Is commuting back? Yeah, sort of

Traveling for hours to and from the office every week was temporarily out of the question during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For some people, working from home provided pleasant relief from commuting stress, leading to greater job satisfaction. But others missed the camaraderie and collaboration that comes with in-person meetings and were eager to return to their routine and colleagues.

Four years later as of April 2020, what impact will this shift have as return-to-office (RTO) mandates become standard in companies from Amazon to Google?

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The return of commuting

For starters, it appears that commuting is back – sort of.
Via a analysis of transit data this year, It found that commuting in ten major cities around the world has recovered since the lockdowns. But as you might expect, recovery varied by city. Not every location showed the same return patterns.

This is partly due to differences between companies in the extent to which they are flexible when it comes to employees returning to the office, and the office-to-home ratio employees prefer.

Some companies are even sending the message that remote work could be the least desirable choice. IBM's CEO Arvind Krishna said last year that remote workers could struggle to get promoted. Less than twelve months later, the company asked all US managers to immediately report to an office or customer location at least three days a week.

Employee flexibility

When Owl Labs investigated the working world in 2023found a consistent theme: Americans want more flexible work because it makes them feel more productive and balanced (and more loyal to their companies).

Some (62%) would even take a pay cut of 10% or more to gain that much-needed flexibility. Yet 94% of employees said they could still be convinced to come into the office.

Meanwhile, 68% of managers believe their hybrid/remote employees are missing out on impromptu or informal feedback.

'Coffee badge'

Some people are back in the office by choice and would like to take advantage of face time with colleagues. But for others, office time is unnecessary. The research shows that although 66% of respondents are back in the office full-time, only 22% would like to be.

With RTO mandates coming in fast, we are now seeing reports of trends like 'Coffee Badging' and 'Office Peacocking'.

With 'Coffee Badging' you see a person show up at the office, make sure he or she is seen, and then grab a cup of coffee before leaving. Owl Labs found that 58% of hybrid employees exhibit this behavior.

On the other hand, 'Office Peacocking' sees the employer trying to make the workplace more attractive, imposing perks to encourage people to stay in the office longer.

But the presenteeism from 'Coffee Badging' can affect your role. It's all well and good showing up at the office and then going to work from home, but your manager may not share your enthusiasm for this new technology.

But if you're feeling frustrated with your company's approach, you may discover that there are alternative careers you'd like to explore, where your preferred way of working – remote, hybrid or in-office – matches that of the company. Some companies are even completely or mostly remote, especially in the tech startup arena.

Career passion

If you do show up at the office, it's better to do it for a job you're passionate about, where neither you nor your manager will feel like you need to call them.

In terms of what employees value when it comes to returning to the office, Owl Labs found that more privacy in the office, no dress code and companies paying for travel expenses were high on the list of wants.

Some employees will find it a breeze to negotiate their ideal situation, but others will use this change as an opportunity to explore new avenues. Employers should note that the same report shows that one in three employees would look for a new job if an RTO mandate were introduced in their workplace.

If you're looking for a new role that fits the flexibility you want, visit The Hill Jobs Board to see who's hiring like these roles below.

Account Director, Federal Civilian Enterprise, Adobe, McLean

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Government Relations Coordinator, Topsoe, Washington DC

Topsoe is a leading global supplier of technology and solutions for the energy transition. A search is underway for a Government Relations Coordinator based in Washington, DC. You will support building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders, including senior global government officials.

Certified therapist (remote), two chairs

This fully remote role is for a licensed therapist who wants to work a 40-hour schedule, including an average of 25 scheduled sessions per week, between 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM (Pacific Time) Monday through Friday, with weekends off.

If you're looking for your ideal level of job flexibility, check out the positions now available on The Hill Jobs Board

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