent employees who know they can find an alternative employer. The ones that don't leave are often those who will endure a little hardship possibly because they like the role or possibly because finding an alternative job might be tough. I'd have thought the role of management would be to take the tough decisions and show the door to those they are not happy with, not just hope that being a pain in the backside will upset the ones they want rid of.

  14. SundogUK Silver badge

    "HR software biz BambooHR surveyed more than 1,500 employees, a third of whom work in HR."

    And you are taking this seriously?

    1,500 employees surveyed...

    a third of whom work in HR...

    and a software company which relies on HR dealing with people who WFH?

  15. SundogUK Silver badge

    Reading the comments here tells me one thing. You all work for shitty companies. Where I work they mandated a three days in the office RTO policy and nobody quit. 400 odd employees but part of a FTSE 100 group, who mandated the RTO policy. No issues at all. Weird.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Aside from the headcount (our UK operation is around a tenth of that), I could simply copy-paste that and use it as my own reply...

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      A lot of us are retired.

      But if you want some more anecdotal evidence about the still working - my daughter whose previous job was working from home* made an incomprehensible (to me) move to an office-based job, with a commute I'd have baulked at, just before COVID. That company, of course, changed to W@H for the duration. As soon as ROT came along she quit in favour of a job at a business which is virtually 100% W@H.

      * Partly at home and partly visiting research collaborators which is why I make the distinction between "from" and "at". The office, about 150 miles away was only visited very occasionally.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RTO

    Not going to happen in my public sector org. because the management have spent the last couple of years making big budget savings by slashing office space (to the extent that the plebs are revolting because it's almost impossible in some areas to come into an office even if you wanted to because spaces are overbooked). The joys of "efficiency" savings when some bright spark in accounting finds a magic way to free up a lot of money really quickly and nobody sufficiently senior goes "eh, hang on, have we really thought this through?".

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A fascinating question I asked during the pandemic in interviews

    was how homeworking had affected a companies costs and profits.

    No one know.

    Not only that, no one had any way of knowing. There were no apples and apples comparators.

    The logical conclusion of that is there is no way they could not if RTO was more profitable than before, which they have no way of knowing was profitable with the original on site arrangements.

    1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

      Re: A fascinating question I asked during the pandemic in interviews

      Who cares about missing metrics, when manglement has a "feel" for what is good for them the company.

      1. My-Handle

        Re: A fascinating question I asked during the pandemic in interviews

        Reminds me of an ex-colleague project manager I once had to deal with, who recommended reverting a comparitively new, automated process in favour of an old manual one on the basis that "it would serve the customers better".

        Had he done a survey of the customers? No. Had he spoken to even one or two customers? No. Had he spoken to customer services, or anyone in the company who had contact with customers? No. Did he have any kind of data or metrics to support this position? No. Had he given any thought to the impact within the company, given that the new process had been implemented because it tripled the throughput of work and increased the quality of the output at a point where that particular section of the company had been massively backlogged and overworked due to lack of budget and manpower?

        His entire basis for his opinion was what "he felt".

        The meeting got shut down very quickly under that barrage of questions and said project manager was instead redirected elsewhere. He had gained a general reputation of being able to wreck any project he touched. Thankfully, I didn't encounter him again before leaving said company

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A fascinating question I asked during the pandemic in interviews

          Surprised the PM wasn't promoted into upper management.

  18. MJI Silver badge

    WFH a job saver

    With Long Covid this has enabled me to continue working.

    I can't drive against the clock any more, nor in difficult traffic as it blows my energy levels.

    Ill health retirement is a good bargaining point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WFH a job saver

      Same here. With me suffering from Vaccine induced Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (that's what all the blood clotting hooha with the AZ vaccine has been recently), if I weren't able to work from home, I would have had to leave my current job, possibly never to work again in my field of expertise.

      Fortunately, my workplace are having trouble finding someone to replace me as I work with their legacy technology, and are relatively understanding. But it does cause problems.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: WFH a job saver

        I know someone with similar, not nice, but then 2 bouts in a year with complete energy collapse was bad enough. Theirs was same as you.

        My second time was asymptomatic due to Biontech, first was a new strain with 4 weeks really bad cold ill.

  19. JustDisGuy

    Quiet quitting was bound to lead to quiet firing.

    Much as especially tech people can 'do their job from anywhere', unfortunately a LOT of people seem unable to make themselves work while not in the office.

    You're not entitled to work multiple full time jobs during the same hours of operation; you're supposed to be working for the company that's paying you.

    Suck it up, buttercups. Time to put your big boy/girl pants on, and do your job.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      You're not entitled to work multiple full time jobs during the same hours of operation; you're supposed to be working for the company that's paying you.

      And how many people are actually doing that?

      Not that I'd care if my staff were working for others so long as the work I paid them to do was getting done.

      Perhaps you forgot to add the "troll" icon?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "Not that I'd care if my staff were working for others so long as the work I paid them to do was getting done."

        I remember ages ago there was a software engineer that worked from home and farmed out the actual work to coders in India via a contract company. I can't remember how he got caught, but it was a good chuckle. On one hand, the work was getting done, but I expect the person didn't have much insight into the code he was delivering to the company as his own.

    2. ChrisC Silver badge

      This feels rather too close to the sort of sentiments we heard time and time again during the pandemic, where those of us who very much WERE working full time (and then some) at home were all too often treated as if we were all enjoying a lengthy furlough-funded chance to indulge in our hobbies at the taxpayers expense. It was insulting to our professionalism then, and it's no less insulting today...

      1. LogicGate Silver badge

        So you did NOT have any after work cake and wine parties?

    3. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

      Counterpoint: shove your condescending bullshit back up your ass, buttercup.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      multiple full time jobs

      offshore call centers

    5. Avfusion

      Sorry friend, but you drank the Kool-Aid and thought it was fine wine.

      My direct report's performance dramatically improved since it was so much easier to shield them from distractions. They worked less (maintained a steady 40), were far more engaged in meetings, and our external partner reviews improved dramatically. This effect was shared across our entire company. We closed our offices across the world and fully committed to WFH.

      Whatever you did wrong, I hope you figure it out, or at least stop listening to people who have an interest in their own employees blaming each other.

  20. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

    Key thing: a quarter of executives _admitted_ that they were hoping for a shadow layoff. How many more intended that but lied to the researchers?

    1. Shalghar Bronze badge

      That is indeed an interesting question. Another would be WHY they want layoffs so badly and wether they are aware that work does not do itself, much less with "AI".

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recovery Time Objectives

    Why are HR involved in defining these?

  22. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Alert

    What is old will be new again

    From the article: "The key to success, whether staff stay remote, return to office, or go hybrid, is an open culture that listens to employees and doesn't micromanage....

    An open culture that listens to employees and does not not micromanage. As shocking as some may find it, that has been the key to successful companies for years. There is nothing new here. WFH / RTO is just another indicator of management style.

    Managers that measure success by the warmth of the office chair are not good managers to work for and are typically found at craptastic companies. Asking about WFH / RTO policies is a good way to ferret them out before landing that next gig - regardless of what your personal work preference is.

  23. Dropper

    Worth it

    I routinely uninstall any workplace surveillance software (the kind that tracks whether you are present and working). I work at a high enough level in IT, so this is not too difficult to maintain.

    When I get told I need to have the software installed, I start my campaign of confusion and misdirection. First order of business is to tell them they're wrong, I don't need it. Yes this situation does often deteriorate, but not always. Sometimes, because I do actually work and don't try to hold 3 jobs simultaneously, I get the opportunity to state my case. And it's simple. Either you trust your employees to do their work or you do not. If you do not, then this is probably not the right place for me. If I am not working, then I would not be meeting targets. If I am working, you don't need to monitor my activity. I'm doing more than the job you paid me to do, and my reward for that is distrust?

    Fair enough, I've lost two jobs because I refuse to be monitored. But my current employer prefers to keep people who work.

    1. Shalghar Bronze badge

      Re: Worth it

      This whole surveillance mania has gotten so far that you can even buy mouse movement simulators, small battery or USB powered boxes with a rotating disc inside. You place your optical mouse over said disc and the pointer keeps moving on screen. Some of those gadgets also have settings for speed, time intervals or randomized movement. All to make sure that you still get your mousemove statistics without your computer being any wiser and also useable in environments where there are no free USB ports present. (Not like those OTHER gadgets, that need to be plugged in and simulate mouse/keyboard. Those could be detected).

      I would really be interested in a correct statistic on how much money is lost or won when using surveillance and how much more cost is produced by people quitting such companies and/or people deliberately "performing" to surveillance demands but no longer to their abilities.

  24. KeshLives

    It really hasn't been an issue where I work, because we grew a ton in the last 3 years, and simply don't have enough physical seats for everyone anyway. How it has really worked out is that those who want to work in the office full time get a seat, and those who can produce and would rather WFH, do so, and some of us get an office we can use when we need it, and someone else uses it when we're not there if they need the seat. (I'm one of the last set.)

    I generally show up for Monday mornings, but after that, whether I'm seen 'in the flesh' in the office just depends on what's going on.

  25. BlueCollarCritic

    Anyone else feel like executives today are not only still a part of the good ole boys club (the wealth elite families of various ethnic groups) but their even less intelligent then prior generations executives and make incredibly foolish decisions like discussed here with RTO plans,

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