5 Metrics that Matter More than Badge Swipes:  How to Get Return-to-Office Right

If your company has implemented a return-to-office mandate, you’ve probably been asked to monitor attendance.

Not sure about you, but that leaves me feeling icky.

I don’t want to be a hall monitor.  

But I also don’t want to get fired for not giving my boss what she’s asking for.

Here’s another approach:

Give the attendance data if you must, but don’t give that alone.

Here are 5 metrics that matter more than attendance if you want to get return-to-office right.


Key Metric% of Team In-Office Together; # of Co-Located Leaders

If you’re an executive reading this, chances are, you see a lot of familiar faces when you’re in the office.  Most of your close collaborators are there with you in-person.

But if you’re an individual contributor, your onsite experience probably looks quite different.  Most of us work on distributed teams.

Onsite density is one of the single strongest predictors of employee resistance to returning to the office.  People don’t want to commute into the office, not see any of their peers, and spend their day on Zoom.

If I was building an RTO dashboard, I’d have Co-Location front & center.  To really understand how (or if) office time is impacting collaboration, Executives need to see a side-by-side showing what percent of a working group is assigned to the same office & what percent are co-located each day.

Degree of Connectivity

Key Metrics# Collaborators;  # Cross-Department Collaboration Hours

If your exec team has issued an RTO mandate, they probably have done so in the name of connectivity.

The thinking goes…  When we’re together in-person, it’s easier to build relationships.  There are more spontaneous interactions.  More connections leads to more creativity.

There’s some data that backs this up:  Michael Arena found that bridging connections between departments deteriorated when companies first went remote at the start of the pandemic.

But it’s hard to measure connectivity.  And often perception doesn’t match reality – making employee survey data unreliable.

To see how RTO is impacting silos, we recommend looking at the number of cross-department collaboration hours.  

Collaboration can cut both ways: it can spur innovation, but it can also slow us down.  A healthy return-to-office would bump collaboration between departments up ~10%.  If you see collaboration hours climbing higher than that, it may be a sign of over-collaboration.

Work-Life Balance

Key MetricsWorkday Span; Weekend Work; After-Hours Activity

Maintaining work-life-balance is frequently the top concern that employees share when they’re surveyed about return-to-office policies.

Workday span, weekend work, and after-hours activity are Worklytics’ best proxy metrics for measuring work-life balance.

Onsite days tend to be longer – and it’s not just the commute.  

With onsite time spent predominantly in meetings, we often see a flurry of after-hours emails and Slack DMs as people try to catch-up once they’re back home.

To really understand the impact that the office is having on work-life balance, be sure to cut your workday span data by group.  We often see frontline managers’ schedules markedly change when office returns are announced.

Focus Time

Key Metrics# of Focus Hours per Day; # Hours in Meetings; # of Slacks Sent

Knowledge workers with less than 3.5 hours of focus time report having more difficulty getting things done.

When companies issue RTO mandates, we tend to see meeting volume climb.  All of those “let’s catch-up in-person” coffee chats get added onto all of the regularly scheduled 1:1s and team meetings already in the calendar.

If you’re bringing people back into the office with an eye toward increasing productivity, you’ll want to keep a close eye on meeting volume.

Sentiment & Support

Key Metrics# of Manager 1:1s; % of Company that Disagrees with RTO

Adherence to a new policy can be an indicator of sentiment.  It can also be an indicator of grudging compliance.

Rather than focusing too much on who’s badging in when, we encourage clients to look at manager behavior.

Coming back to the office has a lot of us thinking “I’m sure I’ll run into them…”  As a result, we often see scheduled 1:1s drop-off when companies bring people back into the office.  

But manager support during times of transition is critical.  Now’s the time to double-down on 1:1s and make sure that those who are co-located see their managers when they come into the office. 

A Final Thought

If you’re tracking these metrics, why not share them?

One of the most powerful ways to overcome employee resistance is to be upfront about the goals of your RTO policy and how you’ll measure them.

Show employees that it’s not about “naming and shaming” who’s there & who’s not – and I bet your sentiment scores will improve along with office attendance. 

REquest a demo

Book a Demo