“We would have more of a policy following up with people on why they weren’t showing up,” she said.
But many workers, across industries, are resisting the prospect of having their office attendance tracked now that they have gotten used to the freedoms of deciding when and where they would do their best work. A study from Future Forum, a research group backed by the tech company Slack, found that 94 percent of knowledge workers wanted some flexibility in setting their schedules, and that 79 percent wanted some flexibility in determining where they worked.
“I don’t have anyone checking up on me, and if I did, that would cause a lot of stress,” said Rose Worden, who works at a nonprofit in Washington that expects that she come in two days per week. “Trust is important to any job.”
And many technology experts warn that surveillance software of any kind — often called “bossware” — can have a corrosive effect on company culture.
“The fact that any interaction you’ve done at work is potentially scrutinized by your boss tends to transform how you engage at work,” said Rob Reich, director of Stanford’s Center for Ethics in Society. “It treats the employees as akin to machines optimized for maximal performance rather than human beings.”
The pushback against surveillance tools may present an argument for more straightforward, carefully delineated return-to-office plans, according to workplace experts. If all workers on a team come to their desks on the same days, for example, rather than choosing any random three days to commute, there would be no need to take attendance — both because it would be obvious who was in and who was home, and because more employees would willingly go back to the building.
“What’s the point of coming in if none of your co-workers are there?” said Mr. Bloom, who advises executives on hybrid work. “If you have to force employees to do something you think is in their benefit, it’s not in their benefit.”
“Next thing, there’s going to be a teacher at the front of the office with a ruler throwing chalk at people who aren’t working,” he added. “It feels like you’re going back to eighth grade.”