As American Corporates Order Employees Back to Office, What Are the HR Challenges?

What is The New Normal and why is it so challenging For American Corporates

Among the changes that the Covid pandemic “forced” on corporates and professionals, WFH or Work from Home and Remote Work were the most significant aspects of the impact of the pandemic on the world of work. Now that the threat of further “waves” of infections has somewhat diminished (though experts are warning of another wave), American corporates have begun “ordering” their employees back to office.

We used the word ordering as recent surveys have shown that a majority of the American workforce prefers WFH, Remote, or Hybrid (a combination of the above two along with Onsite work) modes of working arrangements. Therefore, it is the case that American corporates are facing HR (Human Resource) and organizational challenges in making their employees work from the office. However, this reluctance is not the only challenge and as we shall discuss, there are other challenges as well in terms of reorienting employees to Onsite work, facilitating the acclimatization of younger professionals to the Onsite work environment, and so on.

Most of these challenges pertain to the “adjustment” of employees to The New Normal of work brought about by the pandemic.

How the Gen Zers are the Worst Hit by the Pandemic and Next, the Millennials

Let us take the case of younger professionals below the age of 40. If Millennials are those between the ages of 25 to 40, who would have started their careers before the pandemic struck and most of them have either settled down or looking to “leap” to the next level, the Gen Zers are those below the age of 25 who are starting their careers and were the most affected by the pandemic.

Indeed, while the Millennials have more or less adjusted and adapted first to WFH now to Onsite work, it is a Double Whammy for the Gen Zers. First, they are just starting their careers and the Virtual On boarding and lack of physical and face to face mentoring, so crucial in the initial phase of careers, had hit them hard.

As the pandemic progressed, this age cohort more or less reconciled themselves to WFH. However, now they are being asked or ordered to return to Onsite work, thereby necessitating another round of adapting to the New Normal. So, this is the main HR challenge where American corporates have to grapple with the younger members of the workforce and their mental health issues as they start Onsite work again.

Why American Corporates are Wary of the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting

Having said that, it is not like the Millennials are “jumping with joy” at the prospect of Onsite work. Indeed, trends such as The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Moonlighting indicate the “fragility” of the bond between American corporates and this age cohort.

Recent surveys and research have shown that The Great Resignation is in part driven by the “reluctance” of the Millennials in returning to Onsite work. Moreover, Quiet Quitting, where American professionals do the “bare minimum” needed for the job and do not “go beyond” what is part o the role and the expectations, is another manifestation of the challenges faced by American corporates as employees “head back to offices”.

Another trend more challenging is Moonlighting where it has been found that many Millennial and even Gen Z professionals are working for multiple employers, thereby breaking the contract between them and their employers. What all these challenges mean is that the American workforce is “taking its time” in returning to Onsite work making corporates “jittery” about rubbing their employees the wrong way. Moreover, the Gig Economy is booming, which is another reason for American corporates to be weary and wary of losing talent, if they resume Onsite work.

An Advice to American Corporates: Don’t be like Elon Musk, (in) famous for his “Orders”

Given these challenges, it is natural that American corporates think twice before following in the footsteps of someone like Elon Musk who has become notorious for forcing his employees back to office. If you have noticed, we have been using the term “ordering” to highlight the distinction between asking and forcing employees to return to office. This usage is because Musk has become (in) famous for using this term and so, it has become part of the popular usage in so far as return to Onsite work is concerned.

Of course, it is not like as though all American business leaders have been so “harsh” as many Big Tech firms have either made WFH permanent or have adopted Hybrid work to “ease” the frayed nerves of their employees due to the pandemic.

The point here is that American corporates have to be empathetic and sympathetic to the concerns of their employees in the post pandemic work environment and more than anything else, this is the biggest challenge. More so when the “epidemic” of stress and burnout are taking their toll on the Millennial and Gen Z age cohorts. Before things deteriorate, it is better to arrive at a mutually beneficial consensus.

Concluding Thoughts

Last, whether it is WFH or Onsite work, skilled and capable HR personnel would be able to handle the situations due to the New Normal better than someone who is less emotionally intelligent. This is the reason why the field of HR has become so challenging in the present times. This is also the reason why older professionals like the Boomers and Gen Xers have a duty towards the younger lot in terms of handholding and mentoring them.

To conclude, as American corporates order employees back to Onsite work, significant challenges await them in adjusting to The New Normal.

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Human Resource Management