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Job insecurity: Why employees will accept the return to the workplace

A PUSH survey found that UK workers are not keen to return to the office.

Allie Nawrat

return to office
Credit: Oliver Hatton via Twenty20.

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  • As the COVID-19 crisis begins to ease, employers are already looking to get their staff back in the office full time.
  • But employees are not so keen, according to research by PUSH — instead, they want some flexibility,
  • So why are workers reluctantly gearing up to return to the office?

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, some companies have already set a date for the return to the office.

Examples include JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. The former has decided to welcome employees back in May on a rotational basis – with a plan for them to return full time from July – while the latter wants its US and UK employees back in offices from mid-June.

But what do employees think about their employers push to return to the office?

A report by UK-based wellbeing and performance company PUSH found that 40% of Brits said they thought their employer would prefer them to return to the office as soon as possible and 36% said thought they would work in the office all of the time post-pandemic.

Despite this, 40% noted they did not actually want to return to the office full time — this increases to 50% for under 35s — which echoes findings of a March Infogrid UK survey.

This was because workers believed they were more productive at home (35%) and that working from home was better for their mental health.

Despite their reluctance to return, employees are still gearing up to go back to the office full time as lockdowns ease.

Why are employees not pushing back?

PUSH’s YouGov survey of 3,037 workers found that part of the reason why employees had accepted the return to the office was because of job insecurity. The study found that 32% believed that those returning to the office were more likely to get promoted. This rose significantly to 42% of the under 35s surveyed.

This comes back to the fact that some employers have made it clear that they do not trust employees to get work done while working from home, despite the fact that productivity seems to have increased while working at home.

Unfortunately, this situation is likely to lead to a new form of presenteeism where companies see that simply being in the office equals productivity.

[Read more: Remote working and productivity: why employee listening is key]

Instead of focusing on returning to the way things were, PUSH founder Cate Murden suggests companies need to learn lessons from pandemic remote working.

Murden commented: “The numbers that came back from this survey were shocking, but not surprising.

“If nothing else, it shows that we are still a long way from placing people at the heart of the organization and not just bottom lines.”

Instead of forcing their employees back into the office, PUSH recommends that companies take a step back and look at the human impact of these business decisions. The company advises that employers answer this question when considering the future of work: “how do we ensure that our people think, feel and do their best so that our businesses operate at peak performance?”

It is clear that employees need to feel certain that their career prospects are not at risk if they choose to work remotely at least some of the time. Remember, happy, empowered employees are the most productive ones.

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