Bosses are tired of being the nice guy.
An executive headhunter told the Financial Times that leaders are experiencing “do-gooder fatigue” from prioritizing workers’ well-being during the pandemic. Now that the return-to-office push is in full effect, “the feeling is, we need to get back to business,” they said.
As 4 million–plus workers quit their jobs every month during the height of the Great Resignation, managers pulled out all the stops to recruit and retain them. One of the keys to workers’ hearts: mental health efforts at a time of high burnout and anxiety.
Employees care that their workplace cares about them, and companies have been listening: 66% of employers changed their policies this past year to support the well-being of their workers, according to NFP’s 2022 U.S. Employer Benefits Survey. They began speaking more openly about mental health in the workplace, expanded mental health benefits, and let employees work from home for a better work-life balance.
But prioritizing worker burnout has left managers burnt out; Gallup found their stress levels increased significantly from 2020 to 2021. And after several coronavirus variants thwarted past efforts to bring workers back to their desks, employers are ready for an official return, claiming that remote work has been hurting business.
Labor Day may have been the turning point, bringing major “back to school” vibes for many workers as companies like Apple, Comcast, and Peloton all mandated a hybrid policy. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who already ordered employees back to the office full-time, announced that the investment bank was lifting all COVID restrictions.
Employers are trying to regain the upper hand in the labor market, but it’s coming at the cost of employee well-being: One-third said in a McKinsey survey that their return to work was hurting their mental health. Workers who have become accustomed to a new way of work are up for a battle now that the balance of power is shifting.
Consider the notoriously demanding financial sector, where entry-level analysts were emboldened by the talent shortage to ask for work-life balance and rebel against a return to the office. But new mandates signal a return to old ways, according to Mike Mayo, a Wells Fargo bank analyst.
“This is not the time to be the leader of the junior banker revolution,” Mayo told Fortune. “This is a time to treat Wall Street the way it was treated for generations.”
Considering that most of the workforce would think about searching for a new job if they were forced to be in-office full-time, it remains to be seen whether they’ll put up with the demise of the “do-gooder” culture.