I’ve worked from home since 2006—14 years before the pandemic accelerated organizations’ digital transformations. Now, it’s 2022 and CNBC reports “50% of companies want workers back in office 5 days a week.” In September 2022, CNN shared “69% of mid- to large-sized employers say they require employees with jobs that can be done remotely to be at work a set number of days, according to new survey data from business consulting firm Gartner.”
Goldman Sachs is ready to call employees back to the office.
This analyst was asked to return to the office five days a week.
The media is abuzz with stories of companies vis-à-vis their executives who want remote workers to be office workers once more.
This got me thinking.
What would make me or any virtual worker go back into the office full-time? So, I took to the Internet and asked: If you are currently working hybrid or fully virtual/remote, what would an employer need to do/offer you to entice you to work in the office 5 days/week?
According to respondents, the top two potential motivators to head back into the office five days a week are an increase in pay and the ability to own their daily schedule. When it comes to pay, a small bump up is not enough. Individuals cite it needs to be “substantial,” “significant,” “triple my current salary,” or “double my pay.” Some were very specific in sharing that it would need to be $50,000, a 40 percent increase, or even “one billion dollars.”
Not surprising, schedule is also a key theme. Flexibility over when to start and end the work day is something respondents appreciate and want. People want to “work the hours I choose so I can work when I am at my best.” Ownership over their day is also about being able to better manage all other aspects of life, such as getting kids to and from school (which is something I can relate to), as well as taking care of their well-being and fitness, and fitting in various appointments.
Additional potential motivators to dust off the suit and tie for the in-office 9 to 5 include (in order):
- Shorter commute — as in a 10-minute commute, people no longer want time-consuming commutes which are seen as time away from living other parts of their lives
- No cubicles — individuals want a modern, private space with a door where they can create their own setting (and work free of distractions )
- Free food — and it needs to be healthy options and good coffee (really good coffee)
- Gas reimbursement — if they have to go in, they want employers to pay
- Pet-friendly — bringing people back may mean bringing all the dogs named Banjo, Moose, and Taco, too
Now, money and food might motivate some. But for nearly 30 percent of others, there was a clear sentiment that “nothing” will make them return to an office five days a week. “There are so many pluses to working from home, I’m not sure even more money could get me to go back.” And, possibly my favorite comment is, “Nothing. Even if they backed a money truck up to my house, the greater quality of life I've gained by working at home is priceless to me.” There is clearly a portion of the working population that will not go back into the office. Ever.
The relationship people have with employers is changing. It will continue to as people reassess the commitments they make in their lives.
At exaqueo, we developed the Employment Relationship Model to look at and assess four key employment relationship dimensions: the relationship employees have with the Organization, Leaders, Coworkers, and Work. We use this model to go beyond the employer value proposition (EVP). As I reflect on these relationship dimensions, and this recent online conversation, I don’t think the relationship with Work has fundamentally shifted. People want to do good work and they want others to care about their work. I think the shift is greatest in the Organization relationship.
The Organization relationship is primarily measured in trust including: do I trust my organization to align with my values, reward me, to provide stability, to continue to provide opportunities, to make good decisions, to hire great people? I think people want employers to trust that they will continue to do the work, but they don’t need to be in the office to do so. The work from anywhere proof of concept, in the eyes of many professionals, is validated.
What about you? If you are currently working hybrid or fully virtual/remote, what would an employer need to do/offer you to entice you to work in the office 5 days/week?
Disclaimer + Methodology
This post is intended as a conversation starter. It is the summary of a very unscientific “study” conducted over the course of two days in September 2022. The methodology included posting the above question to Reddit (41 unique respondents), LinkedIn (27 unique respondents), and my personal Facebook page (24 unique respondents). Additionally, I had three one-on-one conversations with local friends. In total, 95 unique respondents answered one simple question. Due to the majority reliance on my personal networks, respondents skew American, professional, female, mid-40s, and working mothers. While not a statistically significant sample, I do believe the themes are insightful. And, if I were to run a full research study, I believe the likelihood of similar thematic results would be high.
Note from the author
Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts on this subject. I kept quotes anonymous just in case! Also, it is not lost on me that working from home and having amazing flexibility at work is a gift. To the first manager who offered me a remote role and the leaders since, thank you for trusting me and creating opportunities that have allowed me to thrive, personally and professionally.