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How do office workers feel about returning to the workplace?

In our new survey, we asked office workers what they missed (and what they didn’t) about office life, plus how they feel about returning as the pandemic subsides.

Life may slowly be returning to normal now that 38% of the country is fully vaccinated, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out new guidance saying fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or social distance.

For many, a return to normal also means a return to the office, so we set out to understand how workers feel about leaving teleworking behind in a Haven Life study.

Our study revealed that the top concern for respondents is safety. At the time this survey was taken (late April 2021), most office workers (71%) stated that employers should require mask-wearing, and 53% believe that vaccines should be mandatory before returning to work.

Here are other return to office after COVID trends we found:

While most people miss certain aspects of office life, the majority don’t have a desire to return full-time

57% of people are still working remotely more than a year after the pandemic in America began. Of those who are still out, 51% say they miss going into the office, but 61% don’t want to return on a full-time basis.

When asked what they liked most about working from home for their company, the most popular answers were the shorter commute, the flexible schedule, the ability to save money, spending more time with family, and being able to sleep in.

About 29% of people say that their quality of work also increased while working remotely for their organization. So not only was working from home convenient — some people thrived with this working arrangement.

When asked how the pandemic affected the quality of their work, 28.6% of respondents say it improved, 30.5% say it declined, and 40.9% reported no change.

Parents of young children are the most ready to return to work

A factor that greatly contributed to someone’s missing or not missing a physical workplace is whether they had small children. About 63% of people with kids under 12 want to return to the office, compared to 51% of parents with older children and 38% of those without children. (Perhaps the kids’ unintentional Zoom cameos have become less cute, and more grating, over time. Or maybe remote-working parents just need a break from juggling their jobs with parenting and household management. Or both.)

Work output for parents of young kids was affected the most over the past year — 43% of parents with kids under 12 saw a drop in work quality during the pandemic. Comparatively, just 23% of people with no children and 26% of people with older children said the same.

Despite its advantages, working from home does come with a few drawbacks. What people missed most about a physical office was the interaction with coworkers, separation of work and home life, embracing company culture, having a dedicated place for work, and being able to focus.

Low productivity, low social interaction, and lack of work-life balance may have an impact on mental and physical health. A USC study found that 74% of people experienced a new mental health issue since working from home, and women reported a higher rate of depression when switching to remote work. A return to the physical office could be a welcome relief for those who struggled with working remotely.

Workers expect greater work flexibility in a post-COVID-19 world

The Haven Life study found that 43% of people believe business will be the same as before, but many believe that work life will look different: 49% say that they expect more options for hybrid/flex work from home, and 8% say they don’t expect to ever go back to an office.

The pandemic over the past year forced many companies to find creative ways to operate remotely, and this could carry on into the future. Since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, numerous companies — such as Google, Microsoft, Square, and more — announced that some or all workers would have the opportunity to permanently work from home or have a flexible schedule.

Countries like Bermuda, Barbados, Iceland, and the Cayman Islands also began promoting remote worker visas to entice travelers. The website MakeMyMove.com tracks which U.S. cities are offering benefits and even cash to incentivize remote workers to move there. (Morgantown, WV, leads the pack with a $20,000 package of $12,000 in cash, plus $8,000 worth of incentives.) A growing acceptance of people working remotely could mean we see more and more companies open to this type of work flexibility in the future.

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More than 80% of people trust how their employer is handling the pandemic

Many respondents (49%) have either already returned to the office or planned on returning to work when the survey was taken. Others expect to return this summer (16%) or next fall (14%), and some don’t plan to return until 2022 (8%) or ever (13%).

A majority of people (79%) think that a mask or vaccine should be required to return to the office, and 83% of people trust their employer to properly handle COVID-19 safety protocol.

For the most part, employer sentiment hasn’t been swayed by the pandemic. Most people (57%) said their employer’s handling of the pandemic over the past year didn’t change how they felt about them.

About 29% of respondents like their employer more because of how they handled the pandemic, and 14% like their employer less because of how they handled the pandemic.

The pandemic caused people to reevaluate several areas of their financial life, not just work

During the pandemic, 44% of people thought more about emergency savings. This isn’t surprising since stashing away money appears to have been a top priority for many Americans, as evidenced by savings rates in 2019 compared to 2020.

People saved around 8% of their disposable income in March 2019. That personal savings rate jumped up to 34% in April 2020 and is sitting at 28% as of March 2021. However, savings wasn’t the only thing at the top of people’s minds — 37% said having health insurance and 31% said having life insurance are considerations they made because of COVID-19.

Final Word

Overall, the survey shows that not everyone is excited to return to work, but there are aspects of office life that were missed. People with young kids are looking forward to getting back to work the most, possibly because they’ve experienced the greatest hit to productivity and work quality while working at home.

And while guidelines and restrictions seem to be changing by the day when it comes to COVID-19, most people can agree with the sentiment that when they do return to work, they want an office environment that feels familiar (hello, office snacks and water cooler talk), yet safe.

Survey methodology: Haven Life conducted a quantitative survey between April 19 –  and April 22, 2021 and collected N=818 completed responses. Respondents were required to be between 22-60 years old and identify as someone who worked in an office building before the pandemic. Fifty-five percent of respondents were female (424) and 45% were male (370). Three percent of respondents did not specify their gender (24).

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About Taylor Medine

Taylor Medine is a personal finance writer who's covered all things money for the last six years. Her work has appeared on Business InsiderCredit KarmaMSNUSA Today, and much more.

Read more by Taylor Medine

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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