Harris Poll conducted a survey in mid-May 2021 about this topic, and relayed the results to USA Today. The study revealed several key insights that we thought were important to share, as the country continues to re-open, and there are numerous thought-provoking questions and decisions you’ll need to make about how your workforce will do their jobs moving forward. Continue to read below to learn what the respondents shared.
Current work arrangements for the adults questioned include:
- 32% – Working from home all the time still
- 21% – Go to the office sometimes
- 19% – Back in their office full-time
- 27% – Never did work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic
If the individual could choose where they do their work:
- 40% would work remotely or from home permanently
- 35% would prefer a mix of working remotely and in the office
- Just 25% would elect to work in the office permanently
The results were interesting when poll participants were asked when they believed all workers at their company would return to the office full-time, being fairly close in almost all given options for their possible answer. Between 13%-19% of those asked chose either within a number of months (1, 1-3, or 4-6) or by the end of 2021. Four figures from this specific question really stood out though.
- 16% – Didn’t know when
- 9% – Not until 2022
- 4% – When the employees want to come back
- 6% – The company is becoming fully remote (meaning not returning to their pre-pandemic office location at all)
Regarding concerns about returning full-time to their offices, the respondents were basically evenly split between whichever ones listed from which they could choose. Just 9% indicated no concerns.
- Most chosen overall: Losing the flexibility gained while working from home
- Specific Concerns Related to COVID-19 and Health
- Most chosen: Being around people again
- 2nd most chosen: Possibly being around unvaccinated people
- 3rd most chosen: Social distancing protocols being abandoned
- 4th most chosen: Sharing spaces and appliances with others
- 5th most chosen: Going to in-person meetings
- Anxieties or Worries Unrelated to COVID-19 or Health
- Most chosen: Leery of having to engage in small talk
- 2nd most chosen: Getting back into their pre-pandemic routine
- 3rd most chosen: Fear of having forgotten their socialization skills
- 4th most chosen: Needing to travel for work
- 5th most chosen: Productivity decreasing from their lockdown levels
- 6th most chosen: Not being as articulate as they were before lockdown
Organizations are anxious to get back to full capacity as soon as possible, and for certain types of businesses and industries, that will mean workforces must be back at physical, brick-and-mortar locations for at least some period of time during the workday or workweek. This also helps reinstate and reinforce a company’s culture. While this is certainly an understandable position for companies to take, they need to keep in mind the tight labor market and stay abreast of the latest news on the current shortage of workers to fill open positions. Also, they must now realize that people have shown they can be effective in their jobs outside of an office environment, and for a great many, the arrangement is now their preference.
Options available which may remedy these challenges – or at least balance the opposing forces – are businesses accepting the fact that they may lose staff and will need to figure out a way to replace those who leave; and offering flextime, allowing remote working permanently, and compromising to accommodate what has been a way of life for their workers for almost 16 months.
Another shockingly simple option can be stated in just a single 3-letter word – ASK. 47% of participants in the May 2021 Harris Poll revealed that the organizations they work for have not even had a discussion or opened a dialogue with employees about their concerns with going back to work in their offices full-time, much less their level of interest in doing so. There are many takeaways for businesses as a result of the survey, and perhaps the most important one is the need to communicate with their valued workforce about moving forward together after the COVID-19 pandemic.