Why companies return to the office?
3 min read

Why companies return to the office?

Today I'm addressing a question asked by many people in recent times. With so many remote companies returning to the office, it's only fair to ask "Why?". Some might wrongly assume that all remote companies are returning to the office. But that's not true!


I'm Sergio Pereira, and this is the Remote Work newsletter 👋

Last week I shared 6 tips to standout in remote work interviews, and how you can increase your odds of landing a remote job.

Today I'm addressing a question asked by many people in recent times. With so many remote companies returning to the office, it's only fair to ask "Why?".

Some might wrongly assume that all remote companies are returning to the office. That's not true! In fact, thousands of companies continue thriving remotely, such as these 1291 remote companies actively hiring.

Still we hear big companies returning, and ask "Why". These are a few reasons causing companies to go back to the office, and how they could have been avoided:

1) Foster collaboration and mentorship

Many organisations feel that the physical presence of employees enhances the collaboration and communication of the teams. They believe that in-person meetings and spontaneous water-cooler conversations can lead to increased innovation and better decision-making.

While that's totally fine, similar processes can be implemented remotely. Regular video check-ins and frequent social bonding meetings can bring such closeness and serendipity in remote teams too.

I personally dislike such an intense meeting culture in my remote teams, but that's a preference. Many remote teams have an intense meeting agenda that mimics such in-person collaboration dynamics.

2) Employee supervision and productivity concerns

Some companies have concerns over employees' productivity and accountability in a remote working setup. They feel that in-person supervision ensures better task management and quicker action on misbehaving employees.

Frankly, if this is the reason to return to the office, I feel the company has a toxic culture already, regardless of remote or not. Mimicking such culture in a remote team usually entails forcing employees to install surveillance software on their laptops, which removes any trust from the relationship.

In my view, rather than focusing on hours worked, it's much more effective for companies to create a results-oriented work environment, with objective performance metrics that index to the companies success. Such focused goals coupled withr egular feedback and open communication about expectations can foster responsibility and self-management among employees.

3) Build a strong company culture

A strong company culture often acts as a glue that keeps employees together. Employers worry that remote working might dilute this culture and the sense of belongingness among employees.

Employers use happy hour drinks, foosball tables, yoga lessons and such activities as an adult playground. Employees end up forming a social life around co-workers and that's an added barrier for them to ever leave.

It's a fair concern, actually. Since the office allows to a much higher number of such social activities than a remote setup, although remote social bonding is also a thing. Still, I'd argue that there's a time to socialise and a time to focus on work. I prefer a remote culture focused on work, where people bond on a team retreat every few months.

4) Ensure equitable access to resources

Not all employees may have access to a productive work environment at home, especially a stable internet connection and a quiet place to focus on work. Some companies may call employees back to the office to ensure every employee has an equally good access to those.

This is a common concern for me, as I hire people in many countries for my remote teams. Some in cities, others in rural areas, some even travel most of the time. It's a fair concern to guarantee they all have the conditions to produce great work.

The best way to guarantee such equitable access to resources in a remote team, is to issue a stipend that employees can use to pay for the internet bill and to buy home office equipment. This is on top of company-provided laptop and video/audio equipment, of course.

I've packed my best practises for remote teams in my course Mastering Remote Work. 250+ students have watched, and some of the positive reviews include people reporting that these processes reverted their company's return to office guidelines. I loved to hear that!

Regardless of the case, some teams prefer office, while others prefer remote. That's fine. If you find yourself preferring remote but getting pushed back to the office, the best you can do is go out and look for a remote job. Fortunately, there are many remote roles available, have a look at this list of 1000+ companies hiring remote roles right now.

Thanks for reading this newsletter until the end. You can read all past editions here. Make sure to share the link with your friends and colleagues so they can read it too.

See you next Friday,

Sergio Pereira,
Startup CTO & Remote Work Lover

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