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The Evolution of Return-to-Office Policies | Theresa Agovino

There’s a new lounge in the administrative offices at Ability Beyond where employees can take a break or hold an informal meeting. There are also quiet offices for private conversations and heads-down, need-to-concentrate work at the Bethel, Conn.-based provider of services for people with disabilities. The enhancements were added in hopes of coaxing roughly 250 of the nonprofit organization’s employees, who largely had been working remotely since the pandemic began, back to the office. But they weren’t much of a draw.

Last year, Ability Beyond’s leaders asked their administrative department heads to gauge how their teams would feel about returning to the office five days a week, says Kara Chamberlain, the organization’s talent acquisition manager. Most of the nonprofit’s 1,100 employees had to be onsite during the pandemic anyway, and some had commented that the administrative offices were still sparsely populated, even though the crisis was over.

“People said no [to coming in five days a week],” says Chamberlain, explaining that employees questioned the need to return when they had been successfully doing their jobs remotely for more than two years. “How can you argue with that?”

There was no fight; instead, there was an arrangement. Leadership and administrative staff agreed to a new hybrid schedule in which most administrative employees returned to the office two to three days a week.

“It wouldn’t be in our best interest to not offer flexibility…

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