I Don’t Want to Work in an Office — How to Overcome Back to Office Resistance

Empty office due to office resistance

No question working remotely has its benefits. But as companies begin to return to the office, there can be some resistance from employees. Many people object to the idea of returning to the office after working remotely for some time. Several factors contribute to this resistance, including the loss of flexibility, autonomy, and the safety of working from home.

There’s also the fact that returners may have to deal with long commutes, loss of the work freedom they get when working from home, and the loss of what had become a pleasant work-life balance. Rather than return to the office, many employees instead choose to become part of the Great Resignation

There are a few things you can do to overcome this resistance and successfully return to the office. However, the office itself may not be quite what you remember.

Returning to the office: the numbers

Back to the office resistance is a real thing. And it’s happening worldwide as leaders and managers push to return to the office while workers resist. The numbers show that return-to-office initiatives are not meeting the same level of enthusiasm as remote work. In a 2022 study by Ivanti, 71% of employees said they would rather work from anywhere than be promoted, and 45% didn’t want to return to the office for any reason.

So it’s clear that office resistance is real. The question for managers and leaders is, how do you prevent that resistance from turning into resignations?

Why don’t employees want to come back to the office?

There are many reasons why employees may not want to return to the office. By understanding the reasons behind employees’ reluctance, you can start to find ways to address them. Here are some of the most common reasons employees prefer remote work over coming back to the office.

Health concerns

First and foremost, there are health and safety concerns. During the pandemic, many people got used to social distancing and wearing masks, and they may not be ready to give up these safety measures. Additionally, returning to the office could pose a health risk for some employees, especially those more vulnerable to the virus.

Remote working has also been shown to have a number of health benefits, including reducing flu rates. So, for many people, returning to the office isn’t worth the risk.

The freedom of a better work/life balance

With remote work, employees can set their own schedules and take breaks when needed, which can be a big relief after years of being tied to a rigid 9-to-5 schedule. Working from home also allows employees to create their own work environment, which can be particularly beneficial for those with children or other caregiving responsibilities. Many workers simply enjoy the increased freedom and autonomy of working remotely.

While the return to the office may be inevitable for some, there are many compelling reasons why employees may not want to go back. The pandemic has given employees a taste of true freedom regarding their work schedule and location, and many are not keen to give that up. 

Time and money

Working from home can be more efficient in terms of time management and money savings. Commuting can take up a significant amount of time, and working from home provides employees with extra time to sleep or head to the gym. Working from home may mean less driving, so employees are using less fuel and saving money.

Parents, in particular, may appreciate saving on childcare expenses. They might not want to return to the traditional office setting with set hours and limited breaks. For these employees, returning to work would mean sacrificing their preferred way of working. Ultimately, each employee has different reasons for wanting or not wanting to return to the office, but time management and money savings are likely key factors in their decisions.

Productivity and efficiency

Numerous studies have shown that people are more productive when they work from home, without the distractions of colleagues and managers. A pre-pandemic study of 16,000 employees showed that those working remotely were 13% more productive than those in the office. This is likely because, at home, we can turn off notifications and focus on our work without interruption. For many people, the office is simply too distracting to get any real work done

Trust and autonomy

For most people, working from home has been a revelation. Unsurprisingly, there’s been resistance to a return to the status quo. Working from home provides more autonomy and indicates a high level of trust. Employers have to trust that employees are working hard and can’t micromanage them as they can in the office. Forcing people back to the office means a loss of autonomy and signals a loss of trust. 

The generation factor

Different generations seem to have different opinions on the matter, with Gen-Xers more likely to return to their 9-5 office-based routine and Millennials more resistant. Boomers are somewhere in the middle, although it’s worth noting that many of them are already retired. When it comes to active and passive resistance, it’s important to remember that just because a worker is currently against returning to the office, they may change their mind for the right reasons.

Bosses will need to step up and address the objections. A return to work may be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unpleasant. With careful planning and consideration, we can make the transition back to the office as smooth as possible.

Overcoming resistance to coming back to the office

If you’re hoping to get your employees back to the office, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, you’ll need to take a thoughtful, personalized approach with each employee. Some may be eager to return to the office, while others may prefer to continue working from home. Here’s how to make the best of both worlds.

Talk to your team

It’s important to have a conversation with your team about their comfort level with the transition. Don’t demand that everyone return to the office; ask and find out who is comfortable with coming back and who isn’t. Be sincere in your approach and try to get a clear picture of what percentage of your workforce is resistant to a return to the office. This will help you make the best decisions for your team as you move forward.

Discover the motivation behind the resistance

It’s important to understand the motivation behind this resistance so that you can address the issues effectively. In some cases, resistance may be due to environmental factors, such as a fear of contracting COVID-19. In other cases, it may be due to personal preferences, such as a preference for working from home.

Whatever the reason, it’s essential to take these concerns seriously and address them respectfully and clearly. Only by doing so can you create a return-to-work plan that meets everyone’s needs.

Evaluate what you learn

Take the time to sit back and understand the motivations behind your employees’ lack of interest in returning to the office. Not everyone is excited about the prospect of returning to work in person, and there are valid reasons for that. Take the time to understand your employees’ resistance and build trust through open communication.

This will help you develop empathy for their situation and give you insights into what solutions will work best for your team. With a return to the office roadmap in hand, you can confidently start planning for the future.

Make necessary changes to your business operations

You’ve learned the pain points; now it’s time to start taking action. For example, if long commutes are a resistance issue for your employees, consider introducing hybrid working or subsidizing paid-for transport solutions like pre-paid railcards. Similarly, if health concerns are a top worry, implement a hygiene overhaul of your workspace. By taking action on the issues that matter most to your employees, you help make the return to work a success.

Follow up

You must follow up with your team after they return to the office (or start working with a blend of in-office and remotely) to ensure the return is going smoothly. Meeting with individuals one at a time or holding group meetings can help you respond to feedback and resolve any issues employees may have.

By supporting your employees and showing them you have their back, they’ll know that you’re committed to a smooth transition back to work. So return to the office with a plan to follow up and support your employees they’ll appreciate it!

What is your office for?

The office is evolving. What was once a 9-5 hub for face-to-face interaction is now being replaced. The traditional office is no longer the only option for businesses. In fact, many businesses are finding that returning to the office post-pandemic looks quite different from what it used to. New ways of working like hybrid and agile working are growing in popularity. And activity-based workplaces are becoming more valued.

So what does the office mean for your business? Is it time to rethink the purpose and uses of your office space? The return to work will likely look different for everyone, but a few things are worth considering when determining the role of your office space.

First, think about the type of work you do. If you find you and your team are more productive when working remotely, you may want to consider downsizing your office space and introducing hybrid work options. Alternatively, if you need an office space for collaboration and creativity, you may want to rethink and make changes to your current office to better suit your needs.

Spend some time thinking about what your office is for. There are pros and cons to both remote and office work (hence the rise of hybrid working models), so it’s important to weigh all factors before deciding. No matter what direction you choose for your business, returning to work will require careful planning and consideration.

The new office is here

As more and more businesses begin to return to the office, employee resistance is inevitable. Understandably, people are apprehensive about returning to work after being away for so long. What a lot of traditional bosses are ignoring is that this can be a major advantage for their businesses. 

With so many studies showing the productivity gains (combined with the reduced stress and anxiety in teams offered the choice to work how best suits them), it’s bewildering why so many managers and CEOs are still resistant to a new vision of the office. Remote working combined with in-office days for meetings or brainstorming sessions can be utterly (and positively) transformative as we dive headlong into the next stage of the global digital transformation.

Understand the needs of your team, address those needs, and the office of yesterday will only become a distant nightmare as you stride headlong into potential.

Considering making the switch to a hybrid workplace? Cloudbooking can help. Our workspace management software has been designed to support agile principles so that you can successfully adopt a hybrid work model. Contact us now for a no-obligation product demo to learn more about how our software helps you embrace the future of work.

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