Remote Workers Balk At Returning To The Office, Study Finds

The work-from-home wave that swept through U.S. workplaces during the pandemic is now crashing on the heads of bosses who want remote workers back in the office.

A recent report from the Conference Board says businesses that require or ask their remote workers to come back to the workplace are getting serious pushback. The desire to continue to work remotely is so strong that many employees say they will quit working if they can’t stay away, and find an employer that permits remote working.

There’s a serious downside for those remote workers: Companies that went to full remote workforces are laying off remote workers at a much higher rate than companies where everyone showed up at the office every day.

The Conference Board extracted these and other nuggets from a survey of some 1,300 US employees — predominantly office workers. Respondents were asked about their work arrangements, return-to-the-office policies, productivity, engagement levels, and more.

Among the report highlights:

  • Only 15% of survey respondents are on site 5 days per week.
  • Twenty-eight percent are fully remote.
  • Fifty percent work some variation of a hybrid schedule (remote some of the time).
  • More than half (54%) say working on site is either strongly encouraged or mandated by their organizations.
  • Twenty-eight percent of those whose organizations mandated they work on-site say their intent to stay with the company decreased in the past six months.

The troubling trend for fully remote workers: they’re getting lots of pink slips. A third of fully remote employees say their organizations have implemented layoffs in the past six months, compared to 25% of hybrid workers and 13% of their office-bound peers.

This layoff rate is ironic because, they claim, remote working has made them more productive. Consider these results:

  • Thirty-five percent of fully remote workers say their productivity is higher than 6 months ago.
  • Just 20% of those fully on site and 22% of hybrid workers report a higher productivity level.
  • One in five fully on-site workers report decreased productivity, compared to 16% of hybrid and 8% of fully-remote workers.

Yet the fully remote employees are, in general, worried that they are losing touch with their colleagues. Nearly half (45%) say they “are concerned about limited connection with their colleagues.” And since nearly half of employers do not offer any team-building practices, this could become an issue down the road.

The survey found that male employees had a significantly higher tolerance for office attendance than female employees did. Women were much more concerned about workplace distractions, the travails of commuting, and “expectations of being on or available” than were the men surveyed.

“In a world that can often seem like it’s gone mad, we need to reimagine the workplace as an oasis for workers,” said Rebecca Ray, executive vice president, Human Capital, The Conference Board. “Businesses should not only be thoughtful about why they’re asking people to come back to the office but make it a place where people can come to do their best work, can learn and grow, and can have a meaningful impact.”


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