Why Don't Employees Want to Return to the Office?



A lot has been written about the pros and cons of returning to the office. Some companies enjoy the savings from not having the expensive office overhead. Other companies are strongly pushing against the tide to get everyone back under one roof.


According to an article in Apollotechnical, "Statistics on remote workers reveal that more than 4.7 million people work remotely at least half the time in the United States. 44% of companies do not allow remote work and only 16% of companies hire remote only workers."


A survey by Owl labs, found the following:



The debate regarding remote work and the affects on productivity is ongoing. The numbers say remote workers are more productive in many cases but not in all situations.


The future of work report by Upwork found that 22.5% of survey managers said productivity had decreased compared to 32.2% of hiring managers that said productivity has increased since their employees started working from home in 2020.


Their performance was boosted by 22% when employees were able to work from home a study by Stanford found.


Mercer, an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm surveyed 800 employers. 94% of these employers stated the work productivity was the same or higher since employees started working from home.


As reported in Vox.com, "Those who want to be remote are upset because they enjoyed working from home and don’t understand why, after two years of doing good work there, they have to return to the office. People who couldn’t wait to go back are not finding the same situation they enjoyed before the pandemic, with empty offices and fewer amenities. Those who said they prefer hybrid — 60 percent of office workers — are not always getting the interactions with colleagues they’d hoped for."


Why am I here?


With Zoom, Teams, and Slack being employed more and more in the office, with some employees attending meetings remotely and others in-person, employees are asking "why am I here"? In fact, according to Calendly, despite the return to the office, there has been an uptick in virtual meetings.


How do we fix the broken office?


The same vox.com article advises that "...employers should explore not only why they want people in the office, but whether bringing people into the office is achieving those goals. If the main reason to bring people back is to collaborate with colleagues, for example, they need to set terms that ensure that happens. That could mean making people who should be working together come in on the same days — a problem around which a whole cottage industry of remote scheduling software has cropped up.


There is no golden rule


Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford professor who, along with other academics, has been conducting a large, ongoing study of remote workers called WFH Research, "...believes there’s no golden rule on how often it’s necessary to go in to get the benefits of the office. Importantly, when workers do come in, they shouldn’t be bogged down with anything they could be doing at home."


Employers need to be realistic about how much in-person work really needs to happen. Just requiring workers to be in the office, either full-time or randomly throughout the week may not make sense - and if it doesn't, employees will continue to ask "why am I here?"


Will recession drive workers back to the office?


Fortune.com observes that The U.S.’s tight labor market has given workers greater leverage when it comes to negotiating with their employers. Businesses have expanded benefits and offered greater flexibility in order to hold on to talent. 


But amid hiring freezes and predictions of recession, workers may end up being more willing to accept returning to the office.


However, as written by Cheryl Winokur Munk for CNBC:

·     Workers have gained considerable leverage in the job market, from wages to benefits and work from home flexibility.

·     A recession would lead to slower job growth and big companies from Facebook to Uber and Netflix are talking about pulling back on hiring, even layoffs.

·     This may lead to some bargaining power losses, but with two job openings for every unemployed person in the current labor market, employees should be able to hold the line better than during past economic downturns.


The return to the office debate has yet to be settled. If one thing is certain, it is that the uncertainly will continue, with employers endeavoring to find just the right balance, and employees flexing their new muscle to hold onto their unfamiliar workplace bargaining power.


The workplace is changing, employers are trying to adjust, and employees are demanding changes. If you are having difficulties figuring out how to proceed, our professionals at ASN are ready to help. Just give us a call - we would love to speak with you.