Here’s How Employees Really Feel About Returning To the Office


Most American adults will be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the coming weeks, which means many will be expected to return to their offices in the near future. After over a year of working remotely, some may find it tough to return to their offices, while others will find the switch back a welcome change. To find out how workers really feel about a return to the office, Envoy surveyed 1,000 full- and part-time employees — here’s what it found out.

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66% of Employees Are Worried About Their Health and Safety

Despite the vaccine rollout, the majority of Americans feel wary about returning to the office for health and safety reasons, the Envoy survey found.

“Simply put, there are real concerns among workers about whether or not the workplace will protect them once they return,” said Larry Gadea, founder and CEO of Envoy. “The data tells us that most employees fear their companies won’t adequately protect their health, and a majority are worried their workplace will relax COVID measures too early. For many people, it comes down to the idea that there is a concern that their colleagues may not take the same precautions that they do and that the workplace simply won’t have their backs.”

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The survey found that concerns are even higher among people of color (78%) and Gen Z (under age 25) employees (75%).

“Gen Z workers and POC employees [may] come into the workplace with a different set of priorities and concerns than older generations or white employees,” Gadea said. “These priorities and concerns are based both on their own personal experiences as well as the larger systemic forces or cultural factors that shape their communities and generations, and can often leave these groups feeling like the institutions that are intended to protect them are not. It’s not surprising that these concerns would extend to their employers.”

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62% of Employees Want Companies To Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines

Most employees want their employers to mandate vaccinations before returning to the office, which comes along with its own set of pros and cons.

“It will be up to businesses and employees to work together to decide how they navigate this issue,” Gadea said. “The benefits are clear — employees will feel more comfortable coming into an office that has been fully vaccinated, enabling teams to collaborate and connect more deeply sooner. The potential drawbacks — companies definitely need to strike a careful balance between ensuring safety while not overstepping privacy boundaries. From what we’re seeing so far, with the right tools in place, that balance is possible. After all, both sides have the same goal — to get back to work in a way that feels comfortable and protected.”

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48% of Employees Would Like a Hybrid Work Model

Nearly half of respondents would ideally work some days remotely and some days from the office, and 47% of employees say they would likely leave their job if it didn’t offer a hybrid work model once the pandemic ends. In addition, 41% said they would be willing to take a job with a lower salary if the company offered a hybrid work model.

“This sentiment sends an incredibly important message to business leaders in that, for the first time, employees are expecting significant changes from the workplace when they return,” Gadea said. “They want to be sure the workplace provides more value, offers more flexibility in where and when people get their work done, fosters more community and social connection, and of course, ensures improved health and safety. The pandemic has shown that many employees are perfectly happy and productive working from home, and the data reveals that the workplace needs to prove itself to employees, or companies risk losing their best workers.”

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However, even though many employees want a hybrid work model, this won’t be feasible for every company.

“While there is a new and widespread expectation that work will become more flexible and remote-friendly, it’s important to note that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” Gadea said. “There will be a range of solutions across industries, geographic locations, regulatory considerations and more. Each company will need to find the solution that works best for them, and while we expect to see more hybrid models, we don’t anticipate it will be a universal solution.”

Employees Continue To Value In-Office Work in Certain Situations

Although many employees want the option to work from home sometimes, many do see the value in going into the office, at least part of the time. When deciding when they would like to go into the office, employees said the factors they would consider most are what they need to get done for work (39%) and who else plans to be at the workplace that day (37%).

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“The data tells us that above all, employees want to return to workplaces together,” Gadea said. “While many of us can complete independent work from home, we still can’t replicate the experience of working together collaboratively in an office environment in a virtual world. The effects of brainstorming and creating together are powerful, and it’s that kind of group work that we expect to predominantly take place in the workplace moving forward. This kind of team-oriented work often results in the most impactful projects, so it means that companies need to put integrated, smart systems in place so that employees feel safe and confident about going back to the workplace.”

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Last updated: April 2, 2021