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Are People Going Back to the Office After Covid?

As people adapted to a new normal during the global coronavirus pandemic, employees all over the world became more used to the idea of remote working. Now that restrictions have eased and the threat of illness is less rife, are people going back to the office or have they become too comfortable with the setup of working from home?

Did people return to the office in 2022?

In 2022, there was a huge surge in the number of workers returning to the office, accompanied by an air of urgency from employers. Tensions were found between employers demanding that staff attend the office, and employees looking for more flexibility.

Data shows that in business hubs such as New York and London, there was increased use of public transport with more and more workers returning to the daily commute. This was especially true for white-collar workers. However, that said, by October 2022, these levels had only reached around 67% of pre-pandemic levels. Despite increasingly more workers returning to the office, it seems that many employees were still taking advantage of flexible working arrangements.

Employee expectations

In many companies, hybrid arrangements or flexible working has become widely accepted. There are plenty of employees who find a better work-life balance when working from home, able to juggle both work and familial commitments. Whether it’s doing a load of laundry during the day or managing childcare duties, remote working has offered greater flexibility for thousands of employees – read more here.

As well as increased job satisfaction, this greater flexibility has also been found to have a significantly positive impact on employee well-being. Various surveys have suggested that remote employees often report feeling happier when they are free to work from the location of their choice rather than in the office.

However, now that the full-time return to the office is becoming more common, many employees are not ready to say goodbye to the flexible working setup. In fact, when looking for jobs, there is now a large proportion of workers who will prioritise hybrid working setup or flexible working arrangements when choosing their next employer.

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This is something that employers may need to bear in mind when looking to recruit and retain talent. If they are offering the same job as competitors, but without the added benefit of flexible working arrangements, they could be sacrificing talent.

Is flexible working better for employers?

Some employers have learned to enjoy the benefits of remote working. Rather than paying the overheads for an office space that has the capacity to accommodate a full staff force, there are a lot of employers who have managed to make it a strategic decision to give staff flexible working arrangements.

In a hybrid workplace, rather than having an entire office space, organisations can arrange how many employees will be at the office at any given time. This means that they can arrange for staff to have office space only as and when they need it, allowing them to cut the costs of rent or other overheads.

What does 2023 look like regarding the return to the office?

With the threat of recession relatively high, the ball might be back in the court of the employer. As concern for job security increases, employees may be more likely to give into employer demand and, if that means a full-time return to the office, that may just be what they need to do.

There is still some doubt when it comes to working from home, with many business leaders still lacking confidence about productivity in a hybrid workplace setting. As a result, some employers are looking to bring their staff back to the office.

Not only that, but with household bills at an all-time-high, a heated office may not seem like such a bad trade off for employees.

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