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If you don’t like your employer’s return-to-office (RTO) policy, for the sake of your career, keep it to yourself.

That’s because most managers consider it a red flag when an employee expresses a passionate dislike for in-office work, according to a recent survey of 3,000 American workers and managers by Checkr, an employee background check software provider. While 38 per cent of employees believe it’s a “major red flag” to enthusiastically complain about in-office work requirements, according to the survey, that number jumps to 56 per cent among managers.

“Employees are really having a hard time letting go of the flexibility, the freedom, the work-life balance, all the associative perks and positive upsides to remote work,” says Tricia Williams, the director of research and evaluation with the Toronto-based Future Skills Centre. “Employers, meanwhile, feel like they kind of got dragged into this remote work thing – there was a period where they were experimenting with it, and now we’re really seeing the retrenchment – so it’s an increasingly polarizing trend line.”

The Future Skills Centre, an initiative funded by the government of Canada’s Future Skills Program dedicated to strengthening the skills development ecosystem, has found the percentage of Canadians preferring remote work is increasing.

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In the 2021 edition of the Future Skills Centre’s annual remote work survey, 64 per cent of Canadians who had worked from home in the previous three months said they liked it “a lot better” than the office, and that proportion increased to 78 per cent in 2022.

Though the Future Skills Centre’s latest survey data – which was collected in late 2023 – is yet to be published, Ms. Williams, confirms “the pattern is absolutely continuing.”

The gulf in employer and employee sentiment around workplace policies has led some to express themselves, as the Checkr study puts it, “enthusiastically,” and that could have lasting reputational effects.

“One should always be careful about the issues they’re passionate about at work,” warns Ms. Williams. “It’s probably good advice when you convey your opinions about things like remote work – or any issue in the workplace over which you don’t have full control – to moderate how you express your opinion.”

Perhaps the worst way to express that negative sentiment is by complaining to colleagues, or demonstrating a bad attitude, according to Mike Shekhtman, the senior regional director for recruiting firm Robert Half Canada.

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“The last thing you want [as an employer] is for someone to harbour a distaste that comes out in negativity, or creating gossip around the watercooler,” he says. “If somebody is outspoken about the fact that they don’t want to be in the office, they’ll share it with people, and that spreads, and it causes distractions and issues.”

Rather than voicing complaints publicly, Mr. Shekhtman suggests presenting a cohesive case to your manager, just as you would advocate for a raise or request another workplace accommodation.

“Bringing a solution mindset is going to be crucial,” he says. “Propose different alternatives – maybe it’s windowed work, maybe it’s working non-traditional hours, maybe it’s some sort of hybrid schedule – and deliver that proposal in a prepared, professional manner.”

Mr. Shekhtman adds that in his experience most staff who disagree with a workplace policy will express their dissatisfaction appropriately, but he suggests the most negative opinions tend to be voiced the loudest. Rather than being that loud voice both he and Ms. Williams suggest first working with management to come to a mutual solution, and failing that, consider parting ways.

Mr. Shekhtman says, “At the end of that process you’ll have a lot of clarity, and it might be enough to make a decision to amicably move on to an environment that provides a model that makes sense.”

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