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More Employees Back in the Office Than You Think

  • Published
  • 21 February 2023
  • Category
  • General

It’s time to pay closer attention to the occupational health and safety needs of office employees who worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. While remote and hybrid work schedules will continue to be popular alternatives, attitudes about returning to the office are shifting.

Last week, Amazon’s CEO Andy Jassy announced the company will require office employees to be at work in person at least three days a week starting May 1 to make collaborating and learning from each other easier. The move by Amazon follows work-from-office announcements from other major tech employers, and it is expected to have strong ripple effects in other industries.

In a blog post, Jassy said he’s “optimistic that this shift will provide a boost for the thousands of businesses located around our urban headquarter locations in the Puget Sound, Virginia, Nashville, and the dozens of cities around the world where our employees go to the office.”

Kastle, a property technology and managed security company, monitors workplaces in more than 2,600 buildings in 138 U.S. cities. According to its Back-to-Work Barometer, post-pandemic office building occupancy is gradually increasing. It reached an average of 48.6 percent in 10 major U.S. cities during the week ending Feb. 8; Tuesday was the most heavily occupied day of the week and Friday, not surprisingly, was the lowest.

In New York, the Partnership for New York City conducted a Return-to-Office survey of 140 major Manhattan office employers and found that:

  • 52 percent of Manhattan office workers are now at their workplace on an average weekday, up from 49 percent in September 2022
  • The share of fully remote workers dropped from 16 percent in September 2022 to 10 percent in January 2023
  • 82 percent of respondents said a hybrid office will be their predominant staffing model this year
  • 59 percent of full-time employees with hybrid schedules will work in the office at least three days a week

In a Resume Builder survey of 1,000 business leaders, 90 percent of respondents said employees will be required to return to the office at least part of the week this year; a fifth said they will fire workers who do not return. In that survey, 66 percent of employers said employees are already required to be in the office.

Meanwhile, researchers from Ladders, Inc., a career site for professionals, report that remote job opportunities represented about 15 percent of all $100,000-plus a year job listings in the third quarter of 2022, indicating that the majority of senior leaders are expected to be in the workplace at least part of the time.


Understanding Vulnerabilities

Other surveys have found that remote employees would be more willing to return to the office with the assurance that their health, safety and well-being will be protected. This is true in other types of workplaces, as well.

In addition to health-related concerns, there are many other reasons why some office workers want to continue to work from home – flexibility, saving time and money by not having to commute, childcare or eldercare demands, and fewer distractions – to name a few. At the same time, many people crave human connection at a time when there is increasing dependence on technology for communication.

In its spring 2022 survey of 20,000 people in 11 countries, Microsoft analyzed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, along with LinkedIn labor trends and Glint People Science findings to uncover workplace trends: 85 percent of responding employees said they would be more motivated to return to the office if they knew they would be socializing with co-workers and rebuilding team bonds.

During the pandemic, managers had to re-evaluate ways to assess office worker productivity. The Microsoft survey contradicts an assumption made by some that remote employees are inclined to be less productive than those who come to the workplace. Microsoft found:

  • The number of meetings held per week has increased 153 percent for the average Microsoft Teams since 2020
  • Overlapping meetings increased by 46 percent per employee in 2022
  • Declines and tentative RSVPs has increased by 84 percent and 216 percent, respectively.
  • 42 percent of employees send emails or pings during online meetings

In addition, 48 percent of employees and 53 percent of managers reported that they’re burned out. (Occupational burnout has been shown to be a contributing factor for productivity decline, exhaustion, depression, anxiety and other physical and mental health concerns.)

Whether employees are in remote, hybrid or in-office settings, their employers face the challenge of preventing and managing work-related physical discomfort associated with prolonged sitting and screen time, as well as mental health disorders associated with stress, burnout, lack of human connection and “brain drain.”

WorkCare has a solution. Our Industrial Athlete Program features onsite and virtual office consultations provided by industrial injury prevention specialists with training in ergonomics (people, workstations and tasks), sports medicine, wellness and safety. They coach office employees on best work practices and managers on ways to help employees be comfortable and productive.

Contact us to learn more.