As employers roll out the welcome mat for employees returning to the office, a mix of excitement and uncertainty lingers among employees who’ve been working fully remote for a year and a half. What jitters do workers have about the big return? A new survey from Glassdoor, the worldwide leader on insights about jobs and companies, reveals the top concerns keeping employees at home and what aspects of office life make them eager to return ASAP.
The new survey found that among U.S. employees who are exclusively working from home due to COVID-19:
Working from Home Isn’t Working for Everyone
Hybrid is Here to Stay: 96% of employees plan to return to the office in some capacity, and 2 in 3 employees (66%) are eager to return.
- In April 2020, 72% of employees said they were eager to return to the office.
WFH Struggles: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 27% of employees feel less connected to colleagues, less connected to their company’s culture (26%) and more likely to quit their jobs (31%).
Career Growth Concerns: 30% of employees feel that working from home on an ongoing basis would negatively impact their ability to get a promotion.
“After more than a year of remote work, people are returning to the office feeling less connected with coworkers and their employer,” said Alison Sullivan, Glassdoor career trends expert. “We know career opportunities, company mission and culture keep employees satisfied at work. Having a strong company culture can help employees navigate their new set up, whether they go back full-time or navigate a hybrid worklife. Employers who make their workforce feel connected are going to have an easier time recruiting and retaining workers.”
What Employees Missed Most About Office Life
More Face Time: The top reasons employees are eager to return to the office include socializing with coworkers (43%) and in-person work collaboration (35%).
- In April 2020, socializing with coworkers (60%) and increased productivity (53%) topped the list of reasons why those working from home were eager to return to the office.
Coveted In-Office Perks: Employees say they would be more likely to return to the office if they had the following office-based perks: Free food/snacks/drinks (38%), free transportation to work (32%) and free massages (28%).
- Interestingly, 21% of employees say they would be more likely to return to the office if they had access to alcoholic beverages during or after work.
“While we’ve adapted many aspects of work to remote settings, there are some experiences you can’t replicate at home. The return of spontaneous brainstorming sessions or hallway hellos are social aspects that make work more enjoyable and fulfilling,” said Sullivan. “People are eager to socialize more with colleagues they’ve seen only on a screen in the last year and eager for the return of familiar perks that accompany the social side of office life.”
Nearly 9 in 10 Employees (89%) Have Concerns About Returning to the Office
Safety First: 35% of employees are concerned about contracting COVID-19 when returning to the office, while other employees are concerned with new office protocols:
- 32% are concerned with touching things that other people have touched, 30% are concerned with knowing whether to shake hands, fist bump or touch elbows with others and 20% are concerned with not having a permanent desk at the office.
Routine Revival: Some other employee concerns about returning to the office include having to commute (35%), having to make themselves look presentable (30%) and lack of privacy at work (19%).
“Many people are experiencing a variety of emotions about returning to work, including lingering concerns about health and safety. People are also navigating the more normal jitters of commute logistics and ‘what will I wear today’, along with the excitement to see teammates. It’s like the first day of work, all over again,” Sullivan said. “Employers and coworkers alike should practice empathy and understanding as everyone adjusts in their own way to going back to the office. Employers who solicit feedback from their employees before the return are going to have a better time building a reentry plan that best addresses their concerns, needs, and expectations.”
Going Forward Together
As offices reopen, there will likely be a mix of employees working remotely, in the office, or embracing a hybrid approach to get the job done. Understanding the various joys and concerns that are top of mind can help employees and employers ensure as smooth a transition as possible into this new era of work.
Survey Method: This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor from July 8-12, 2021 among 1,042 employed adults, of whom 278 are currently working from home full-time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.