The Labor Day Deadline: Will Employers Win the Return to Office Debate?
Labor Day is a holiday born out of the labor movement of the late 1800s, officially celebrated in New York in 1882, and made an official holiday by Congress in 1894. Essentially it is a celebration of the workforce in our country. It’s also an unofficial end to Summer and for some, this year, it marks the end of the benefits of working remotely as numerous corporations are setting Labor Day 2022 as the return to office deadline.
For more than two years, the Covid-19 pandemic shook up the U.S. economy and workplaces both small and large, forcing companies to pivot and offer remote work opportunities. For the first time, various industries were able to work remotely or in a hybrid arrangement. While some love it and some hate it, there is one thing most analysts can agree on, that it will never return fully to how it was before.
This workforce experiment forced a change in the way we do business and created a shift in our perceptions of how work can be accomplished. Increased technology had already begun to eliminate the need for as much human contact and now people who may have never chosen to work from home were suddenly given the opportunity to and both employers and employees saw it could work. Companies like Airbnb have said the remote model has worked so well that employees never need to come back to the office.
However, as the Covid threat has lifted, there have been increased discussions to address the debate of remote work versus in-office work. Many Fortune 100 companies – including Prudential Financial, Apple, Ally Financial, Disney, and Tesla -- have already made the call, expecting and requiring more days in the office post-Labor Day. Others continue to debate the economic and employee retention pros and cons of both directions. With many employees resisting a return to office policy, forcing the issue could be a mistake for employers without offering other concessions. Either way, the decisions made in the coming months will have lasting implications.
The McKinsey & Company’s American Opportunity Survey estimates that 35% of Americans had the opportunity to work from home five days a week during 2022 and 58% at least once a week. This represents a huge increase from 2019 when only 6% of Americans worked from home. Not only has the workplace changed but the mindset of employees now demands more flexibility over almost anything else, including both flexibility in geography (where they live vs where they work) and days/times they work. The survey goes on to show that 87% of workers embrace the opportunity to work at least one day from home.
Cost-wise, the remote model presents savings on both sides, including eliminating work-related expenses for employees like clothing, lunches, and commuting expenses. For employers, there are savings on office space and overhead and increased opportunities for recruiting more diverse talent and implementing cost-saving technology. Regardless employers argue there is often a loss of productivity and office camaraderie that affects projects and the bottom line. Other challenges include increased mental health issues, miscommunication, burnout, and unclear expectations on both sides.
As companies push harder for back-to-the-office policies, grassroots movements have formed (like Apple Together) to pressure corporations into continuing to offer flexibility as part of the business model. The forced Covid-19 pandemic shift showed workers and companies what’s possible with evidence to support a remote-work model. More than likely there will be a shift in employees who are pro-remote work seeking jobs with a similar mindset and companies who are pro-office work recruiting employees who still truly enjoy the benefits of heading off to work.
Dye Culik PC is a business and franchise law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. We have been a remote-work law firm since 2016 and enjoy the flexibility and cost savings we can pass through to our clients. One important part of setting up a remote-work business is to make sure you are adhering to employment laws, regulations, and protections for your business. We work with businesses to make sure those remote-work protections are in place. Give us a call to see how we can help.