Getting people to return to offices is not as simple as a campaign calling for it. It needs a commitment to both old school values and the progressive.

The Government this week seems intent on increasing the volume of the message for a return to offices. One BBC report noted:

“Whitehall sources insist the campaign will not suggest those who continue to work from home are at any greater risk of losing their jobs.

Labour’s shadow business minister, Lucy Powell, said no one should be forced “to choose between their health and their job” and the government should “categorically rule out” any campaign suggesting people could be out of a job if they refused to return to the office.”

The strange thing is that the real barrier is less health risk; far more that people have found greater productivity and enjoyment working from home. The same report noted:

“Meanwhile, nine in 10 UK employees who have worked from home during lockdown would like to continue in some form, according to a survey.

The research by academics at Cardiff and Southampton universities – which involved thousands of people between April and June – suggests the majority of people working from home are as productive, if not more.”


Another report recently noted that from the year 2005 to 2019, the average age of a CEO rose by 14 years. It is easy to quickly realise that this also meant that the birth date of a CEO in 2005 and 2019 were the same. This is supported by another report that noted that the average age of a C-Suite director had increased by 12 years over the last decade.

It is not hard to realise that such trends do invariably mean a lack of opportunity for emerging talent to move into positions of leadership and will cause both frustration and disengagement. Add in the fact that many feel that many businesses have been operating without any real purpose or mission, with any real values at its heart and it is not hard to understand why the high levels of disengagement have taken place. All these points were being discussed openly during the past two years; just often ignored.

The Government is calling for people to return to offices which is understandable as there is a need to restart the economy but a call alone is not enough. It is going to require companies to reflect on what is needed and this will probably require greater shows of purpose, and mission in the key areas which do engage people today; in the social, cultural, in diversity &inclusion and in the environment.

It is all-natural. The baby boomers grew up in an era that gave them the opportunity and which was, in its own way, very progressive. It is only natural that others will want the same. It is therefore going to ask more of HR in how it engages and develops talent, more in terms of internal communications in that it is genuine, authentic and has a real core to it and of leaders to be visible, and to lead a mission that allows the business to rebuild.

It is all just asking businesses to rediscover their purpose and their basics which is no bad thing. How many times have we all heard frustrations expressed about automated systems which are less trusted than personal service? How many times have to listen to frustrations over HR and comms teams? How times has it been spoken about the lack of trust that exists in leadership?

It was all building up pre-Covid and the pandemic has now made it a reality which means that companies are going to have to engage far more strongly in getting their basic foundations in the right place. Some argue this requires progressive thinking but actually it needs just solid foundations which are almost old school. Or maybe a combination of old school and the progressive?

So what needs to take place? Research suggests:

· Companies need to clearly redefine their purpose and mission and its needs to be genuine. What is the vision and is it appealing and real?

· Companies need to possess CSR policies which do real create actions rather than be tick-box exercises and invest where it matters. Many want to see greater compassion and care shown by business to its community, environment and social structures.

· Leaders need to be more visible and actively engage teams on values, beliefs and objectives.

· Many want to see greater levels of personal service which is trusted over automated services or AI-led decision making.

· Comms messaging needs to talk less at audiences but be genuinely engaging and begin a discussion with its audience

· Work patterns are clearly going to change so how can this be supported and productivity improved?

· Talent once again needs to be enabled and empowered; to possess the real opportunity for progression

Strangely enough the above is nothing new but it is what people want once again. There are no short cuts.

The Government would do better to invest in a campaign that argues for companies to re-engage their teams on getting the basics back into play.