Many companies are now asking—or demanding — that employees return to work in the office. Many employees don’t want to go back. Employees loved the flexibility of remote work and not making long commutes into an office. Many employees say the past 18 months show they can work effectively remotely.  So, why do they have to go back to the office? The answer:  because their employers want them to come back to the office.

Every company gets to make its own decision as to whether it will allow employees to work remotely or in the office. Even though businesses kept running during COVID-19, many companies want their employees back in the office.   These companies find value in employee face-to-face interaction and collaboration. These companies think the opportunity for brainstorming and informal data sharing when workers are together is missing with 100% remote work.

Employees who embraced remote work often don’t see that value.  They argue that they can fully work remotely and that they have shown that over the last year. If you are in this position and your company wants you to come back to the office, exercise caution in taking this strong stand.  While you may have valid arguments about working remotely, you risk damaging your career and beneficial relationships.

A recent study from the Society of Human Resources points out the risks to the remote workers:

  • 42 percent of supervisors said that they sometimes forget about their remote employees when assigning tasks.
  • 67 percent of supervisors admitted they consider remote workers more easily replaceable than those working onsite.

Change is a constant in both life and business. Companies routinely restructure how their business operates, which can mean a significant layoff of employees. When change comes, you want to be the employee the company wants to keep.  You want to be the employee the manager fights to keep off of the layoff list.  You want to be the employee the manager won’t want to replace.

This SHRM study shows us that your real risk of being “out of sight” daily is being “out of mind” for the manager.  If 67% of supervisors admit that they consider remote workers more easily replaceable than those working onsite, there is a good chance the remote worker is the first one on the chopping block when layoffs come. Do you want to be that person? 

If your company wants you to return to the office, can you resist returning to work without damaging your relationship?  Can you resist returning to the office without becoming the employee that 67% of managers will consider easily replaceable? Can you resist returning to the office without creating a permanent shift in your supervisor’s perception of you?

As someone who represents employees in employment matters, I am not taking a position here as to what is right or wrong. I urge you to know the risks and make educated decisions about this.  Every person needs to consider whether resisting the return to the office risks future damage to their career.