- Managers may be running into a common problem as employers advance their reopening plans: employees resisting transitioning back to working in an office full-time.
- About one-third of workers currently working from home due to the pandemic said they would look for a new job if their employers required them to return to the office full-time, said Robert Half, which last month surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. workers ages 18 and older. Nearly half of respondents said they preferred a hybrid arrangement instead.
- At the same time, 28% of respondents worried that a fully remote work schedule would damage relationships with their co-workers, while 26% cited decreased productivity while at home. Per Robert Half, respondents said employers could support their return to work by allowing them freedom to set office hours and providing a distraction-free workplace, among other items.
The expansion of COVID-19 vaccination eligibility and the reopening of physical spaces in some areas means some employers have moved reopening timelines forward. Google, which previously announced plans to reopen offices this September, informed workers it would reopen certain offices in a limited capacity this month, CNBC reported March 31.
That tracks with research by consulting firm Gartner, whose recent survey of 258 HR leaders found nearly half expected to see their workplaces reopen by 2021's third quarter. An additional 24% expected a return in Q4. However, workers who have become accustomed to reclaiming the time saved from avoiding morning commutes and other pre-pandemic rituals have voiced some opposition to reopenings, according to The New York Times.
While each employer's individual situation is likely to differ, data show that a significant portion of employers continue to embrace remote work in some form even after office work returns. Gartner, for example, found in a December 2020 survey that 90% of HR leader respondents said their organizations planned to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time even after widespread vaccine availability.
Also, some larger employers tout their post-pandemic, flexible work models as talent magnets. A Feb. 12 blog post by Spotify described the company's "My Work Mode" program, which allows employees to make a decision, in conjunction with their managers, on how often they work from either their homes or the office. The company said employees will be able to work either fully in-office, fully remote or a combination of both.
Cultural considerations are only part of an employers' calculus in determining a reopening approach, however. An employee may fear returning to work because of COVID-19. If the employee has a disability, that may trigger protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, sources previously told HR Dive.
Employees in the Robert Half survey identified a few items that could likewise ease the return to work, including subsidized commuting costs, relaxed dress codes and employer-provided childcare. The latter may be a particularly important issue for employers, given many reported that childcare issues led to employees leaving during the pandemic, according to a November 2020 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. In response to retention challenges, half of employers in a February Care.com survey said they planned to offer new or expanded child care benefits "in the near future."