One in three executives presented with a return-to-office (RTO) obligation reported that they will leave their current employer for that reason, according to Gartner.

The same survey of more than 3 500 employees from November 2023 revealed that 19% of non-executives said they would leave their organisation due to an RTO mandate.

A September 2023 Gartner survey of 170 HR leaders found that organisations are increasing on-site requirements:

* Sixty three percent of respondents reported an increased expectation around employees spending days in the office.

* Thirty-four percent said a mandated return has already been implemented.

* Thirteen percent said the consequences for employees not meeting on-site requirements have intensified.

“While 58% of executives with a mandate to return to the office said their organization provided a convincing reason for the decision, many senior leaders are unwilling to come back into the office,” says Caroline Ogawa, director in the Gartner HR practice. “An April 2024 Gartner survey of 64 HR leaders revealed 64% say senior leaders are concerned onsite requirements will increase attrition.”

Mandating employees back to the office has significant implications for talent attraction and retention. A January 2024 Gartner survey of nearly 3 000 candidates found that 36% of senior-level job seekers who have faced a return mandate at their current employer said that factor influenced their decision to leave their job.

One-third said they had discontinued a hiring process in the last year due to expectations that employees would return to a physical workspace.

“Retaining key talent has become harder due to mistrust between employees and employers, employee burnout and disengagement, and fiercer competition in the labor market,” says Caitlin Duffy, senior director in the Gartner HR practice.

“With RTO mandates influencing the job-seeking and loyalty of senior-level candidates and employees, organisations that force workers to come into the office are likely to weaken their leadership bench and complicate succession planning.”

Gartner has identified four best practices for HR leaders seeking to formalise in-office requirements for remote-capable workers while retaining employees and maximizing talent and business outcomes:

* Motivate rather than mandate employees back to the office by making them feel capable, autonomous, and connected via their office space and hybrid policy.

* Consider focusing employees’ on-site attendance around specific regular activities (such as brainstorming) and occasional events (like offsites).

* Enable employees to shape their RTO requirements; employees who feel that their needs are considered exhibit higher engagement and work performance.

* Provide a clear reason behind requirements for working on-site; employees who understand why their employer wants them to come into the office show greater engagement, discretionary effort and retention.