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Mandatory in-office attendance increasingly universal; most firms targeting 3-2 ratio post-Labor Day

NAREIM Talent Management meeting

July 22, 2021: Return to office strategies special session

NAREIM members said employees are or will be mandated to be in the office upon return, with almost half of firms saying they were adopting a 3 days in-office/2 days at home (3-2) ratio for post-Labor Day.

During a special meeting of the Talent Management group to discuss return to office strategies, members were evenly split as to having already returned to the office at scale or returning after Labor Day. And eight out of 10 agreed that in-office attendance would be mandatory upon return.

However, with the rise of the Delta Covid variant coupled with a tight labor market, there is more uncertainty over the ratio of days to require employees to be in the office in the longer-term, particularly after January 2022.

During a live poll and engaged conversation among peers, NAREIM members revealed their short-term and longer-term plans for in-office and work-from-home (WFH) ratios:

Short-term or interim plans before finalizing the permanent flexibility schedule:

  • 47% were planning a 3-2 ratio of in-office/WFH in the short-term

  • 37% were planning a full working week in the office in the short-term

  • 11% were planning 2-3 (two days in office/three WFH)

  • 5% were planning a 4-1 ratio in the short-term

On long-term plans, there is more uncertainty and the question of “What will be market in 2022?” in terms of flexibility, remains a significant topic of conversation.

Long-term plans were still highly fluid most members agreed, with few firms agreeing to a final or permanent structure for their firms. Many added that sentiments could change over the next month given the Delta variant as well as recruitment and retention concerns. “Companies are reserving their opinions as to whether 3-2 will stick,” said one member.

Download the full poll results here.

Other key takeaways included:

By function or seniority

  • Opinion was split as to organizing remote/WFH schedules according to functional group or seniority, with members all agreeing there were challenges to both approaches, not least the need to collaborate and build culture and also train junior team members.

  • One member said they were approaching their longer-term plan by asking what each job requires and defining flexibility from that point.

Vaccination status and tracking

  • Most firms were seeing high vaccination rates, particularly in larger cities but there was lively discussion about the best ways to track status to help employees feel comfortable upon return to the office.

  • Members were split when it came to asking for evidence or an attestation of vaccine status. Where status was tracked, only a handful of HR employees were allowed to access the data.

  • Protocols for vaccinated vs unvaccinated employees were also raised. One member which requires masks to be worn for unvaccinated employees, informally polices the situation, sending emails to unvaccinated employees seen not wearing a mask. Education and vaccine promotion also helped another attendee push the vaccine rate among employees from 80% to 92%. But there remained a big debate as to whether firms should mandate vaccines. One member firm said from Labor Day vaccines would be mandatory at their firm, and would be enforced with dismissal.

Wage inflation and retention

  • Members highlighted the need to offer flex schedules to remain competitive, not only to attract new talent which are also being offered “significant” packages by larger financial companies, including outside CRE, but also to retain talent.

  • One member said analyst salaries were now $100k; while some employees had been offered 2-3x their salaries to leave.

Additional benefits

Members also discussed what other measures were being considered or introduced to retain employees and ease the return to office work. Ideas included:

  • No meeting Fridays

  • Half-day Fridays through the summer and holiday periods, such as Thanksgiving to New Year

  • Christmas work from home

  • Extra PTO and vacation

  • Lunches and events

  • Beach home rentals

Download the full poll results here.

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