The Potential Drawbacks of CEO Return-to-Office Directives: Why They Can Have Negative Consequences

**Title: CEOs Requiring Return-to-Office Mandates: The Importance of Effective Implementation**

**Subtitle: The Challenges CEOs Face in Reestablishing Workplace Culture and Connection**

CEOs Requiring Return-to-Office Mandates: The Importance of Effective Implementation
CEOs are increasingly issuing return-to-office mandates. They may well have legitimate reasons to require workers to return to their desks—and see it backfire anyway.

Reestablishing Workplace Culture and Connection
After prolonged remote work, “people are realizing that there’s been this slow erosion of the culture of their organization,” author and workplace strategist Erica Keswin said on Bloomberg’s The Tape podcast on Friday. “A CEO said to me this week, ‘The party’s over. We are bringing our people back.’”

The Shift in CEOs’ Perspective on Remote Work
Venture capitalist Paul Graham recently tweeted that founders he’s spoken with have changed their minds about remote work and are trying to get staff back to the office. “Why were all these smart people fooled?” he wrote. “Partly I think because remote work does work initially, if you start with a system already healthy from in-person work.”

Potential Challenges in Returning Employees to the Office
But Keswin warned against bringing employees back in an ineffective or possibly damaging way.

Designing an Engaging Day in the Office
“I talk a lot about designing a day in the office that’s worth the commute,” she said. “What we don’t want is people coming in and no one from their team is there, and they’re on Zoom all day and they’re not seeing anybody. That creates what I call the recipe for resentment. They are mad.”

The Importance of Clear Guidelines on Return-to-Office Days
Yet it can happen all too easily, especially if CEOs specify that employees must return two or three days without indicating which specific days.

The Need for Engagement and Energy in the Workplace
“What happens is people come in and you’re missing each other, there’s no energy,” Keswin said. “And so you’re not really getting the bang for the buck of bringing people in.”

Consequences of Ineffective Return-to-Office Mandates
That might also make it more likely that employees simply ignore a return-to-office mandate. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz betrayed an annoyance earlier this year that workers had disregarded a request to come back to the office one or two days a week.

Employee Resistance to Returning to the Office
And some employees will simply not want to return to the office, period. Amazon recently saw an employee walkout over its return-to-office mandate, and workers at Google let their displeasure be known last week, as well. That’s all the more reason to get a mandate right.

Creating Connection and Energy in the Workplace
Keswin said she’s seeing a “big shift” among CEOs, who are now saying, “Let’s do two days, three days, whatever it is, but these are the days, because what you want to do is create connection and energy.”

Designing Engaging Workdays
She suggests leaders “design days in the office or even moments that matter for people, where they feel connection.” They might be centered around strategy meetings, learning and development (perhaps a lunch with a guest speaker), volunteer work for the community, or one-on-ones with managers. It depends on the company.

The Importance of Intentionality
But whatever it is, says Keswin, “let’s think about the why. When we do come together, what are we going to be doing? And why is it better for us to do these five things in person?”

The Challenge of Maintaining Connection
It needs to be intentional, Keswin says, because, “left to our own devices, we’re not connecting.”

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