‘Return-to-Office’ Was the Dirty Word in Glassdoor Reviews for 2022

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In a year where workplace buzzwords like “quiet quitting,” “quiet firing” and “the Great Resignation” were popularized, Glassdoor’s word of the year in the U.S. may come as a surprise. It also may come as a bit of a bummer to the millions of Americans who have come to embrace remote work. The word is “return-to-office,” or RTO.

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In a post announcing the company’s word of the year, associate economist and data scientist at Glassdoor Richard Johnson wrote that the word “encapsulates various themes in the labor market and workplace this year,” and that “as the world opened back up for business, many companies looked to return to how things were before the pandemic.”

But employees, who often turn to Glassdoor to shed light on the not-so-great happenings behind company walls, are not necessarily on board with executive desires to have things return to pre-pandemic business as usual. The tension between employees and employers around the topic of RTO seems to be what led to the uptick in mentions of the term.

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“The tug-of-war between employees wanting to stay remote and employers wanting them back in the office resulted in the share of employee reviews discussing their company’s RTO policy doubling since 2021 (+122 percent),” Johnson wrote.

A looming recession is likely what catalyzed the conversation of RTO to begin with.

“Many companies were more lenient towards employee demands during a tight labor market, but the emerging threat of a recession saw employers taking their power back,” Johnson wrote.

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Though “return-to-office” was chosen as word of the year by Glassdoor, it wasn’t the word that saw the biggest jump in popularity on the site based on U.S employee reviews between January 1, 2021 and October 18, 2022, when the data was collected. The word “hybrid” jumped 388%, “inflation” leapt 326% and “recession” was up 133%.

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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