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Are We All Back  At the Office or Not?

Are We All Back At the Office or Not?

Feb. 2, 2022
Safety is still a concern, according to a new Conference Board survey.

The simple answer is no.

A survey released by The Conference Board on February 1, found that only  9% of employees -- most of them knowledge workers -- are currently working in the office full time. Some 46% work remotely and 45% have a hybrid schedule.

And is there a plan in place to return?

Well, partially. About 50% of those surveyed said that they have not communicated a plan to employees about returning back to the office.

The reason that so many companies don’t have plans is that 71% had to change their original plans due to the recent COVID-19 surges. Of the companies that don't have plans at this time, 30% that had returned the office had to pack back up and move back to a remote/hybrid schedule. And 41% of these companies have rescheduled or even canceled plans to return.

Comfortable levels with regard to coming into the office are still shaky with one in five workers not comfortable at all, while 40% are moderately comfortable.

Looking at CEOs, comfort levels compared to regular employees revealed some unusual results. While 30% of individual contributors, as the survey calls them, were uncomfortable coming back to the office, just 7% of CEOs felt that way.

Fear is Still There

When asked about people’s stand with regard to fear about the virus, concerns have doubled over the last eight months. Around 48% say their greatest fear about coming back to the office was potentially exposing family members. An equal amount, 48%, said they were afraid of contracting the virus themselves.

And maybe one of the most interesting findings was that 48% question the wisdom of returning to the workplace given the belief that productivity remained high while working remotely, the same as in May 2021.

“Amid the vast uncertainty with returning to the workplace, coupled with the strong discomfort many feel about returning, these results make clear: This relentless pandemic continues to dictate workplace plans and policies,” said Rebecca Ray, executive vice president, Human Capital, The Conference Board, said in a statement.

“The need for continued flexibility, transparency, and empathy from management remains a top priority," Ray added." While many are eager to return to a sense of normalcy, simply mandating a return date and highlighting the safety protocols that will be in place is not enough; leaders need to articulate a compelling reason to return to the workplace at all.”

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