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Return to the Office or Else…: The Current State of Remote Work

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In the time since the COVID-19 pandemic mandated remote work for many professionals, studies have been conducted to find out if remote work had positive or adverse effects. To date, it has been found that remote workers are 35-40% more productive, produce results with 40% fewer quality defects, and have 41% lower absenteeism than their in-office counterparts.

Despite the statistics that support remote/hybrid work arrangements, some companies have begun to plead with and mandate their employees to return to the office. Meanwhile, employees like those at JPMorgan, Apple, and Goldman Sachs have pushed back hard on their return to office policies and are prepared to quit to find a company whose work arrangements better align with their needs.

In the following article, we’ve highlighted some of the latest research on the state of remote work and recommended next steps.


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Leaders Continue to Push for a Return to the Office

In April 2022, GoodHire released the findings of a study of 3,500 American managers' remote vs. in-office preferences, and since then, one finding, in particular, has made headlines. According to the survey, 77% percent of managers said severe consequences would occur for those who refuse to return to the office this year. So what consequences do they have in mind exactly?

  • Termination
  • Pay cuts
  • Loss of promotion opportunities
  • Loss of benefits
  • Loss of paid time-off

The desire to have employees return to the office is nothing new though, as many studies have come to the same conclusions. For example, in October 2021, Slack found that of the executives working remotely, 75% wanted to be in the office three days a week or more, while only 34% of non-executives felt the same way. While of the Canadian managers surveyed by RobertHalf between November 2021 and March 2022, 55% said they want their teams to work on-site full time as COVID-19-related restrictions ease.

But it’s not just business leaders who desire a return to the office; political leaders are now pushing for the same. For example, the Mayor of New York City called on companies to bring their employees back to the office en masse, citing that “foot traffic in the city is critical to reviving the local economy.” While a press release from the UK government pushed for “maximum use of our office space” from public sector employees to “boost staff collaboration and help support local businesses.”


Meanwhile, Employees would rather quit than Return to the Office

Just as leaders' desire to return to the office has been made clear, so have the desires of employees to maintain the autonomy, flexibility, and convenience that hybrid/remote work provides.

In November 2021, the ADP Research Institute surveyed 32,00 people from the U.S., India, the Netherlands, and other countries. Of which 64% said that they have already, or would consider, looking for a new job if their employer mandated a full-time return to the office. Moreover, 52% would take up to an 11% cut in pay if it meant a hybrid work arrangement.

These findings were corroborated in a separate survey of Canadians conducted by RobertHalf. Up 20 points from 2021, 53% of respondents said they would look for a new job if their company required them to be in the office five days a week. Notably, the two groups most likely to do so were millennial professionals and working parents.


Where Do We Go From Here?

As of right now, there is not a singular answer when it comes to the decisions that need to be made regarding an organization’s remote work policy. What works for one company, may not work at another. Therefore, the best possible thing decision-makers can do is align their policy regarding remote work to the unique needs and preferences of their workforce, the nature of their work, and the organization’s mission, vision, and values.

Independent of that though, the fact is that the world of work has fundamentally changed - forever - and both employees and leaders alike will need upskilling to truly succeed in the post-COVID work environment. To learn more about upskilling and what skills to focus on going forward, we recommend reading the guide, “The Case for Upskilling: How the Pandemic Has Exposed Skills Gaps.

The Case for Upskilling in the Workplace