The Role Integrity Plays in Return to Office Mandates
As we roll into the fall, companies are on the edge of their seats waiting for the results for the next return to office (RTO) wave expected to begin in September and carry through to the end of 2022. The juxtaposition of anticipation and uncertainty in the coming months is uncanny for businesses as they come to terms with the real impact flexibility and hybrid work have had on their office real estate portfolio needs.
While the “value of the office” tug of war is in full swing, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the role the office will play in business is not just a business decision. Companies are going to choose what they believe is best for their business but at the same time, employees will be choosing what’s best for the life they want to live – which they’ve come to realize as a result of not being tethered to the office.
Demanding, mandating, enticing, or cajoling a forced return to the office is a ‘bad for business’ practice because it deteriorates corporate integrity. Common company core values like employee wellness, diversity & inclusion, community building, sustainability, as well as fiduciary responsibility are all at stake more than superficial things like the impact not being in the office will have on collaboration, innovation, and serendipity.
Integrity is an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing. When integrity is compromised, it usually triggers a response often unfavorable to the company. The Great Resignation was and continues to be an example of this. How companies respond to low demand for office space is indicative of the management and workplace culture. Flexibility enables an unparalleled and very compelling competitive advantage. Finding and keeping good talent hinges on corporate integrity, not authority.
The purpose and value of the office has little to do with things like improving work culture, collaboration, innovation, or serendipity and everything to do with integrity. Will is what facilitates all that, not place. Companies must start to think of the impact the decision they make about the role the office will play will have on the planet and their people. When they do, values will better align, and their businesses will thrive.
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