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A Mile Apart: As Companies Push for Return to Office, Most Workers Remain Remote or Hybrid

More and more companies are asking employees to return to the office, but many of these workers are ignoring the request.

According to a new survey by The Conference Board, 54 percent of companies are mandating or strongly encouraging workers to be on-site. However, nearly 80 percent are still working either fully remote or hybrid schedules.

In fact, workers’ dissatisfaction with return-to-office mandates may lead more workers to jump ship. Indeed, nearly a third of those required to come back to the workplace said their intent to stay with their organization had decreased.

The survey also reveals the pros and cons of fully remote versus fully on-site work. Most strikingly, the results suggest a relationship between companies with fully-remote employees and layoffs. 33 percent of remote employees report their companies have implemented layoffs, compared to only 13 percent of fully on-site workers.

The latest workforce survey from The Conference Board was fielded from April 25 to May 5 and polled nearly 1,300 US employees predominantly office workers. Respondents weighed in on their work arrangements, return-to-the-office policies, productivity, engagement levels, and more. Key findings include:

FULLY ON SITE OR FULLY REMOTE: THE BATTLE RAGES ON
Nearly 80 percent are working either fully remote or hybrid (partially remote) schedules.

  • Only 15 percent of survey respondents are on site 5 days per week.
  • 28 percent are fully remote.
  • 50 percent work some variation of a hybrid schedule (remote some of the time).

More than half say working on site is either strongly encouraged or mandated by their organizations.

  • Mandated: 29 percent
  • Strongly encouraged: 25 percent

RETENTION
Mandating that employees work on site may hurt worker retention.

  • 28 percent of those whose organizations mandated they work on-site say their intent to stay with the company decreased in the past six months.

LAYOFFS
Are layoffs more common among remote employees?

  • 33 percent of fully remote employees say their organizations have implemented layoffs in the past six months, compared to 25 percent of hybrid workers and only 13 percent of those fully on site.

PRODUCTIVITY
Fully-remote workers say they are more productive.

  • 35 percent of fully remote workers say their productivity is higher than 6 months ago, compared to 20 percent of those fully on site and 22 percent of hybrid workers.
  • 19 percent of fully on-site workers report decreased productivity, compared to 16 percent of hybrid and 8 percent of fully-remote workers.

TEAM BUILDING
Hybrid and fully remote workers are concerned about limited connection with their colleagues.

  • 37 percent of hybrid workers and 45 percent of fully-remote workers say they are concerned about limited connection with their colleagues the top response for each.
  • 35 percent of fully-remote workers say they have no concerns.
  • Blurred work-life boundaries are also a concern for fully-remote (31 percent) and hybrid workers (30 percent).

Less than half of organizations offer in-person team building and celebratory events.

  • Only 47 percent of organizations now offer in-person team building and celebratory events.

“In a world that can often seem like its 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.”

ON-SITE WORRIES: OVERALL
Half of those working fully on site have no concerns about working in a physical workplace.

  • 52 percent say they have no concerns.
  • 28 percent are worried about the increased time and cost to commute.
  • 21 percent are worried about increased interruptions or distractions.

ON-SITE WORRIES: GENDER
Men are much less concerned about working fully on site.

  • Significantly more men working fully on site say they have no concerns about working in the physical workplace (60 percent) than women (38 percent).
  • Women are more concerned about distractions in the office (35 percent versus 14 percent), the time and cost of commuting (38 percent versus 22 percent), and constant expectations of being on or available (28 percent versus 7 percent).

ON-SITE WORRIES: GENERATIONS
Millennials working fully on site are more concerned about the commute, work-life integration, and the expectation to be available than other generations.

  • 38 percent of Millennials working fully on site are concerned about the time and cost of commuting, compared to 27 percent of Gen Xers and 24 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • 35 percent of Millennials working fully on site are concerned about work-life integration, compared to 20 percent of Gen Xers and 14 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • 31 percent of Millennials working fully on site are concerned about the constant expectation to be available, compared to 14 percent of Gen Xers and 12 percent of Baby Boomers.

“Workers are looking for opportunities to connect with their colleagues,” said Robin Erickson, Vice President, Human Capital, The Conference Board. “Offering chances to get together and celebrate may provide some with enough of a reason to go into the office. But keep in mind that being together in person is not the only way to recognize accomplishments and celebrate as a team. Leaders should be intentional about building culture and comradery in a remote setting as well.”