It seems many major employers are becoming less nervous about implementing adamant, wholesale return-to-the-office mandates.
Over the past 18 months, they’ve steadily progressed from inviting employees to come back, then encouraging/incentivizing them, and then requiring their attendance, albeit with a seeming lack of enforcement. The next step, one that we’re seeing now, is enforcing those requirements that many employees have simply ignored.
Offices are slowly filling up. A recent study documented that during the pandemic, 55% of workers who could do their jobs from home did exactly that. Now, 41% are working hybrid and only 32% are still working full-time from home.
Other studies have confirmed higher productivity rates for in-house data-entry workers and those engaged in repetitive-type tasks compared to their counterparts who work from home. These analyses justify the back-to-the-office push, at least within the tech industry. Productivity differences between the two work models for other white-collar jobs are harder to quantify, although there is anecdotal evidence that remote work is having the following negative impacts:
- Harming collaboration, idea sharing and, most important, innovation.
- Making it more difficult for new and younger employees who are seeking mentorships and learning opportunities.
- Difficulty establishing internal and external professional networks.
Other experts point to the fact that office friendships can lead to happier, more productive employees. Humans are social creatures and need connection, even if they don’t realize it! Some employees are even finding that going back to the office is improving their work-life balance, because work isn’t always just a step away during off hours.
There are several other encouraging signs that offices will continue filling up, albeit with smaller office footprints. First, major companies, including Amazon, Meta and Zoom, are joining X, Tesla, JP Morgan Chase and Disney to enforce their return-to-the-office policies, whether full time or hybrid. Second, Q1 2023 saw office space leasing by law firms reach all-time Q1 highs.
Third, and maybe most significant, federal government agencies are hearing from the White House that they must bring employees back to the office this fall, ostensibly to provide better service to American citizens. Just as important, though, seems to be the need to revitalize the Washington, D.C. economy and better utilize empty, expensive office space.
We’re in a new normal to be sure. Hybrid arrangements are likely here to stay for some industries. But the dynamic, collaborative office environment is making a significant comeback.
If you are ready to bring your people back and need space / more space, contact us.