Skip to main content

Envoy’s Return to the Workplace Survey reveals what employees really think about working in the office

As COVID-19 lingers, many companies continue to wrestle with reopening, even as scores of employees are already back in the workplace. With this in mind, we partnered with Wakefield to survey 1,000 US workers who’ve returned to the workplace within the past year. The findings present a strong case for thoughtful, employee-focused transition plans. 

When it comes to working onsite, here’s what employees really want: flexible work options, robust safety protocols, and better work experiences for all.

Employees want to be in the workplaceand they prefer a hybrid work model over fully remote

Given the choice, most employees want to go into the office in some capacity. A majority (71%) of employees would choose a hybrid work model, splitting work between in-office and remote. Only 12% would prefer to work remotely every day. Of those who embrace hybrid, 40% prefer to work in-office most of the time with some remote work. 16% would be satisfied to work full-time in the office.  

In-office work takes getting used to: Recently returned employees (1 week to 3 months) would prefer to work remotely most of the time (38%). But those who’ve been at the workplace longer (over 3 months up to a year), would elect to work mainly in the office (44%). 

A majority of Gen Z (67%) and Millennials (62%) would also choose to work mostly in-office over remotely. On-site work isn’t as popular with the Boomer crowd: only 42% would prefer to work mostly in-office. 

Separating work-life space is the new worklife balance

Almost all (95%) employees surveyed have experienced the advantages of being present on-site. Most see the upside in separating work life from home (46%), collaborating with co-workers in-person (44%) and hanging out with work friends (39%). They desire to build stronger bonds, in-person. 

Apart from separating work from home, Gen Z employees get the most benefit from face-time with managers at the office (43%). Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers find it easier to collaborate with co-workers while on-site (45%). 

Employees crave an even better workplace experience 

While employees benefit from working on-site, they also look to their companies to create great workplace experiences that make the transition from remote to hybrid work easier. 44% of respondents say they would like their companies to implement health checks or vaccine verifications for peace of mind.  

Additionally, employees want to coordinate schedules with co-workers (32%); enter the workplace using contactless technology (29%); and have access to virtual whiteboards that make brainstorming sessions with remote co-workers more effective (25%). 

COVID-19 and its variants are ever-present concerns

Those working in the office (43%), either in a hybrid capacity or full-time, are more worried about exposure and transmission of COVID. For employees of color, the concern is significant: 21% lose sleep over it compared to just 11% of their white co-workers. 

59% of employees feel their companies are adequately protecting them. Younger generations are more skeptical: Only 38% of Gen Z believe their company is taking enough safety precautions. 

Most employees don’t have a problem with vaccine mandates at work. In fact, 60% percent would prefer workplace vaccine requirements. Just over half (51%) of those surveyed work for companies that require vaccinations. 

A majority (87%) of employees have concerns about being in the workplace. The top two are health and safety-related. 

  • Exposure to COVID and variants (46%) 
  • Interaction with non-vaccinated co-workers (30%)
  • Costs and time of commuting (30%) 
  • Limited flexibility to do personal activities (29%)  

Flexibility promotes employee satisfaction 

The survey reveals that 45% of employees who’ve returned to the workplace feel they didn’t have a choice, which has increased dissatisfaction. Of those who had no choice, more than a third (35%) say they’re more likely to want to leave their job compared to 18% of those who had a choice to return.

Additionally, a greater percentage of women (51%) over men (40%) feel their choices were limited.  For their part, 48% Gen X felt they didn’t have a choice to return compared to 37% of Gen Z. The disparity is also seen in salary. Half of those who make less than $50K a year feel they had no choice but to return compared to only 38% of those who make over $100K. 

Despite limited options for some employees, stress levels for most workers (55%) remain steady since going back to the workplace. 18% percent report feeling less stressed while 27% say they are more so. More than any other generation, Millennials believe their mental health has improved by being in the workplace (36%).

There’s a real opportunity to make the workplace a fantastic place to be—one where employees actually choose to work. Leaders should be intentional about creating better experiences rather than relying on a rehash of past processes. Flexibility, hot desk booking technology, and safety precautions are a good start. The next step: Survey your own employees to understand their specific needs. They (and your workplace) will be better for it.


Methodology

Envoy partnered with Wakefield Research to survey 1,000 full-time US workers over the age of 18 who have returned to the office. Survey responses were collected between August 6 and August 13, 2021, using an email invitation and an online survey. “Returned” is defined as those working from the office at least 1 full day per week and they must have returned to the physical office in the last 12 months. 

The data has been weighted to ensure reliable and accurate representation of US office workers who have returned to the office. The overall margin of error for the findings is ±3.1% at a 95% confidence level.