Why Don’t Workers Want To Return To The Office?

One of the few bright spots of the pandemic was the switch to remote work as a norm, at least in the eyes of employees. Before the world started to open back up, remote and hybrid work models allowed companies to stay afloat. While we aren’t out of the woods yet, more of the world is opening up, and many companies are eager to return to the office for business as usual.

Many employees don’t share that view, data finds. Remote work comes with many perks and benefits you can’t find in an office, and few want to return to the old ways of business.

This coincides with the Great Resignation/Great Reshuffling, as employees are fleeing from jobs that don’t align with their needs and values. Employees have more power than ever before, and there’s a shortage of qualified workers. If you’re looking to attract top-tier talent to your organization, you’ll need to keep up with the times. It’s clear—workers don’t want to return to the office. With help from the experts, we examine why.

Data supports it

This isn’t hyperbole; workers are resistant to returning to the old ways of business. A Bloomberg survey in May 2021 found that 39% of workers would consider quitting if employers weren’t flexible regarding remote work. The number was even higher among millennials and Gen Z, at 49 percent. Keep in mind that millennials are the largest group in the US workforce, making up over a third of the working population.

A Future Forum Pulse survey of global IT workers found that 75% of workers want flexibility in where they work, and 93% want flexibility in when they work. Meanwhile, a recent Pew survey discovered 60% of workers that could do their job remotely would prefer to work from home either all or most of the time. That number was up 6% since 2020.

Something to keep in mind: not every job can be done remotely, and remote work is a scale, with hybrid models existing.

Commuting is a pain

We know employees don’t want to return, but why not? One of the largest reasons is also the simplest: giving up the commute and working from the comfort of home. Even the best offices with great company culture can’t compete with not having to commute every day. The most recent US Census found that the average American spends just under 28 minutes each way during their daily commute. Presumably, these Americans also go home, meaning almost an hour a day is dedicated just to traveling to and from work.

That’s a lot of time in transit that could be spent on other endeavors, so it’s hard not to empathize with employees. But there is another aspect many employers don’t realize: environmental concerns. Forbes contributor Mike Swigunski noted that many big businesses have committed to becoming carbon neutral but haven’t offered employees any way to be part of that goal. Decreasing the time spent commuting is a considerable boon to the environment.

Efficiency

Working from home does have its own distractions, but so does working in an office. Coworkers will always chat, conversations will be more frequent knowing a person is readily available, and so much time gets wasted in inefficient meetings. Without being bogged down in the day-to-day of office life, workers are able to be more productive remotely. In fact, Apollo Technical highlighted multiple studies confirming this trend.

 

“Several studies over the past few months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office setting. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive.” –Owl Labs

Output should be the key factor employers care about, and there is tangible data showing employees are able to not only meet but exceed expectations while working remotely. Based on this, savvy employers will find remote employees to be a positive.

Technology makes it easy

In a previous age, even fifteen years ago, a nation working remotely would be almost inconceivable. But our technology makes it a reality, and the ease of access is a huge appeal.

Many organizations fear that without in-person interactions or regular meetings, communication breaks down and corporate culture suffers. But this isn’t the case. Zoom and its competitors allow teams to regularly meet as often as necessary. And meeting time isn’t always used wisely anyway. Having employees commute to the office for small matters actually does more harm than good, as highlighted by Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, a well-made online onboarding process can make your new hires feel at home, and the dedication to remote work models can be viewed as a perk of a positive culture. Work-life balance is one of the most desirable cultural tenets, after all.

Mental health

Speaking of work-life balance, remote styles have proven to be a boon to the mental health of many workers. The pandemic created feelings of fear, uncertainty, isolation, and anxiety across the globe, and the virus isn’t gone yet. Anxiety among younger workers has increased exponentially during the pandemic. Many became accustomed to the comfort of working from home, away from crowds and constant eyes, and a return to the old ways can be triggering.

“People can just come up and start talking, or see what you’re doing on your computer. There’s no door to close so that you can have a moment to yourself,” Alexis, one of many young workers with social anxiety identified by BBC’s Kate Bishop, revealed.

Many workers even view the demand to return to the office as a control technique and that the return could be a way for managers that feel they’ve lost power to regain control.

“They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us. It’s a boomer power-play.” –Portia Twidt

What can employers do?

In order to succeed in keeping talented workers around, employers need to adapt. If working remotely is a possibility in your industry, potential candidates will want to work remotely. Your competition is going to adapt, and you must too. You may feel like you’re giving up a lot, but working with your team will create happier, more loyal workers, and your organization can benefit from perks like lower office expenses, too.

Harvard Business Review discusses finding a hybrid model that works best for you. Employees don’t have to be 100% remote if it doesn’t fit your organization. Maximize the days employees are expected to come into the office by filling that time with productive meetings, training, and events.

Wrap up

The science shows that remote work is here to stay, and employees want it. The multiple benefits of working from home add up to a very appealing model that even the best offices can’t match. If you want to attract and maintain valuable employees, your organization needs to accept that forcing a return to the office can be costly. Discover the perks of a remote workforce and find a hybrid model that works best for both parties. Otherwise, you may find your organization falling behind.

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