While most American workers have returned to the office, roughly half say they don’t want to go back. On top of that, a majority of those currently working from home expect their employers to require proof of vaccination and implement a mandatory mask policy when they return to the office.
A Harris poll commissioned by OfficeSpace Software found a majority of Americans (54%) who work in an office setting have returned to an office full time. However, half of those who went into an office before the pandemic (51%) don’t want to return five days a week.
When asked to identify which best describes their current employer’s plans for returning to the office – whether they’re already back in the office or plan to be at some point – the survey found 48% of Americans who work in an office, and whose employer changed their working environment due to COVID-19, said their organization expects them to return to the office full time, while 27% said their employer currently requires them to return to the office for part of the week.
When it comes to how they’d like their employer to handle the return to the office, it’s a mixed bag.
About one in five Americans who work in an office (17%) would like their company to allow them to decide where they work (in office, hybrid or fully remote), while 13% would prefer their company to require employees to spend most of their time working remotely. One notable finding: Some 41% would like their employer to expect them to return to the office full time, with the office looking and operating as it did before the pandemic, with minimal changes.
OfficeSpace CEO David Cocchiara wasn’t surprised by the results. Each of his customers, he said, is faced with unique challenges and employee needs as they create safe hybrid approaches to work. “Organizations continue to be challenged to strike the right balance in what the business needs and what their employees want,” he said. “There is no single approach that works for every organization”
Safe at Home
Employed Americans who worked in an office before the pandemic are divided about returning. About 47% want to work at an office five days a week, while 51% don’t. Women are less likely than men to want to go back full-time, 40% vs. 51%.
On the other hand, Americans agree on what they want from employers if they’re expected to return to the office.
- 71% strongly or somewhat agree their employer should require proof of vaccination.
- 70% strongly or somewhat agree employers should provide incentives for vaccinated employees.
- 70% strongly or somewhat agree there should be a mandatory mask policy regardless of vaccination status.
In addition, 43% strongly or somewhat agreed they would leave their job if their employer required them to go to the office every day. That’s down from December 2020, when a previous OfficeSpace survey found that 54% said they’d consider leaving their job if their employer required them to return to the workplace before they felt comfortable.
Finally, about personal interaction: When asked what they miss about the workplace, many Americans said they miss social time with colleagues (37%), in-person collaboration or meetings (29%) and a dedicated workspace/assigned seat (29%). At the same time, more than half (55%) said they don’t miss their commute at all.
By Mark Feffer
Mark Feffer is executive editor of RecruitingDaily and the HCM Technology Report. He’s written for TechTarget, HR Magazine, SHRM, Dice Insights, TLNT.com and TalentCulture, as well as Dow Jones, Bloomberg and Staffing Industry Analysts. He likes schnauzers, sailing and Kentucky-distilled beverages.
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