Return-to-office ultimatums are likely to backfire on the business

The ‘Great Resignation’ is now in full force as employees refuse to go back to normal office life.

Nicol Myburgh, head: CRS Technologies HCM business unit, says people have adapted to working from home, making it hard for them to heed their companies’ call to return to the office.

He says most have simply resigned: “The Great Resignation, first noticed in 2021, is now in full flow as people leave their existing employment in search of companies that pay attention to what they want,” Nicol says. He says employees would rather not have a job than go back to the office.

If their bosses demand that they get out of their pyjamas and get back to the office, they resign. This has resulted in a radical shift in recruitment trends and approaches – today, most job ads are for remote workers. At least, this is a major trend internationally. Here, in South Africa, companies are staying stuck in their rigid ways and forcing the office return.”

According to Nicol, many large companies in South Africa are refusing to even consider the idea of a remote or hybrid workplace. Smaller companies have, however, shown a more adaptable approach, with many building working frameworks that adapt to the needs of their employees.

“The challenge for the organisation is to find a more consultative way of approaching this situation,” says Nicol. “If management is set in the old ways of working, but the workforce is demanding to work remotely, then the future should be co-created to come as close as possible to meet everyone’s needs. This means moving away from demands and orders and instead moving towards discussions and collaborations. These approaches will result in better staff retention and engagement.”

Nicol says the costs of commuting to the office and the time lost each day travelling does not motivate employees to go back to the office. “It’s worth building better working frameworks, not just because it keeps people happy, but because it builds a better business culture and is more likely to attract high-end talent to your company,” he says.