The Backlash Against Forced Office Returns: When Share Prices and Employee Happiness Collide

Remember the pre-pandemic days, when commutes were king and office cubicles the norm? While some yearn for that “watercooler moment” nostalgia, a growing number of companies are discovering the hard way that forcing employees back to the office full-time can have disastrous consequences – for their share price and their talent pool.

Let’s face it, the genie is out of the bottle. Global studies tell us loud and clear what employees want: flexibility. A recent Microsoft study found that 73% of global workers prefer hybrid or remote work models. And it’s not just a feel-good trend. Companies like Shopify and Automattic, who embrace remote-first policies, have seen their stock prices soar. On the flip side, a recent Financial Times article highlights the growing trend of companies seeing their share prices drop amidst forced office returns, suggesting a clear correlation between employee dissatisfaction and financial performance.

But some executives hold onto the outdated belief that collaboration suffers with remote work. This, however, is demonstrably false. A study by the University of Chicago found that remote teams were just as effective as in-person teams in terms of task completion and communication. Furthermore, tools like Zoom and Slack have revolutionised collaboration, fostering connection and productivity across geographical boundaries.

Here’s the crucial shift: it’s no longer about forcing employees back to the office. It’s about managing them in a way that works best for them. Today’s employees demand work-life balance and flexibility, and happy, engaged staff are demonstrably more productive. In fact, a Gallup study found that engaged employees are 21% more profitable, highlighting the direct link between employee happiness and business success.

So, how can companies navigate this shift effectively?

  1. Embrace employee choice: Offer a hybrid model that allows employees to choose where they work best. This fosters trust, boosts morale, and attracts top talent.
  2. Invest in collaboration tools: Provide robust video conferencing platforms, project management software, and instant messaging applications.
  3. Foster a culture of inclusion: Ensure remote and in-office employees feel equally valued and heard. Regular virtual meetings, team-building activities, and clear communication are key.
  4. Lead by example: Executives should also embrace flexible work arrangements. This sends a powerful message and promotes a culture of trust.
  5. Invest in training: Equip managers with the skills to lead and manage hybrid teams effectively. Resources like Manage Remote Teams, now offering training solutions in South Africa, can provide valuable guidance and support:

Remember, employees are your most valuable asset. In today’s competitive talent market, clinging to antiquated notions of presenteeism is a recipe for disaster. By listening to your employees, embracing flexibility, and investing in the right tools and training, you can create a thriving workplace that benefits everyone – and watch your share price reflect that success.

By Dermot Dennehy, Our partner at Manage Remote Teams

If you would like to learn more about employee retention strategies, contact us. We can help! Schedule a no obligation discussion at our Calendly link ( or email us at

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