RTO Mandates Are Failing and Hybrid Work Has Become a Human Capital Priority

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In today’s rapidly evolving and overly competitive labor market, the importance of prioritizing human capital cannot be overstated. As organizations grapple with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that employee retention and engagement hinge upon putting human capital first.

While the failure of Return-to-Office (RTO) mandates underscores this reality, it’s crucial to delve deeper into the underlying issues driving this failure—neglecting human capital priorities.


Addressing Human Capital Priorities

Securing employee interest leads to better performance and organizational health because human capital drives company resources toward achieving business goals. Without healthy human capital, the operation loses its potential. For this, it’s essential to understand and protect your workforce’s priorities.

When organizations place human capital at the forefront, it opens greater job fulfillment and a healthier work culture, directly impacting work outcomes. So, valuing human capital is essential to avoid turnover, employee burnout, and job dissatisfaction.


The Downfall of RTO

Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics discovered in a survey that 66 percent would immediately look for a remote job if their hybrid work status were taken away from them.1 Moreover, 39 percent strongly stated that they would quit their jobs if their job became full in-office setup.

RTO mandates inadvertently increase work pressure and diminish flexibility. From the evident repercussions of RTO mandates affecting employee retention and engagement, the need for human capital prioritization becomes glaringly apparent.

If your organization needs to foster stronger relationships with your human capital, then hybrid work might be the solution. Hybrid work models empower employees to manage their time effectively, reduce burnout, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. By focusing more on your employees’ well-being and flexibility needs, they can be more driven and purposeful to drive your business objectives forward.


What Does Healthier & Happier Human Capital Look Like?

Employee health and wellness is directly linked to work pressure, work-life balance, and stress management. In 2012, Gallup conducted a comprehensive analysis across various industries and countries, involving 263 research studies and over 1.4 million employees.2 They confirmed a strong link between employee engagement and nine key performance results:

  • Customer ratings
  • Profitability
  • Productivity
  • Turnover rates
  • Safety incidents
  • Shrinkage
  • Absenteeism
  • Patient safety incidents
  • Quality and defects

Teams in the top half of employee engagement nearly doubled their odds of success compared to those in the bottom half. The top 1 percent of engaged employees had four times the success rate of the bottom 1 percent. Engaged workers are not only proactive and productive; they actively contribute to organizational success.

It is essential to understand that while companies can offer extensive job benefits, instill a spirit of well-being, and offer a secure environment for employees, there can still be unhealthy, dissatisfied, and unhappy employees. Encouraging employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance is essential to protect your employees’ mental health. It is a mutually beneficial strategy for your company and human capital.


Making Human Capital A Priority Through a Hybrid Work Model

Offering flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting options, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks, can help employees better manage their personal and professional responsibilities. This flexibility reduces stress, improves work-life balance, and contributes to the overall well-being of your employees. Employers can lead by example through:

  • Setting clear expectations around working hours.
  • Encouraging employees to take regular breaks and vacations.
  • Respecting boundaries between work and personal life.

However, flexibility and communication are not the only ingredients. Making human capital a priority requires a greater focus on resolving employee pinpoints to unlock performance excellence. Here’s how organizations can make the hybrid model work for them without returning to the failed RTO model:


1. Build a Supportive Technical Infrastructure

Invest in technology infrastructure that enables seamless collaboration and communication in a hybrid work environment. Provide employees with the tools and resources to collaborate effectively, ensuring teams are updated with ongoing business movements and status.

Keeping things running in a remote environment will require you to adapt new systems and disciplines to maintain productivity and engagement. This will be the first step in ensuring a hybrid setup will work within your organization.

Related Article: CIO and CTO Roles Redefined: Technology AND Business Prowess Needed


2. Keep Them Engaged

Express genuine appreciation to your employees for their hard work by celebrating milestones for both individual and team accomplishments. You can also publicly acknowledge their efforts and contributions to show appreciation and encourage other employees. This recognition can take various forms, such as verbal praise, awards, bonuses, or opportunities for career advancement.


Encourage Initiative

Empower employees to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Provide autonomy and trust to your employees so they can manage their tasks and projects independently. This will encourage innovation, creativity, and initiative, allowing employees to contribute ideas and solutions to various challenges.



You must ensure your employees are accountable to make hybrid models work for your company. Engraining accountability into your workflows and ensuring employees are motivated to meet their targets is critical for successful hybrid systems. Hybrid work models should be predicated on mutual trust and commitment to the organization’s objectives.


Achievement and Recognition

Employees who continue to fulfill their targets and perform beyond expectations should be rewarded. This will further solidify a culture of hard work and deliver better organizational output.


3. Operate in Good Faith and Autonomy

A positive work culture fosters high levels of employee engagement. Employees who feel valued, supported, and motivated are more likely to be emotionally invested in their work and committed to the organization’s goals.

The positivity will come from giving autonomy to employees, not through employee monitoring and handholding. Giving employees space to work on their projects at their own pace will empower them. This will motivate them to take initiative, collaborate with colleagues, and innovate. They can achieve greater results and contribute more to the organization’s success.

Imagine a workforce that delivers on its own. You can achieve this by providing employees with opportunities to prove their worth in the organization. It helps them to bring out their best qualities and makes them more attuned to their work.

Read more: 5 Ways Leaders Can Foster a Purpose-Driven Company Culture


4. Improve Psychological Safety at Work Through Communication

The foundation of a successful hybrid work model lies in nurturing a psychologically safe environment that focuses on the workforce’s well-being. You can achieve this by aligning your communication methods to support a nurturing workplace. Communication plays a vital role in achieving outstanding results in a remote setup.

While communication is a vital factor to success, there comes a time when it can be mismanaged. With fewer opportunities to meet face-to-face, relationships are more challenging to nurture. This creates more issues when leaders don’t communicate well.

Instead, look for the right avenues and position yourself in a supporting tone. Avoid overly criticizing work and look for ways to improve rather than focus on the issue. It’s important to remember that mistakes are made, and no one is perfect.

To truly empower human capital, the work environment must foster open, respectful communication where employees feel safe to share solutions, ideas, and feedback. The primary objective is to create a culture that prioritizes respectful communication and employee well-being.


Planning Your Next Move

With people stating they’d rather leave their jobs than work in an office full-time, it’s risky to implement strict return-to-office mandates. It would only cause resentment, decrease productivity, or spread low employee morale. Instead, you can deploy a hybrid approach. Employees already prefer remote work options, so getting the best of both worlds would be a strategic advantage.

Also, you must realize a gradual transition is necessary. Make sure to get their feedback and make reasonable changes. Implementing a hybrid environment should benefit both employer and employee. With this setup, employees can benefit from having enough time with their loved ones, personal responsibilities, and interests as organizations strive to achieve better performance.



“State of Remote Work 2022.” 2022, owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2022.

Sorenson, Susan. “How Employee Engagement Drives Growth” 20 Jun. 2013, https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx

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