Do You Have A Planned Date For Returning To The Workplace?

If your organization is like many who moved to remote work due to COVID-19, employees still don't know the plans for returning to the office.

As the Omicron variant continues to ravage the U.S., many companies still have no planned date for returning to the workplace, according to a new survey from The Conference Board.

The survey reveals that nearly half of businesses whose workplace plans were upended by the latest COVID-19 waves have not communicated plans for returning to the physical workplace. It also found that only 9 percent of employees are currently working in the office full time. What’s more, concerns about contracting COVID-19 and exposing family members have doubled over the last seven months.

returning to the workplace
(Photo: AdobeStock)

More than 2,000 U.S. workers weighed in on topics including returning to the workplace, career plans, factors driving them to pursue new job opportunities, mental health, and more.

When it comes to the workplace, the survey revealed that the recent rise of COVID-19 cases resulted in 71 percent of respondents’ companies delaying plans to return to the workplace or reverting to remote/hybrid work. Of those, 30 percent had been back in the workplace and reverted to remote/hybrid work, and 41 percent rescheduled or cancelled plans to return. Nearly half (48 percent) have not determined a date to return to the physical workplace.

Less than one in 10 survey respondents (9 percent), who are primarily knowledge workers, are in the office full time: 46 percent are fully remote, while 45 percent work a hybrid schedule, with some days remote and some in the office.

COVID-19 Fears On The Rise

Concerns over COVID-19 have doubled over the last eight months, according to the survey. In fact, two years into the pandemic one in five workers surveyed is still not comfortable returning to the workplace.

  • 48 percent say exposing family members to COVID-19 was among their greatest concerns in returning to the workplace.
  • 48 percent say contracting it personally was among their greatest concerns.
    • Eight months prior: In May 2021, exposing family members to COVID-19 or contracting it personally were of greatest concern to 28 and 24 percent, respectively.
  • 43 percent question the wisdom of returning to the workplace given the belief that productivity remained high while working remotely, the same as in May 2021.

Individual contributors are nearly four times as likely (30%) to be uncomfortable returning to the workplace as CEOs (7%). At 22%, women are slightly more uncomfortable returning than men (16%).

“Amid the vast uncertainty with returning to the workplace, coupled with the strong discomfort many feel about returning, these results make clear: This relentless pandemic continues to dictate workplace plans and policies,” said Rebecca Ray, Executive Vice President, Human Capital, The Conference Board. “The need for continued flexibility, transparency, and empathy from management remains a top priority. While many are eager to return to a sense of normalcy, simply mandating a return date and highlighting the safety protocols that will be in place is not enough; leaders need to articulate a compelling reason to return to the workplace at all.”

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