You’ve likely heard about increases in remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s not the only reason why brands may have temporarily instituted remote work option or a type of hybrid model. Perhaps you’re one of many companies going back to the office following an office move, workspace renovation, or merger with another brand.
No matter why your corporate offices started working from home, you may have questions about your business’s motives for returning to office work in person. After time spent working away from the brick-and-mortar workplace, why are companies trying to return there?
In this guide, we’ll break down five possible answers to the crucial question, “Why are companies going back to the office?” We’ll also explore whether or not a return to office mandate is popular with employees and how hybrid work could fit into your management strategy.
#1 Equipment Availability
In 2022, 59% of workers whose jobs could be done at home found themselves working there most (or all) of the time, which has been one of the most common future-of-work trends since early 2020.1 But if you’re one of these workers, you might have discovered that a sudden change in your workplace didn’t exactly offer a smooth transition—perhaps because your home simply wasn’t set up to double as an office.
Workplace technologies are simply more available in the workplace. While working from home, you may have been keenly aware of your home’s lack of:
- Useful and productivity-boosting office furniture, like:
- Storage systems
- Meeting tables
- Height-adjustable desks and chairs
- Privacy dividers or pods for improved focus
- A high-quality, speedy internet connection
- Bright, energy-efficient lighting
- High-powered digital tools, including:
- Scanners and copy machines
- Multiple monitors in varying sizes
For many industries, working to the best of your ability requires numerous tools—tools that you simply might not have at home.
#2 Reduced Cyber Security Concerns
Cybersecurity risks can significantly increase for companies who support (or even mandate) a remote or hybrid work model. This is because:2
- Home internet connections are generally less secure than workplace connections, giving cybercriminals increased opportunities for network infiltration.
- In the presence of other workers, phishing concerns are less pressing—when corporate employees receive a suspicious email, for example, they can turn to a fellow employee for advice before clicking suspicious links. This isn’t as feasible for a remote worker.
- When faced with ransomware scenarios, employees working at home could have decreased access to IT support, leading to unfavorable responses to cybercriminals.
Company return to office policies can decrease overall cybersecurity concerns for business owners and employees alike.
#3 Improved Workplace Relationships and Culture
All of the virtual happy hours, team-building meetings, and holiday parties in the world simply can’t replace an in-person workplace culture.
And, if your brand team has been working from home for more than a year, you’ve probably hired new office workers during that time—people that other team members have never met in person.
For some companies, working together in person is the key to a positive, healthy workplace culture. On top of that positivity, a high-quality and flexible work environment may be crucial to boosting office productivity:3
- Healthy office cultures are linked to improved health and wellness of your team members.
- Positive work environments reduce stress, absenteeism, and turnover.
- Quality workplaces boost employee motivation and buy-in.
- Good working relationships ease collaboration efforts.
#4 Increased Executive Oversight
If you’re in a management or chief executive position at your company, working from home might produce anxieties about your ability to oversee your team’s work behaviors, patterns, and output quality.
Returning to the office simply provides more opportunities for oversight and monitoring. While your team may have experimented with remote monitoring tools and KPI tracking during your work-from-home phase, these tools have been shown to reduce employee trust—a phenomenon that can decrease morale, flexibility, productivity, and company loyalty.4
You can avoid both the feeling of reduced control and the ensuing employee distrust that comes from using digital tracking tools by returning to the brick-and-mortar office space.
#5 Return to Normalcy
At the end of 2019, only 20% of corporate employees worked from home—but by December of 2020, 71% of US workers were clocking in from their home offices.5 That’s a massive shift.
Although the workforce has changed significantly between 2020 and 2022, many workers and brands still haven’t adjusted to the transition—and, instead of forcing this change, many employers are opting to return to the status quo.
A return to offices might make it easier for employees to use company tools and tech, avoid cybersecurity risks, build and enjoy a positive workplace culture, and be available for management and executive oversight—but it also simply feels normal for many brands and workers.
Do Employees Want to Go Back into the Office?
The five reasons above are all valid justifications for why corporate offices are returning to the office. But, do workers actually want to return to the brick-and-mortar workplace?
A March 2022 study discovered two important findings:6
- Among executives whose companies primarily worked remotely between 2020 and 2022, 44% reported a desire to return to full-time, in-person office work.
- However, only 17% of employees at the same companies said that they wanted to leave their home offices for good.
Experts are describing this phenomenon as an “executive-employee disconnect.” But, while the study above is only one among many like it (though most of their findings were similar), your workplace might not be experiencing the disconnect.
The solution—ask your workers what they want to do, and provide flexible options that allow the best of both worlds.
Return to Office vs. Remain at Home: What’s the Solution?
If your office workers have mixed feelings about returning to the office full-time, consider a compromise—a hybrid work model. But what could hybrid working look like for your organization, and what are the benefits of a hybrid work model?
There’s neither one right way to return to the office nor one correct answer for incorporating hybrid work. Let’s break down four general hybrid work models to consider in company return to office considerations.
#1 Mixed Roles
Hypothetically speaking, imagine that your employees want to keep working from home or return to the office full-time in an even split. If this is the case, you could create a company structure that allows:
- The staff who want to work entirely from home to continue doing so
- The workers who want to return to the office to do so
- Team members who want a mix of both to create their own hybrid models
Creating this kind of workplace setup—while meeting your productivity, culture, flexibility, budget, and cybersecurity goals—won’t be easy. But it will give your staff the autonomy to choose how they want to work.
#2 Flex Time
In a flex time setup, employees can choose their own start and end times for their workdays.7 Essentially, as long as each employee meets their contractual working hours each week, they can log on or off whenever they please.
Obviously, this doesn’t work for every brand. Industries that might be able to incorporate flex time could include:
- Digital, architectural, or industrial design
- Writing, marketing, and advertising
Meanwhile, critical sectors might have to contend with the typical 9–5, daylight schedule, like:
- Stock market trading
#3 Scheduled In-Office and At-Home TIme
Offering scheduled at-home and in-office time could bridge the gap for brands facing the executive-employee disconnect described above. With this model, employees could reap the benefits of at-home work while meeting the needs of in-office executives with specific, intentional scheduling.
A hypothetical schedule could look like:
- Two days in the office and three days at home
- Alternating weeks working 100% in the office and 100% at home
- Individual days spent 50% in-office and at home
#4 Limited In-Office Time
For an employee base that’s very resistant to working in the office, consider limited in-office time. Such a model could allow staff to work from home the majority of the time, but require that they come in for:
- Critical meetings
- Project status updates
- Check-ins with clients or stakeholders
- Training and professional development sessions
- Workplace events, like:
- Team building exercises
- Holiday parties or celebrations
Setting Up Your Office for Hybrid Work Success
Keep in mind that each of the models above might require a significant overhaul of your office space—or even a move to a different facility that more adequately meets your space needs.
As you create a workspace that accommodates hybrid working models, consider implementing some of the following in your bespoke office:
- Flex workstations – Instead of assigning individual employees their own desks, offices, or pods, create workstations that can accommodate anyone who drops into the office to work. Incorporate height-adjustable chairs and desks, communal office supplies, and standardized digital equipment.
- Larger server rooms/IT equipment spaces – If you’re still feeling the growing pains of remote work, it might be time for a server room upgrade. To support increased cybersecurity, simpler employee access to the network, and more robust tech support, you might need to redesign your tech-dedicated areas.
- Reception changes – In your new office layout, and with decreased in-person staff, it might make sense to overhaul your visitor protocol. Changing your drop-in hours, adding self check-in for visitors, or integrating self-service kiosks could help you accommodate clients with reduced in-person staff.
- Monitors, screens, cameras, and mics – To accommodate hybrid meetings, leverage the power of tech. Use large monitors, individual microphones, smartboards, projectors, and other tools to make sure that everyone can contribute to the meeting no matter where they work.
Juniper Office: Crafting the Workspaces of Tomorrow, Today
Many companies going back to offices may be seeking a return to normalcy—but even if you’re one of them, that doesn’t mean you can’t find novel solutions that work for both you and your employees.
Your brand is unique, and you’ll have to create a one-of-a-kind solution for your team. But bespoke ideas require custom solutions. That’s where Juniper Office shines.
At Juniper Office, our workspace designs, products, and services are fast, easy, and turnkey—they’re ready to start working when (and where) you are. Our curated shopping experiences, design project management, and convenient installations can help you create a practical, modern, and bespoke office space that supports your one-of-a-kind brand.
High-powered brands like Google, Costco, Tesla, and more depend on Juniper Office—we have the horsepower, experience, and tools to help you build your dream workspace.
- Pew Research Center. COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Reshape Work in America. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2022/02/16/covid-19-pandemic-continues-to-reshape-work-in-america/
- Forbes. New dangers of Working from Home: Cybersecurity Risks. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hillennevins/2021/05/19/new-dangers-of-working-from-home-cybersecurity-risks/?sh=60a9812422fb
- Forbes. Company Culture Doesn’t Just Impact Well-Being—It Also Impacts Productivity. https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2020/03/13/company-culture-doesnt-just-impact-well-being---it-also-impacts-productivity/?sh=7a718dfe4197
- Forbes. Why 78% of Employers Are sacrificing Employee Trust by Spying on Them. https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcperna/2022/03/15/why-78-of-employers-are-sacrificing-employee-trust-by-spying-on-them/?sh=3bb9ddb81659
- Pew Research Center. How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has–And Hasn’t—Changed the Way Americans Work. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/12/09/how-the-coronavirus-outbreak-has-and-hasnt-changed-the-way-americans-work/
- CNBC. Making Sense of Why Executives Are Eager to Get Employees Back in the Office. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/08/return-to-office-why-executives-are-eager-for-workers-to-come-back.html
- University of California at Davis. Flextime. https://hr.ucdavis.edu/departments/worklife-wellness/flexiblework/flextime
- Forbes. Just 4% of Employers Are Making Everyone Return to the Office Full-Time, Survey Finds. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenamcgregor/2022/05/05/just-4-of-employers-are-making-everyone-return-to-the-office-full-time-survey-finds/?sh=7049a2cfe1a2