Return To Office: 14 Timely Questions Answered

The Hub For Return To Office (RTO) News & Data

RTO news & sentiment by company: Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Bank Of America, Goldman SachsJP Morgan Chase, Meta (Facebook), Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo

Return To Office

There has been a ton of chatter about companies’ return to office plans. Here’s the executive summary:

  • Everyone who could work from home in early 2020 started to do just that
  • Most people liked it
  • But management teams have leases to pay
  • So now, big companies are calling employees back to the office in some form (whether that’s a full return or hybrid)

Today, I’ll answer a number of questions about this new term, the “return to office” (or RTO). Click on a question below that interests you to jump to the answer.

  1. Will we ever return to the office?
  2. Why should companies return to the office after COVID?
  3. Are companies returning to the office?
  4. When will companies return to the office?
  5. What companies are delaying their return to office?
  6. Do employees want to return to the office?
  7. Can your employer force you to return to the office?
  8. What should you do if you don’t want to return to office?
  9. How can you refuse to return to the office?
  10. Why should we return to the office?
  11. How can you support employees returning to the office?
  12. How should you encourage employees to return to the office?
  13. When will banks return to the office?
  14. How do you feel about returning to the office?

 

>> Looking for a permanently remote job? I always recommend Flexjobs

 

Common Questions About The Return To Office (RTO)

 

Will we ever return to the office?

This list of the Fortune 100’s RTO plans is the best way to find an answer. In March of 2022, I did an analysis of the Fortune 100 and this is what I found:

  • 18% have returned to the office partially (hybrid, some office locations but not others, or on a trail basis)
  • 6% returned to the office but didn’t share the capacity
  • 3% have returned in full with all employees expected back (Exxon Mobil, JPMorgan Chase, Citi)

That means that 73% of the Fortune 100 haven’t shared their return or haven’t returned at all.

In summary, there will be a return to the office of some sort (mostly hybrid), but you’ll see big portions of the workforce remain remote permanently and many empty offices.

 

Why should companies return to the office after COVID?

Many companies have already stated they will operate on a remote-first or hybrid basis. For the ones that do want to return to the office, there are a few common factors:

  • The management team views in-person collaboration and work as superior to remote
  • Management teams weren’t prepared for remote work, operated poorly during the remote time, and perceive the office as superior
  • The company has commitments to office space (owned or lease) and facing sunk cost fallacy
  • The company’s business has ties to commercial real estate (particularly banks) that have a vested interest in seeing office space maintain its usefulness

 

Are companies returning to the office?

As of March 2022, of the Fortune 100 companies

  • 18% have returned to the office partially (hybrid, some office locations but not others, or on a trail basis)
  • 6% returned to the office but didn’t share the capacity
  • 3% have returned in full with all employees expected back (Exxon Mobil, JPMorgan Chase, Citi)

That means that 73% of the Fortune 100 haven’t shared their return or haven’t returned at all.

 

When will companies return to the office?

  • There were plans to return to the office in the fall of 2020 that were delayed by the Delta variant
  • There were plans to return to the office in the fall of 2021 – winter of 2022 that were delayed by the Omicron variant
  • The first real wave of return-to-offie dates occurred in March and April of 2022

 

What companies are delaying their return to office?

As of April 2022, these companies have delayed a return to the office date without planning a new one: Amazon, Home Depot, Intel, Proctor & Gamble, Prudential Financial, Raytheon, Cisco, AbbVie, Nationwide, Abbot Laboratories, Travelers, Capital One. You can view all of the delays and postponements for the Fortune 100 here.

 

Do employees want to return to the office?

According to a Gallup poll, “Nine in 10 remote workers want to maintain remote work to some degree.” According to a research from Robert Half, half of respondents currently working from home (50%) would look for a new job if their company required a full-time return to the office

 

Can your employer force you to return to the office?

Laws differ by state and country, so there is no single answer to this question. The general rule of thumb in the United States is that an employer can determine the location in which work needs to be done.

 

What should you do if you don’t want to return to office?

Make a pitch to your employer about working permanently remote or hybrid. You can present the benefits to the employer and employee to make a well rounded case. If that doesn’t work, you can search for fully remote companies to guarantee your next role is remote.

 

How can you refuse to return to the office?

Generally, employees cannot refuse to return to the office in the United States. However, if you’ve proven valuable enough to your team, you could pitch to work remotely full time. It would be on the management team to decide to offer that or not. Or if enough people at the company want a permanently remote policy, you could put together a group pitch to the management team.

 

Why should we return to the office?

These are the four most common reasons leadership teams want to return to the office:

  • The management team views in-person collaboration and work as superior to remote
  • Management teams weren’t prepared for remote work, operated poorly during the remote time, and perceive the office as superior
  • The company has commitments to office space (owned or lease) and facing sunk cost fallacy
  • The company’s business has ties to commercial real estate (particularly banks) that have a vested interest in seeing office space maintain its usefulness

 

How can you support employees returning to the office?

Offer flexibility in two ways (that wasn’t offered previously in the office):

  1. Through hybrid work (working from home a few days per week and in the office a few days per week)
  2. Through flexible schedules so that employees could skip rush hour, and start and end the day at times that work for them

Other ways include highlighting the benefits of the office (for example, if every meeting is still on Zoom, people would rather be at home) and offering a phased return.

If none of that works, just go remote already.

 

How should you encourage employees to return to the office?

If most of your employees would rather work remotely (and your business is running well), then stay remote. That’s solution number one. If a return to the offie is still required, offer flexibility (hybrid work and flexible schedules) and up the in-office benefits.

 

When will banks return to the office?

Based on our research of the Fortune 100, banks have been the most likely and earliest to return to the office.

  • Morgan Stanley’s CEO wants a return to the office
  • Goldman Sachs returned on February 1, 2022
  • JPMorgan Chase returned on February 1, 2022
  • Bank of America returned on March 1, 2022
  • Wells Fargo returned on March 14, 2022

 

How do you feel about returning to the office?

The New York Times is looking to share stories from people returning to the office. If you’d like to share your story for a chance to be featured, visit this page.

If you’d like to contribute your thoughts about the future of work, we’d love to hear your ideas here.

About the author

Henry OLoughlin

Hi, I'm the founder of Buildremote. I have worked from home for a decade and run a fully remote, four-day work week company for eight years. I've made all of the mistakes running a remote company. I hope if you read my site, you'll be spared.

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