The productivity improved when offices closed in 2020and it remained high during 2021. When companies forced workers back to the office last year, there was a drop in it.
According to a new Fortune study, all this has nothing to do with the so-called “quiet quitting” or silent resignation, the technique of some employees of doing the bare minimum at work when they are unhappy with their working conditions, but still support themselves so they can’t be fired easily.
It seems that it is the office that demotivates the staff, thus contradicting great CEOs like Elon Musk or Satya Nadella and their opinions on the matter. Business leaders became more concerned about this issue in the United States when government productivity data released in August 2022 showed a sharp and unexpected drop in the first and second quarters of 2022.
The following month, Gallup released a poll indicating that as many as half of Americans may be applying their law of least effort (or silent resignation). Big executives such as Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, attributed the fall in productivity to remote work.
Dismantling traditional theories
The claims of traditional CEOs don’t add up. If the silent abandonment of work and the consequent drop in productivity were due to remote work, we should see a decline in productivity since the beginning of the pandemica, when office workers switched to remote work.
At the same time, according to these theories (Musk has come to despise it) when the offices reopened, we should see an increase in productivity as workers returned to the office starting in early 2022. But in reality, we see the opposite trend.
US productivity spiked in the second quarter of 2020 as offices closed, and remained at a high level through 2021. Then, productivity fell sharply in the first and second quarters of 2022. Productivity recovered slightly in the third and fourth quarters, but never returned to prior figures for the period.
Gallup sees that “the optimal increase in engagement occurs when employees spend between 60% and 80% of their time – or three to four days out of a five-day work week – working outside the office.
How to explain what is happening
Forcing employees to come to the office, regardless of their opinion, causes disengagement, fear and mistrust, according to Gallup’s director of research for workplace management, Ben Wigert.
Disengaged workers are not productive and, furthermore, if they are not happy with working conditions they may be actively looking for other companies.
On the other hand, employment website Monster reported that two-thirds of those surveyed would quit rather than return to the office full time. The Integrated Benefits Institute found in a survey conducted in October 2022 that employees who work remotely or in a hybrid environment reported being more satisfied and more engaged (in this case, by 50.8%).
A few days ago Flexa Careers presented the conclusions of a study that it carried out throughout 2022 and in its report “Flexible Work Index” it concludes that, in reality, what employees prefer is to combine both models. Terms that defined the job search at the time of the pandemic, such as “hybrid work” and “flexitime,” are being now replaced by a more organized model where there are specific schedules and a set number of work-from-home days per week, as explained by Molly Johnson-Jones, co-founder and CEO of Flexa Careers.
On the other hand, incentives such as paying the expenses associated with specific costs related to returning to the office work. For example, pay staff travel expensesfood or dry cleaning if they are forced to wear a suit.
An October 2022 survey by Slack found that many workers spend up to four hours on video calls. Slack’s UK boss, Stuart Templeton, said employers risked turning their offices into “productivity killers” as “taking a two hour drive to sit on video calls is a terrible use of the office.”