Why Companies Insist on Return to Office Work, Despite Popularity of Remote Work

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A growing mountain of evidence shows that working from home is popular among employees and good, in many ways, for employers. However, many companies still insist on returning to the office — and these are four possible motives for that insistence.

Rising trend 


Remote work is here to stay. Almost two-thirds of employees who could be working remotely were always in the office in 2019; by 2023, that figure was just 20%, according to Gallup.

Popular with the people

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Remote work is also incredibly popular. Around 90% of all employees who are able to work remotely prefer the option to do so, at least some of the time, according to Gallup.

Corporate benefits

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Gallup polling also shows that employees granted flexibility to work where they wanted were more engaged, less burned out, and less likely to quit. Multiple studies by Harvard Business Review and Forbes have shown that remote employees are more productive and happier than those forced to work in the office.


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Despite all these benefits, many companies are forcing staff to return to the office. In 2023, major organizations like Lyft, X, and Amazon issued orders to return to in-person work for at least part of the week.

The first reason


One possible motivation for these unpopular return-to-office orders is a desire to downsize. However, layoffs can cost billions of dollars. In an April 26 earnings call, Meta CFO Susan Li warned that the company would spend up to $5 billion on restructuring efforts.

Paying dues


Much of that cost comes from paying fired employees their severance packages. In the first quarter of 2023, Amazon spent $500 million on severance packages for 18,000 laid-off employees. Lyft spent quadruple that during the same period.

Sneaky tactic

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Employers can avoid the costs of layoffs by forcing employees back into the office and letting some of them quit in response. Lyft, Amazon, and X all instituted return-to-office mandates around the same time as mass layoffs.

The second reason

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Some employers, like Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and Disney, have argued that interconnectivity and collaboration are hindered by remote work. “Nothing can replace the ability to connect, observe, and create with peers that comes from being physically together,” Disney CEO Bob Iger wrote in January 2023.

The third reason


Despite repeated studies showing that remote work increases productivity, many employers can’t quite believe it, at least according to a 2022 study by Microsoft. A different study the year before found that most employers simply don’t trust employees to be productive at home.

Remote monitoring

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One solution to these fears is remote monitoring, but such tactics are incredibly unpopular — and unhelpful. “If your management style comes from the perspective of thinking that people are lazy and don’t want to work,” explained Dan Pupius, founder of a remote workplace management tool, “you’re going to create a low-trust environment, with a lot of stress and anxiety, which will actually reduce peoples’ performances.”

Office space


Empty office space is a major headache for city governments, landlords, and investors. It’s possible that employers who invested millions in office space want it used in order to avoid having to write off that money as a total loss.

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.