Managers Beware: Your Employees Want to Quit, Not Return to the Office

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 7, 2021

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A woman carrying a box of belongings waves goodbye to coworkers as she leaves the office.

Image source: Getty Images

Some workers would rather quit their jobs than report to an office.

A lot of people got used to working remotely during the pandemic, and given that many have done it for about 18 months, they're reluctant to see it end. In a recent Upwork survey, 62% of U.S. professionals say they are returning to an office at least part-time. But 34% of workers aren't happy about that. And 17% of people who have worked remotely during the pandemic say they'd probably or definitely consider looking for another job if they're forced to report to an office.

Employers, consider yourselves warned

At this stage, many people feel they've proven they can be productive working from home. After all, they've had no choice for the past year and a half.

It's important that employers recognize that not wanting to return to an office may not be a matter of laziness. Rather, for some people, it could stem from health concerns. Some people can't receive a coronavirus vaccine due to medical constraints. Others may be immune-compromised, and therefore less protected even if they got a vaccine.

It's imperative that employers address health-related concerns before mandating an office return. That could mean instituting policies stating only vaccinated employees can come into work or mandating vaccines and daily testing.

But health concerns aside, there are other reasons employees don't want to come back to the office. First, there's the lack of flexibility. Working in an office means not being home to accept deliveries or meet a child at the school bus stop. The result? Extra hassles and higher childcare costs.

Furthermore, many people don't want the expense of commuting. They also don't want to waste time rotting away in traffic or waiting for a bus when they could just as easily spend those hours plugging away at home.

Finally, some people may feel that their productivity will take a hit if they return to an office. The upside of working from home is avoiding coworker distractions. Returning to a workplace changes that dynamic and could make it harder for some people to do their jobs.

Employers need to step up

Employers who don't want to lose valued staff members should consider being as flexible as possible with return-to-work plans. That could mean allowing employees to work from home part-time or even offering subsidies for expenses like transportation.

Along these lines, employers could also lessen the blow by offering workers raises once they return to the office. Working remotely can be a huge source of savings, one that many people have enjoyed for well over a year. Modest raises could help workers better adjust to new circumstances.

At a time when so many companies are experiencing labor shortages, many employers can't afford to let integral staff members go. The fact that 17% of employees would rather quit than report to an office should serve as a wakeup call for companies to rethink those plans and explore arrangements that might better serve the people who work for them.

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