Survey Many Companies Have No Planned Date for Returning to the Workplace

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022

The Omicron variant continues to ravage the US. As it does, a new survey reveals that nearly half of businesses whose workplace plans were upended by the latest COVID-19 waves have not communicated plans for returning to the physical workplace.

Conducted by The Conference Board, the survey also found that only 9 percent of employees are currently working in the office full time. What's more, concerns about contracting COVID-19 and exposing family members have doubled over the last seven months.

The latest workforce survey from The Conference Board captured the thoughts of more than 2,000 US workers. Respondents weighed in on topics including returning to the workplace, career plans, factors driving them to pursue new job opportunities, mental health, and more.

Key findings include:

WORKPLACE PLANS

71 percent of companies changed return-to-the-workplace plans due to the recent surges.

  • The recent rise of COVID-19 cases resulted in 71 percent of respondents' companies delaying plans to return to the workplace or reverting to remote/hybrid work.
    • 30 percent were back in the workplace and reverted to remote/hybrid work.
    • 41 percent rescheduled or cancelled plans to return.
  • Nearly half (48 percent) have not determined a date to return to the physical workplace.

Only 9 percent of survey respondents are in the physical office full time.

  • Less than one in 10 survey respondents (9 percent), who are primarily knowledge workers, are in the office full time.
  • 46 percent are fully remote.
  • 45 percent work a hybrid schedule, with some days remote and some in the office.

COVID-19 FEARS

COVID-19 concerns have doubled over the last eight months.

  • 48 percent say exposing family members to COVID-19 was among their greatest concerns in returning to the workplace.
  • 48 percent say contracting it personally was among their greatest concerns.
    • Eight months prior: In May 2021, exposing family members to COVID-19 or contracting it personally were of greatest concern to 28 and 24 percent, respectively.
  • 43 percent question the wisdom of returning to the workplace given the belief that productivity remained high while working remotely, the same as in May 2021.

Two years into the pandemic, one in five workers is not comfortable returning to the workplace.

  • One in five (20 percent) are not at all comfortable returning.
  • Two in five (40 percent) are moderately comfortable returning to the workplace.

Individual contributors are uncomfortable returning to the workplace at four times the rate of CEOs.

  • Individual contributors are uncomfortable returning to the workplace at more than four times the rate of CEOs:
    • Individual contributors: 30 percent
    • CEOs: 7 percent
  • Women are slightly more uncomfortable returning than men:
    • Women: 22 percent
    • Men: 16 percent

"Amid the vast uncertainty with returning to the workplace, coupled with the strong discomfort many feel about returning, these results make clear: This relentless pandemic continues to dictate workplace plans and policies," said Rebecca Ray, Executive Vice President, Human Capital, The Conference Board. "The need for continued flexibility, transparency, and empathy from management remains a top priority. While many are eager to return to a sense of normalcy, simply mandating a return date and highlighting the safety protocols that will be in place is not enough; leaders need to articulate a compelling reason to return to the workplace at all."

PLANS TO QUIT

One in 10 intend to leave their organizations in the next six months.

  • Better pay (45 percent), career advancement (39 percent), and the ability to work from anywhere (28 percent) remain the top reasons workers left or intend to leave their jobs.
  • Only 7 percent cite concerns over vaccine mandates as the reason they left or intend to leave.
  • Millennials left or plan to leave their jobs at nearly three times the rate of Baby Boomers:
    • Millennials: 30 percent
    • Gen X: 17 percent
    • Baby Boomers: 11 percent
  • Retirement was cited as the top reason Baby Boomers left or intend to leave their jobs in the next six months (36 percent).
  • Women cite new supervisor/manager as the reason for leaving their position at nearly two times the rate of men.
    • Women: 14 percent
    • Men: 8 percent

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

Decreasing engagement levels affect more workers—especially women, individual contributors, and Millennials.

  • Nearly a quarter (24 percent) report decreased levels of engagement.* That's an increase from 19 percent in August 2021 and 15 percent in May 2021, demonstrating a steady decline in engagement levels over the past eight months.
  • Individual contributors report declines in engagement levels at nearly three times the rate of CEOs.
    • Individual contributors: 31 percent
    • CEOs: 11 percent
  • Engagement levels have decreased slightly more for women than men during the pandemic:
    • Women: 26 percent
    • Men: 21 percent
  • More Millennials report decreased engagement during the pandemic than Baby Boomers:
    • Millennials: 28 percent
    • Gen X: 26 percent
    • Baby Boomers: 21 percent
  • Nearly one third of workers report their level of engagement increased during the pandemic.

"With one in four workers suffering decreased levels of engagement, fighting the burnout battle will be a defining challenge for businesses in 2022," said Robin Erickson, Vice President, Human Capital, The Conference Board. "This challenge is made even greater by today's tight labor market, a time of historic quit rates and plentiful job opportunities. Companies will need to prioritize building and sustaining a strong culture, offering flexibility where possible, and ensuring opportunities for growth and development to attract—and retain—the best and brightest."

MENTAL HEALTH

Women disproportionately self-reported their mental health declined during the pandemic.

  • Women reported their mental health declined during the pandemic at a higher rate than men:
    • Women: 54 percent
    • Men: 41 percent
  • Millennials and Gen X report a deterioration of their mental health more than Baby Boomers:
    • Millennials: 54 percent
    • Gen X: 52 percent
    • Baby Boomers: 42 percent
  • More individual contributors reported experiencing a deterioration of their mental health than CEOs:
    • Individual contributors: 50 percent
    • CEOs: 38 percent

*NOTE: Employee engagement is a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization, manager, or co-workers that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.