Today I read yet another article about a large corporate demanding a return to the office and their employees kicking up a fuss. Here’s the thing… most people actually WANT to come back to the office (some of the time, for the right reasons). But they don’t want their employer to DEMAND that they come back to the office.

You can look at my 9 Currencies of Choice® wheel to see what’s going on. Specifically, there are 2 Currencies at play in the debate about returning to the office; the need for belonging and the need for agency, control and choice.

If you’re not familiar with this model, I developed it way back in 2010 by reverse engineering over 5,000 exit interviews (that I personally conducted), it’s been constantly pressure tested against the latest international research and updated only once to reflect the data collected in 2021 around the Great Resignation.

Here’s what this model says about great work from home or office debate.

The number 2(ish) on the clock face is that people want to feel like they belong. UCLA professor Dr. Matthew Lieberman says in his book, “Social: Why our brains are wired to connect” that being “…socially connected will be a lifelong need, like food and warmth.” He says there are 3 neural networks that drive us to connect with other humans.

Many of your employees want to come to work to spend time with their work mates. They want that human connection. They also intuitively know that some types of work that are done with other humans are best done in person.

Ahhh, but then there is the Currency at the number 9 on the clock face. People want agency, control and choice.

This goes back to Deci and Ryan’s Self Determination Theory (or Daniel Pink‘s Autonomy, Master and Purpose for a more modern interpretation). People want to feel that they control their own destiny.

My belief (and I have no research on this) is that right now the need for agency, control and choice outweighs the need to connect and feel belonging.

I believe that this is because:

A) We are experiencing a major shift in the balance power between employer and employee. The employee base is aware of the fact that there are now more jobs than people to fill them and we are seeing a bit of a backlash against 150 years of the company calling all the shots.

B) After the Covid lockdowns we desperately want to feel like we are in control.

Do you want to get your people back into the office? Ask them to help you design a practice / schedule for work that’s best done in the office with other humans.

Involving them in this process will tick off both Currencies and will leave you and your team far less frustrated.