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Do Employees Want to Return to the Office?

Do Employees Want to Return to the Office?

Most employees have embraced remote work and aren’t eager to return to the physical office, even as vaccines roll out. Seventy percent of employees would like to continue to work remotely part of the time post-COVID-19, according to Glassdoor, a provider of resources with insights about jobs and companies.

Research from PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that employers and employees disagree about what the post-pandemic return to work will look like. They do agree that it will be some kind of hybrid model, with employees splitting their time between home and the office; however, PwC’s Remote Work Survey, conducted in December, found that Americans have different visions of how often employees will work remotely.

When asked, “To maintain company culture, how often do you think employees should be in the office?”

  • 29% of employers said three days a week.
  • 21% said five days a week.
  • 18% said four days a week.
  • 15% said two days a week.

March marks a year since the majority of U.S. employees switched to remote work due to the pandemic. Have attitudes about working from home evolved? A June PwC Remote Work Survey found that 72% of employees wanted to continue working from home at least two days a week. That figure in the December survey was virtually unchanged at 74%, compared to 83% of employers. In contrast to their bosses’ responses, the largest share of employees, 29%, wanted to work full time in the office. However, the next largest share of respondents, 19%, wanted only two days of office time, suggesting that appeasing everyone will be difficult.

The remote work model has been an overall success, the December survey found, with 83% of employers saying that the shift to remote work has been successful. Fewer than one in five employers said they want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic.

The survey showed an ambivalence among employees: 87% of them said that the office is still important for collaborating with team members and building relationships. However, many employees want a version of the flexibility of working from home.

Here are some tips for making the new normal work for employers and employees:

  • Poll employees and get greater insight into what employees need.
  • Invest in more tools to support virtual collaboration, such as better videoconferencing and improved IT infrastructure.
  • Invest more in training for your managers to be comfortable with a virtual workforce: the PwC survey found that 57% of employers plan to invest in conference rooms with enhanced virtual connectivity to connect work-at-home employees with their office colleagues.
  • Invest strategically to rebound this year and make up for lost ground.

Some employers have offered nontraditional benefits during the pandemic, including:

  • Virtual nutrition programs.
  • Online access to therapy and holistic mental health care.
  • Virtual parent support groups.

In general, employers have found that programs to help employees balance the demands of their work and home lives are an important support. That change in view makes this a time of radical change in how we think about work.

Remote work has boosted productivity and offered employees an opportunity for better work-life balance and the freedom to live and work away from expensive corporate hubs.

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