Home vs office: Is it worthwhile to go back?

Have you returned to the office in the last year? You’re not alone.

Return-to-office (RTO) mandates have been a focus for companies around the world over the last year, and data from the 2024 Workplace experience trends & insights report sends a clear message: We’re heading back to the office.

In-person work has increased by more than 900% since 2022, and six in 10 hybrid and in-person employees now face RTO policies, according to the new report. The report surveyed 900 people working full-time at companies with over 1,000 employees in either a hybrid and/or fully remote work setting.

Just 3% of survey respondents were working in the office full-time in 2022, but that number jumped to 26% in 2023. Enthusiasm for a full-scale return, however, is tempered by an important question: Does the office, as it stands, justify the commute?

“As more and more workers return to the office post-pandemic, it’s essential to listen to their feedback on what we can do better,” said Tony DiBenedetto, Appspace CEO, adding there’s a generational divide in how workers are feeling as well. Gen Z is most in favor of a return-to-office policy at 77% while millennials are the least in favor at 59%.

While more than 60% of folks are in favor of returning to the office in some capacity, those same folks feel as though going into the office in its current state is a waste of time, according to the report.

How can we make going to the office worthwhile for employees?

It starts with doing more to improve the in-office experience. There’s no denying that collaboration and teamwork, access to resources and tech support, a clear work-life separation and opportunities to enhance company culture and employee engagement are some of the benefits of working in person.

“With employees wanting more flexibility and autonomy, organizations need to make sure the workplace experience meets these evolving expectations,” said DiBenedetto.

What does a good office experience versus a bad one look like? When asked to rank the top reasons they’re in favor of returning to the office, supporters said that aspects related to their ability to work productively and collaboratively outweigh surface-level benefits. Better technology was another reason folks want to return. People who want to work at home, however, cite a long commute as a negative impact. They also don’t want to give up the flexibility of being able to work from home.

While they may express an openness to return, employees still want flexibility and there’s a fine line to walk. Two days in office per week was the top pick among survey respondents, followed by one day and zero days.

It’s about purposeful consumption of the office

The key takeaway? When you listen closely to employees’ needs, you’ll hear consensus among RTO champions and detractors: They require a good reason to come into the office, an idea now known as purposeful consumption of the office.

But honoring employees’ preferences leaves employers with a challenging task ahead. The office space must be as good as – or even better than – existing WFH arrangements. Employers wanting RTO must ensure the experience (including the dreaded commute) is worthwhile, such as providing employees easy access to helpful technology, rather than flashy in-office perks.

Appspace helps HR succeed by removing major pain points. We eliminate clunky room booking, unreliable communication tools, and those frustrations that make RTO feel like a lost cause. If you’re looking to create an office employees actively choose – one that aligns with the ‘purposeful consumption” they crave – let’s connect.

If you want to know more about workplace trends, download the report.

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