Skip to main content

Employees Resist Return to the Office | March 2022

The work-from-home trend was fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic but continues to be effective for many firms. Many corporations now offer a variety of flexible work arrangements, including flextime, compressed workweek schedules, remote work, part-time work, and job sharing. While Americans have largely returned to the gym, the movies, and bars, many have no desire to return to the office. 

Nationwide occupancy rates of corporate offices are estimated to be around one-third. Many companies would prefer to have their employees work in person. For example, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Microsoft Corp, and Meta Platforms Inc. (Facebook) have recalled at least some of their employees to the home office. Some companies have even worked to improve their offices to make the workplace more appealing.  

Many workers, however, have made it clear pizza parties and free coffee aren’t enough to lure them from their home offices. As employers announce return-to-office deadlines, many employees are retiring, resigning, or turning to more flexible remote jobs.  

An employer-employee disconnect 

In one example, Aaron Johnson, president of Automatic Payroll Systems in Louisiana, criticized those who left the company even after it ensured no one would lose their job amid the onset of the pandemic, saying there was a lack of loyalty. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Johnson reported the company’s turnover was 30% last year, twice as high as usual. 

This way of thinking highlights a very serious employer-employee disconnect with regard to returning to the office. In a survey by The Future Forum of 10,000 workers globally, about 75% of executives said they would like employees to work from the office three to five days a week, while only one-third of employees said the same. 

Benefits of working from home 

Office reluctance seems to be more about convenience than it is about pandemic jitters. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 61% of American workers who mostly telecommute have elected to work that way. In comparison, only 23% of people reported working this way before the pandemic. Additionally, fewer people are citing fear of the COVID-19 virus as a reason for working remotely.  

One of the most cited reasons for working from home is better work-life balance. Flexible work schedules that allow workers to manage their own start and end times give employees more control over their day. Some companies mandate required online hours in the middle of the day to facilitate internal communication but allow workers to set their times outside of those hours. Workers who do not have to commute are also able to use those recovered hours for personal matters.  

Benefits of working in the office 

Some believe working from home decreases productivity, erodes organizational culture, and hampers creativity. Microsoft released a study that revealed working from home may decrease teamwork, creativity, and communication. The study found that working from home made individuals less likely to engage in real-time conversations and made communication more siloed within departments. Additionally, Microsoft found that employees were likely to work more hours than they had in the office. For its own business, Microsoft is using a hybrid model that enabled employees to pick the work arrangement that works best for their lifestyle and their job. To make the hybrid work model function smoothly, companies must become more flexible in all aspects. 

In the Classroom 

This article can be used to discuss flexible work arrangements (Chapter 9: Motivating the Workforce). 


Discussion Questions 

  1. What are the benefits of working from home? 

  1. What can employers do to incentivize employees to return to the office? 

  1. Why do you think employers would prefer to have their employees back in the office? 

This article was developed with the support of Kelsey Reddick for and under the direction of O.C. Ferrell and Linda Ferrell. 



Alex Sherman, "Making Sense of Why Executives Are Eager To Get Employees Back in the Office," CNBC, March 8, 2022, 

Callum Borchers, "Sorry, Bosses: Workers Are Just Not That Into You," The Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2022,  

Jeanne Sahadi, "Employers Take Note: Most Remote Workers Don’t Want To Go Back to the Office," CNN, February 16, 2022,

About the Author

O.C. Ferrell is the James T. Pursell Sr. Eminent Scholar in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures in the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, Auburn University. He was formerly Distinguished Professor of Leadership and Business Ethics at Belmont University and University Distinguished Professor at the University of New Mexico. He has also been on the faculties of the University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, University of Memphis, Texas A&M University, Illinois State University, and Southern Illinois University. He received his Ph.D. in marketing from Louisiana State University.

Profile Photo of OC Ferrell