Return to Office Surveys
Data on views of returning to the office is limited.
Recognizing the new challenges facing millions of employers and employees who transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, NORC conducted an in-depth survey of human resources representatives about the views of American employers and employees on returning to the office. As a follow-up, NORC conducted a nationwide survey of paid employees who currently work in person or remotely.
Researchers surveyed 1,099 HR representatives of companies from a broad mix of industries and 1,153 paid employees who work in person and remotely.
NORC interviewed human resource (HR) representatives using the SHRM Voice of Work Research Panel, a unique survey panel that NORC built for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) that is designed to be representative of U.S. companies. The survey was conducted online in November and December 2022 and included open-ended follow-up questions that yielded much information about both employers and employees as viewed through the HR lens. Some of these HR departments had polled company employees about returning to the office, while others had not. Respondents were from companies where at least 10 percent of employees were either fully remote or on a hybrid schedule.
The public was surveyed using NORC’s AmeriSpeak omnibus panel in August 2023 and September 2023. Paid employees were asked open-ended questions about why they work in person or remotely.
HR representatives see a clear tension between employees and employers.
Less than half of HR representatives describe employees at their company as either happy or comfortable with returning to the workplace. Three-quarters say they are having a problem keeping employees who want to stay remote, and one in five describe it as a major problem.
About a quarter of HR representatives ascribed the loss of flexibility or work-life balance as the top reason for employee resistance to returning to the office full-time. Another quarter said employees had gotten used to working from home, or found it more productive, more convenient, or easier to get things done. And 16 percent mentioned the length or cost of the employees’ commute. Seventy-five percent of employees who work in person say it is required by their employer. Among hybrid employees (those who work both in person and remotely), 30 percent say their presence in the office is mandated some of the time. Twenty-two percent work in person part of the time in order to collaborate or bond with their co-workers.