October 27, 2021

BambooHR Study: Post-COVID Workplaces Are Slow to Return to Normal

The reality of returning to physical work spaces is proving a disappointment for many employees, according to new research from BambooHR, the industry's leading cloud-hosted software provider dedicated to powering the strategic evolution of human resources. A recently completed in-depth study found that nearly half (43%) of office workers found returning to the office did not match their hopes.

BambooHR surveyed 1,000 working adults in the United States to better understand attitudes around returning to work and adoption of models like hybrid work in a rapidly evolving environment. It found that many employees were not eager to return to in-person work, even as workplaces slowly began to reopen. A vast majority (82%) of offices have re-opened with an option for or requiring employees to return full-time, and of those, just 32% of respondents had actually returned to full-time work from the office.

"At some point in March 2020 we all said goodbye to our coworkers and expected we would see them again in a couple of weeks, but instead many of us have become permanent remote workers," said Cassie Whitlock, head of HR at BambooHR. "As companies reopen workspaces, it's important to understand what their people are expecting and how to manage reality in order to create a positive outcome for everyone."

Additional findings and insights from BambooHR's study include:

The expected benefits of returning are not matching the reality of being back. BambooHR asked respondents to consider the differences in what they wanted from returning to the office and how it matched their actual experiences.

One in three (37%) office workers said they actually felt worse being in the office than they did at even their lowest point during remote work.

The presumed benefits of returning to an office were not materializing:

61% of people had wanted in-person collaboration, but only 49% saw any benefit from actually experiencing it
54% of people expected higher productivity, but only 35% found they were more productive
37% of people hoped to feel a deeper sense of company culture, but only 21% felt it was happening
27% of people expected better employee retention and loyalty, but only 19% had seen it

In-office perks have also been curtailed for many during the pandemic, according to 61% of employees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in-office food and beverage took the biggest hit, with free coffee and drinks (gone, said 30%), free snacks (23%), a cafeteria (23%) and catered meals (18%) which were once prominent but now no longer offered.

People also like the upside of working from home. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for many families. But people aren't necessarily eager to return to long commutes, regimented hours and more time away from family and friends. The simple comforts of being in one's own home are an additional draw for many.

When asked why they prefer to work from home, 53% of respondents indicated they didn't want to commute. COVID-19 risk was still a major factor, as well, for 45% of respondents. Other motivating factors included maintaining work schedule flexibility (45%), not wanting to dress up for the office (43%) and preferring to use their own bathroom (41%).

Not surprisingly, working parents had additional motivating reasons for wanting to work from home, with 42% of parents with children under 18 indicating they wanted to be closer to home and have more flexibility with their kids.

Cost was also a contributing factor as working from the office costs the typical worker 32% more than working remotely.

Younger generations are more eager to work in an office environment. Many may assume that widespread changes to the traditional work setup are driven by younger employees, but it's older workers who are less interested in returning to in-person environments.

Only 28% of millennials and 27% of Gen Zers were interested in full-time remote work, while 33% of Gen Xers and 41% of baby boomers said they preferred working from home.

48% of Gen Zers and 45% of millennials believed they would be more productive in the office, which was a driving factor for many respondents to return to in-person work. In contrast, only 32% of Gen Xers and 30% of baby boomers thought they would be more productive in the office.

Gen Zers were most interested in seeing colleagues and being social in an office space, with 52% indicating that was a driving factor for returning. Social interaction was of equal importance for millennials (44%) and Gen Xers (44%), and just slightly lower for baby boomers (40%).

Executives and employees don't agree on remote work. 43% of rank-and-file employees believed that the majority of people at the company wanted to work remotely full time. However, only 32% of managers felt the same and just 22% of VPs agreed.

A lack of trust seems to be driving this disconnect between leadership and employees. 66% of leaders at the VP level and 58% of managers want employees back in the office so they can monitor work and have greater control over time.

10% of respondents indicated that leaders at their companies were allowed to work from home, but regular employees were not.

To access BambooHR's full report, visit: https://www.bamboohr.com/resources/infographics/hybrid-work-expectations-vs-reality

Survey Methodology
BambooHR conducted this research using an online survey prepared by Method Research and distributed by Dynata among n=1,000 adults ages 18-64 in the United States who previously worked full-time in an office/desk job setting, who are currently working remotely or have since March of 2020, and whose company offices have reopened in some capacity in the last year. The sample was equally split between gender groups, with a nationally representative geographic spread of respondents. Data was collected from August 12 to August 23, 2021.

About BambooHR
Serving more than 25,000 organizations and almost two million employees worldwide, BambooHR is the only HR software designed for small and medium-sized businesses. BambooHR makes it easy for growing companies to manage essential employee information in a personalized, cloud-based, and secure system. BambooHR customers include innovators like Asana, SoundCloud, Foursquare, Freshbooks, Stance, Reddit, and Magnolia Homes. With customers in 100 countries, BambooHR's goal is to set HR professionals and organizations free to do great work. BambooHR also hosts more than 30,000 HR professionals at its annual HR Virtual Summit. To find out more, visit bamboohr.com or follow @bamboohr on social media.


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