Updated Sept 19th, 2021
The latest statistics on employees returning back to work paint a story of excitement, ambivalence, and in many cases resistance.
As the world learns to live with the covid-19 pandemic, offices are slowly but surely reopening, along with employers’ calls for workers to return to the office. In fact, up to 70% of businesses plan to have employees back in the office in some capacity before the end of 2021, according to the latest survey by staffing firm LaSalle Network. 
- 1. 68% of American Workers prefer a Hybrid Workplace Model
- 2. 1 in 3 workers would not want to work for a company that required them to return to the office full-time
- 3. 26% of Workers plan to look for a New Job with a Different Employer after the Pandemic
- 4. 66% of Workers are worried about Returning to the Office
- 5. Computer and Mathematical Workers are Most Likely to Work at Home
- 6. 70% of Companies will not demand Employee Vaccination
- 7. 91% of Employers will require Masks while 89% will require Social Distancing
- 8. Most Americans still not comfortable travelling for Work
- 9. For Employers, maintaining Company Culture is their Biggest Concern
- 10. Diverging Views on the Role of the Office
- Return to Work – The New Normal Infographics
1. 68% of American Workers prefer a Hybrid Workplace Model
One of the biggest takeaways for employers should be that the majority of workers no longer wish to return to the office full time.
A large survey by Prudential involving over 2,000 full time workers shows that over 68% of American workers now prefer a hybrid workplace model. 
A hybrid work model is basically one that gives employees some flexibility in where they can work. For example, one model may mandate that each employee only needs to come into the office 10 days a month. Another model may ask different departments to come in at different days of the week for better crowd control.
As far as how often Americans now want to work remotely, the Prudential survey shows that 87% would like to be able to do so at least once a week . Over 55% of workers would like to work remotely for a minimum of 3 days per week once the pandemic is under control, according to another survey by PcW. 
And finally, when it comes to not returning to the office at all, 16% of employees indicate they prefer a permanent work from home setup. 
2. 1 in 3 workers would not want to work for a company that required them to return to the office full-time
As millions of Americans have gotten accustomed to working in their pajamas at home, most employees now see the option to work remotely as a crucial employee benefit.
The Prudential Survey showed that 1 in 3 Americans would not want to work for an employer that doesn’t offer at least partial remote working. However, 2 in 3 remote workers still believe that in-person interactions are an integral part of their career growth. This means in the eyes of employees, the ideal hybrid work model should include a mixture of WFH and other remote work options where they can still interact with other employees, such as at a coworking space.
But just how far would workers push back against their existing employers that demand they return to the office?
A Morning Consult poll conducted in May 2021 revealed that 39% of employees would consider quitting if their current company didn’t allow some type of remote work options. Perhaps not surprisingly, younger workers were most adamant about being able to work from home, with millennials and Gen Z making up 49% of those that said they would quit.
3. 26% of Workers plan to look for a New Job with a Different Employer after the Pandemic
Aside from redefining the workplace model, employers also need to worry about something a lot more fundamental after covid-19 – retaining their employees.
In the month of April 2021 alone, around 4 million US workers quit their job – the highest ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The carnage is far from over as employees start to prioritize their health and wellbeing over a paycheck.
According to the Prudential survey, 26% of American workers are planning to switch companies once COVID-19 subsides.
72% of those who plan to leave their jobs said that the pandemic made them rethink their skill sets. Meanwhile, 19% said they’re now putting greater emphasis on furthering their education or learning a new skill set.
The top reasons cited for wanting to change careers are: 1) A better work-life balance (27%), 2) Higher compensation (26%), and 3) Trying something new (26%).
4. 66% of Workers are worried about Returning to the Office
With new covid-19 variants such as delta continuing to spread, it’s little surprise that most employees are still worried about their safety once they return back to the office.
According to Envoy’s Return to Workplace report, 66% of workers are concerned their health and safety might be at risk once they return to the work site. People of color and Gen Z workers are especially worried, with 78% and 75% of those surveyed respectively fearing that a return to the workplace could jeopardize their health. 
Confidence in their employers’ ability to mitigate the risks are also low, with 61% expressing concern that their employers might relax COVID measures too soon.
5. Computer and Mathematical Workers are Most Likely to Work at Home
Certain occupations clearly offer more opportunities to work from home than others.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics asked workers whether they have teleworked or worked from home in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic. Of all the occupations surveyed, those in the computer and mathematical fields reported the highest incidences of working from home at 50.3% during the month of July 2021.
Percentage of employees who worked from home in the last 4 weeks (BLS July 2021 data)
|Computer and Mathematics||50.3%|
|Financial and Insurance||41.7%|
|Architecture and Engineering||32.1%|
|Office and admin support||15.4%|
6. 70% of Companies will not demand Employee Vaccination
One of the most challenging issues confronted by companies is how much pressure to exert on employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office.
Select companies have been making headlines by mandating that their employees be vaccinated before being allowed back in the office, such as CNN and Delta Airlines. However, these are definitely the exceptions.
According to a recent CNBC survey, 70% of companies will not be requiring their employees to receive a COVID-19 shot as a condition for coming back. Interestingly, 62% of employees want mandatory vaccination before they are allowed to return to their office , These two diverging statistics show that there is an opportunity for company leaders and employees to come together to implement stricter safety policies for the welfare of everyone.
7. 91% of Employers will require Masks while 89% will require Social Distancing
Deloitte conducted a survey to see what type of covid-19 measures companies have or plan to implement at the office . Masks came out on top as the most common requirement, with 91% of companies surveyed saying they will require return-to-work employees mask up upon their return:
- Masks – 91%
- Social distancing – 89%
- Enhanced health and safety protocols – 67%
- Adherence to quarantine procedures – 65%
- Daily health certification – 56%
- Proof of COVID-19 testing – 9%
- Proof of COVID-19 vaccination – 9%
8. Most Americans still not comfortable travelling for Work
Back in March 2020, 97% of organizations also cancelled work travel, according to Gartner.  Fast forward to present day, and up to 40% of companies have now resumed domestic business travel, according to Global Business Travel Association’s June poll.
This doesn’t mean that Americans are now comfortable travelling for work. According to Bloomberg’s Morning Consult survey , most workers feel it’s too soon:
- 54% are not comfortable travelling for work domestically.
- 56% are not comfortable going to a work conference
- 57% are not comfortable attending office parties or large staff events
- 71% are not comfortable travelling for work internationally
9. For Employers, maintaining Company Culture is their Biggest Concern
As companies grapple with which work model to adopt moving forward, at the top of their list of concerns is how to maintain company culture.
The top 5 concerns on the minds of employers confronted with a new workplace model are :
|Employees not wanting to return to the office||10%|
10. Diverging Views on the Role of the Office
And finally, the pandemic has created an increasingly divergent view between employers and their workers on what the main purpose of a traditional office is.
According to the PwC’s US Remote Work Survey, employers see the main purpose of an office as a place to increase employees’ productivity. For employees, the office is viewed as useful mainly for collaborating. Improved productivity didn’t even make the top 4 list of benefits for the later group.
The data clearly shows that there is still ambivalence amongst employers on the effectiveness of its workers working remotely or out of their homes.
Return to Work – The New Normal Infographics
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