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Return-to-Office Mandates: How to Lose Your Best Performers

Recent return-to-office (RTO) mandates like those at UPS and Boeing have a simple message: Come back to the office five days a week. CEOs cite productivity as a core reason for these proclamations, even in the face of employee resistance. Many executives simply don’t trust that employees are as effective as possible when managers can’t see them at their desks.

But in a world of globally distributed teams, falling back on management-through-monitoring is falling back on the weakest form of management — and one that drives down employee engagement. There is mounting evidence that mandates don’t improve financial performance. Instead, they damage employee engagement and increase attrition, especially among high-performing employees and particularly those with caregiving responsibilities.

There is a better way forward, but it requires culture work at the top as well as deep within organizations, along with a significant upgrade in management philosophy. Too many organizational cultures use face time at the office as their metric for productivity. That’s not the best benchmark. Instead, focusing on outcomes while providing trust and flexibility about where and when to get work done allows individuals and organizations to thrive.

Read the article by Brian Elliott in MITSloan Management Review