Tech Talent Anxiety Grows Amid Return to Office Orders

Image of empty office area with lights turned on.
Most offices have stayed empty before the return to office orders.

Tech companies were the first to jump onto the proposed Covid-19 measures to work from home. Now, though, after the tech industry received return to office orders, companies are not as enthused. 

Many people believe the office provides a better work environment, away from distractions at home. Conversely, others do not see a benefit to commuting for hours and leaving their controlled environment at home. Working from home allows them to do more work at a lower price.

Some companies have already started enforcing return to office orders, but many employees simply have not complied. The numbers show that this choice for companies is not a beneficial move:

  • 51.5% of full return to office orders (5 days per week) are non-compliant
  • 15.8% of workers refuse to attend even 1 day a week
  • 35% of companies haven’t reacted in any way to such non-compliance

With even the biggest tech giants, such as Apple, pushing the return to office order, anxiety is growing within tech talent circles. Many declare that they would comply under threat of termination. But just as many proclaim they would search for greener pastures, placing pressure on the company.

Apple Announces Return-to-Office Orders

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, sent out a notice to work from home back in March 2020. Most workers accepted this order with glee, either due to Covid concerns or prior wishes to work from home.

All this glee dissipated once Apple sent out the return to office orders. Apple employees who wish to continue working from home have created a Slack channel that gained traction. Now, it includes 10.000 members and growing.

Working for Apple undeniably brings a lot of prestige. As a result, tech talent will always be willing to work there regardless of conditions. Top talent, though, may not be part of this group. 

Both workers and managers are experiencing some anxiety. Strict requirements to either get back to the office or quit have backfired in many companies, pushing many people to quit. 

Managers do not want to lose good tech talent simply because of return-to-office policies.

Apple products including a MacBook, Apple watch, and iPhone on a white desk.
Apple has given the order to return to the office, but many state they will not follow it.

Opposing Views on the Future of Work

Currently, social media is inundated with buzzwords such as “the great resignation” and quiet quitting, as well as discussions about remote work and a healthier work-life balance. Most workers today separate their identity from their employment or career altogether.

On the other hand, traditional managers, company owners, and even some workers are pushing against this ideology. They believe such a turn could worsen business standards, productivity, and working conditions.

Many believe that increased working from home would diminish the prospects of local tech talent against the global offer. If the company can employ anyone, they might opt for talent living across the globe, willing to work at a lower wage.

Regardless, those who are pro work from home welcome the competition. Many are even proposing a mass exodus from tech havens such as San Francisco toward places with a lower cost of living, including Mexico and South America.

Better for Workers, Worse for Managers

Aside from the possible inadequate home environment issue, we cannot think of other reasons why an average software developer, designer, or QA specialist would work from the office. Communication at the office frequently happens online. The only potential benefit to returning to office is possible camaraderie. 

This, however, does not apply to managers. In fact, supervision and management are easier when everyone is near, allowing workers to receive instructions directly.

Even at a lower efficiency of work per billed hours, production stability is preferred for a company’s long-term plans. 

Unless managers and other stakeholders find a way to retain better oversight and ensure consistent production, the calls for a return to office orders will remain.

A laptop in a wood-furnished room with a view on nature through windows.
Most tech experts prefer the comfort of their home environment compared to the office.

Companies Will Try to Retain Top Talent

Due to the lack of available talent, especially in cybersecurity positions, companies will likely not terminate top talent for refusing to come back to office. 

Currently, companies are doing everything in their power to compete for top talent. Thus, the ability to work from home might be the selling point for many companies in such a hunt.

This can, in turn, create discontent with those forced to work from the office. As a result, companies might see an exodus of promising juniors who did not receive the same treatment as senior experts. 

Fear of Quiet Quitting after Return to Office Orders

For most tech companies, the biggest fear around return to office orders is that many would simply quit. A different issue, however, is looming over the horizon, frequently described as quiet quitting.

Returning to the office under threat of termination might breed discontent, especially if done suddenly. Employees forced to return to office might not look too kindly on their employer.

This drop in morale will certainly create a drop in morale, with most employees choosing to do the bare minimum while searching for better opportunities. 

This divide will diminish the productivity in companies requiring everyone to work from the office. Additionally, it will allow companies that have adapted to remote working to gain tech talent that has previously been outside their price range.

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