5% of Employees Want the Full-Time Office Back. How Are Managers Handling That?

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The numbers are in on remote and hybrid work preferences—and not everyone wants the same kind of workplace. How can managers make everyone happy?

Most employees want remote or hybrid work arrangements. They say it’s a dramatic boost to their mental and physical wellbeing, not to mention their job satisfaction and productivity. But a handful of professionals still prefer the office. Here’s how we’re seeing leaders leverage Upflex to make sure everyone has access to the workplace experience that suits them best.

FlexJobs recently released their Work Insights Survey, exploring workers’ attitudes about remote and hybrid work. From May 3, 2023, to May 21, 2023, the company surveyed over 5,600 working professionals in a study on the impacts of recent workforce changes on physical and mental health. Here are some of the big takeaways from that survey — and how leaders are navigating (and budgeting for) the fact that not all their team members want to work the same way, in the same place.

Everyone works differently

Different people like different ways of working. Sometimes this is a matter of team dynamics, workplace culture, or just individual needs and preferences.

For example, we know remote work can be an equalizer for economically disadvantaged team members, a financial and mental wellness benefit for parents and caregivers in the workplace, and even a safety accommodation for some team members. In an October 2022 report by McKinsey, 9 out of 10 women surveyed reported wanting to work primarily remotely, with many saying they experience fewer micro-aggressions and feel psychologically safer at home than in an office. This was especially true for minorities and under-represented groups, including women of color, LGBTQ women, and women with disabilities.

This recent FlexJobs survey found that more women (58%) than men (42%) want fully remote workspace policies, according to the survey.

95% of workplace professionals surveyed wanted to work outside of the office at least sometimes. Image: FlexJobs

While different people have different needs and preferences, here’s the great unifier: Workers want flexibility. In fact, I can tell you that 100% of employees like having the flexibility to work where and how they want — even if they choose the traditional office, five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And according to this survey, the 5,600 workers polled split into three gropus:

  1. those with a preference to work in a hybrid arrangement and come into the office sometimes (41%);
  2. those who want to be fully remote (54%); and
  3. those who prefer to work from an office every workday (5%).

The individual benefits of flexible work

When and where people do their jobs is inextricable from their overall well-being, their mental health, their job satisfaction, and their productivity levels.

According to the recent survey, 96% of respondents said a remote or hybrid workplace would best support their mental health. In terms of mental health, survey respondents said workplace flexibility allowed them

  • decreased stress,
  • decreased anxiety and depression;
  • less burnout;
  • improved personal relationships; and
  • better mental health overall.

But it helped their physical wellness, too, allowing them to

  • get better sleep,
  • make healthier food choices,
  • exercise more, and
  • generally improve their overall physical health. 

The survey also found that 87% of respondents said commuting impacts their stress levels to some degree, with 29% noting that commuting causes them “enormous” stress and another 29% saying it’s a major mental health factor, impacting stress “a lot.” By this measure, commuting alone could be a key reason why so many people prefer workplace flexibility.

Employee satisfaction for all

The survey found that 8% of respondents wanted the option to work remotely on occasion, while being mostly in-office, while 4% want to be in the office every day. An additional 17% like the idea of a hybrid policy that involves spending two to three days per week in the office. That’s almost one in three employees who relies on the office for their mental well being is no small amount, but many companies are finding that a long-term lease and the overhead costs associated with a traditional office space aren’t sustainable when so many desks are going empty day to day.

The survey found that 8% of respondents wanted the option to work remotely on occasion, while being mostly in-office, while 4% want to be in the office every day. Image: FlexJobs

And recall, 5% of survey respondents said they want to work in an office full-time. One in every 20 team members. Considering the cost of candidate recruitment and acquisition, and the affect that low job satisfaction has on the bigger picture, this isn’t something good managers are going to overlook.

Leveraging Upflex’s global flex space network, HR and real estate leaders have the ability to customize workspace access by geography, by team, and even by individual employee, so everyone can work where and how they like best.

We’re seeing clients do this to make sure that the employees who do want to work from an office, with other team members, every day, have the ability to do so — without the spend on a massive, fully equipped leased space that has dozens (or more) desks sit empty every day.

With Upflex’s “On Demand” solution, companies can stop paying for desks they don’t use, putting together a workspace strategy based on the perfect balance of company needs and employee preferences, and tracking uptake in a data-rich analytics dashboard to monitor remote versus in-office work down to the team or individual, along with desk utilization, spend, third-party flex space bookings according to factors like geography, and overall success, so they can iterate, budget, and plan for the future.