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Companies forcing employees back into the office: what are the risks?


July 20, 2023


July 21, 2023

We read and hear everywhere that remote work is the new norm. Yet, some companies still force employees back into the office. While we might think they are small and traditional businesses, they aren’t. To name a few, Apple, Tesla, Disney, Starbucks, and Google have required their staff to return to the office fully or a few days a week.

If remote and hybrid models are the new way of working and the future of work, why do these big organizations take a step back from their “work from anywhere” policy? Lack of trust, unwillingness to change… The arguments are diverse. But, we will share the main reasons why some CEOs remain reluctant to this modern working style.

Most importantly, we explain why you shouldn’t follow this path and rather maintain a flexible work model. The many benefits of remote work clearly outweigh its downsides. As you’re about to read, the return-to-work statistics also confirm this point of view.

Why do companies force employees back into the office?

A fear of a productivity drop

Although many studies prove remote staff are more productive than those on-site, the fear of seeing a drop in productivity still pushes companies to force employees back into the office.

Some CEOs even declared that team members working from home “pretend to work.”

But remember, we are in an era when people seek constant learning and purpose in their professional lives. When their expectations are met, there is no reason for them to “pretend to work”. Yet those whose needs remain unanswered don’t “pretend to work” either. They simply look for another job that better matches their requirements. 

With the right setting, the link between remote work opportunities and employee satisfaction is undeniable, and so is the correlation between happiness at work and productivity. 

➡️ Learn more about the tight bond between employee happiness and productivity!

A clear - and sometimes admitted - lack of trust

Lack of trust in the professional environment is a recurrent issue that impacts businesses in many ways, including embracing modern ways of working, such as remote work.

On the one hand, most employees seek more autonomy, freedom, and empowerment in their job. On the other hand, some managers struggle with not seeing their team members working and having control over their tasks as they could have in the office.

Without proper hybrid team management training, micromanagement practices and other negative effects start to arise, and the benefits of remote work collapse. This is when businesses declare “Remote work is not working.” But, like any change, it needs some time for adjustment. 

➡️ Read more about leading in a hybrid work environment!

A wish for more in-person collaboration

It’s true, virtual collaboration isn’t the same as interacting with colleagues in person, which is another reason some organizations implement a “return to the office” policy. Some managers believe in-person collaboration is a must to lead a team successfully and make people thrive. 

This concern is totally understandable. However, the future of work is digital. Many of our daily personal interactions are done online through social media and other communication channels. Why would it be different in our professional lives? 

Holding on to old collaboration methods isn’t the right choice and could have a negative domino effect. Instead, leaders need to rethink how to enhance team collaboration.

➡️ Discover some team-bonding ideas to foster socializing in a hybrid work environment!

Employees working together at big table
Employees collaborating in person

The stress of losing company culture

Additionally, behind the concern of losing human interactions also lies the fear of weakening the company culture. According to a Future Forum Pulse study1, 25% of the executives surveyed affirm that their number one concern about offering more flexible work arrangements is the negative impact on team culture.

Some businesses believe fostering a strong organizational culture is only possible when everyone comes to the office the majority of the time. But the world of work is evolving. As we just highlighted, it is becoming more connected and digital. Companies need to understand this, embrace the change, and adjust accordingly.

➡️ Discover what truly causes employee disengagement and how to boost your staff motivation again!

A lack of consideration

The Future Forum Pulse study1 also reveals that executives mostly decide on the company’s policies based on their own experience. In other words, employees’ expectations aren’t taken into account. 

Meanwhile, the same report shows that workplace satisfaction decreased by 15% between August 2021 and August 2022. It also highlights that “flexible remote work policies were cited as the number one factor that has improved company culture over the past two years.”

This lack of consideration pushes organizations to step back from remote work and force team members to return on-site. But, as mentioned above, not taking their workforce’s needs into account could cost them a lot. 

➡️ Understand the expectations of Millennials and Gen Z in the workplace better.

A need to make the office space profitable

Is your office, most of the time, half empty when you come on-site? Allowing more flexibility at work does go hand in hand with having more vacant space. 

While it should be considered an innovative cost-saving idea, some organizations only perceive it as a loss of money. Therefore, they ask their teams to come back on-site to make their physical workspace profitable again instead of seeing it as an opportunity to reduce expenses.

➡️ Calculate how much you could save thanks to our hybrid office calculator!

Why is requiring your staff to return to the office not a good idea?

Working remotely increases productivity

While some managers think or worry that their employees are not as productive when working from home or a third workplace. Studies show that they are, and sometimes even more so than being on-site. 

The reasons for this increase in productivity among remote workers can be attributed to the fact that they are:

  • less distracted;
  • less stressed;
  • happier;
  • physically and mentally healthier (better work-life balance);
  • more motivated
  • and so on. 

Therefore, asking your team members to return on-site could weaken these aspects. This can lead to a drop in productivity and, ultimately, impact your business financially. However, promoting remote teams’ best practices is essential to get the perks of work flexibility. 

Allowing hybrid work boosts employee satisfaction

Keeping your team’s morale and satisfaction high is crucial to enhance engagement and productivity. Consequently, you want to know what triggers their enthusiasm in their jobs and professional lives. Adopting an employee-centric approach that answers your staff’s expectations is the best way to do so.

Flexible work opportunities are one of the top requirements from employees, as it suggests:

  • a healthier work-life balance;
  • more freedom and autonomy;
  • less commuting (meaning fewer expenses and less stress);
  • a work environment based on trust and people’s needs.

All of these combined, in addition to other secondary effects of hybrid work, boost satisfaction. Organizations that decide to force team members back into the office risk seeing this satisfaction decline as soon as they try to reintroduce a more rigid working model.

Having flexible work arrangements is a top priority for today’s workforce

The future of work is flexible, and there is no doubt about that. According to McKinsey’s study 2, “when people have the chance to work flexibly, 87 percent of them take it”. 

You’ve probably heard about the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle. These two movements are concrete proof the world of work is deeply shifting. Organizations that try to hold on to a traditional working model shoot themselves in the foot and risk losing their best talent. 

Employees asked to return fully on-site are more likely to leave for a company offering them more flexibility, or they ‘quiet quit’. However, businesses that embrace this new era and these working styles become more attractive and competitive, boosting their talent attraction and retention.

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What are the return to the office statistics saying?

Are you still doubting the future of remote work? You can easily get lost in all this information and wonder if you should ask your staff to come back on-site or not. To help you have a clearer idea about what to do, here are a few relevant statistics regarding the “return to the office” topic.

Focus on the impact of the “Return to the Office” move on five different countries

Location flexibility

What do numbers say about employees’ expectations regarding location flexibility?

Chart about location flexibility
How different countries around the world feel about location flexibility.


What are statistics revealing about workers’ preferences regarding flexible working hours arrangements?

chart about flexitime
How different countries view flexitime.

Employee turnover

How many employees will likely look for a new job in the next 12 months?

chart about employee turnover
Tendency towards employee turnover in different countries.

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Other key statistics about forcing employees back into the office

💡 To dig deeper into the return to the office findings, the following information sources are available at the end of this page. Our article dedicated to remote work statistics is also a must-read for more insight into this topic.  


People working for a business with a “work from anywhere” policy are 4% more productive than those working 100% in the office. Regarding flexitime arrangements, workers entitled to schedule flexibility are 29% more productive and 53% more focused.1

Corporate culture

25% of the executives surveyed by Forum Pulse mentioned the loss of company culture as their main concern regarding remote work. Meanwhile, 52% of employees say the corporate culture has improved over the last two years. The primary reason they give is the introduction of flexible work policies.

Employee turnover

In 2021, the Great Resignation impacted 49% of companies with an office-first work model. Simultaneously, 54% of hybrid and remote team members declare they would look for a new job opportunity if their organization pushed them back into the office full-time. Lastly, only 3% of workers want to return on-site five days a week.3

Returning to the office represents a step back both for employers and employees. The impact of companies forcing employees back into the office might not only cost them financially but also on further levels, such as their growth and reputation. Businesses have much more to gain from embracing remote work. Therefore, leaving room for more flexibility and autonomy in the workplace is a wise choice.

However, listen to your team members’ needs. You have to develop a working model that matches their expectations. Some people might prefer coming on-site once a month, while others like the atmosphere in the office and want to come more often. A successful model is based on “structured flexibility”. The more flexible, the better. Yet, you have to be clear about what is allowed and what is not. Once you’ve collected your employees’ feedback, establishing a flexible work policy guideline and making it accessible to everyone will help you do so.

Are you wondering how to optimize your office space, save costs, and create a productive and positive work environment? Request a free demo of the deskbird app to discover how our software assists you in this new professional era!


1 Executives feel the strain of leading in the ‘new normal’, Future Forum Pulse Fall Report 2022.

2 Americans are embracing flexible work—and they want more of it, McKinsey.

3 Return to Work Statistics (2023), Business Transtion 360.

Companies forcing employees back into the office: what are the risks?

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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