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Eighty percent of companies will track office attendance, while nine out of 10 firms will offer incentives for employees to work at the office, according to a new report, which also finds that workers will suffer the consequences if they refuse to return to the office.
The majority of companies surveyed plan to use badge swipes (62%) to monitor attendance. Others expect to track attendance manually (50%), through Wi-Fi (50%), by using occupancy sensors (43%) or sensors placed under an employee’s desk (38%).
“I think that companies will start to lose their top people when they realize that they're being tracked this heavily. It feels very Big Brother, and it's very micromanaging, and people don't like that,” says Julia Toothacre, a resume and career coach at ResumeBuilder.com. “I think [workers] will find places where they're valued for what they bring to the table versus their time in a chair.”
Participants in the Resume Builder survey, which was conducted in December 2023, were high-level managers from companies with at least 11 employees.
The survey found that productivity is the leading reason bosses want workers back in the office. To get them there, they’ll offer incentives like happy hours (52%), catered meals (46%) and upgraded office space (41%). Some of the employers will offer perks like raises (40%) and child care benefits (37%).
Toothacre says catered meals is a good start, but what workers would really value is compensation for commuting, child care, pet care and clothing.
Of the companies surveyed, 63% believe going to the office will improve work culture, while 29% say working at the office will reduce burnout.
“I think that employers are out of touch with what the average employee wants at their company,” Toothacre says. “And, unless these companies that were surveyed have their own internal surveys that show this information, I'd be really shocked if it aligned. What I see as a career coach is wildly different.”
One in three companies say they will fire workers who don’t comply. More than half (53%) say they’d consider reducing a worker’s salary.
Economist Selcuk Eren says companies worried about a potential economic slowdown might welcome having some workers quit on their own rather than having to lay anyone off.
“Asking people back to the office is one way to achieve that. Maybe that's essentially the objective for the company,” says Eren, a senior economist at The Conference Board. “Maybe that's what they want. They want to have that attrition because they are worried about the possibility of a recession in 2024.”
One group of workers that might welcome a return to the office is younger people. Generation Lab, a data intelligence company that specializes in studying young people, found that five out of six Gen Z workers, those up to age 27, want to spend at least three days in the office.
“Based on the data, we see that there probably wouldn't be much resistance from this generation when it comes to returning to the office,” says Matin Mirramezani, Generation Lab’s chief operating officer. “And there would be a lot of embracing the opportunity to really connect with mentors, connect with co-workers.”
So far, the companies surveyed do not expect workers to be in the office most of the time. Ninety-one percent want employees in the office at least once a month, while 75% will require employees to work from the office weekly.
“I think that's what they're starting with to get people used to coming back in,” Toothacre says. “And then it'll increase to two days and then three days and go from there. I think that's the strategy that we're probably going to see unfold over 2024, 2025.”