Return to Office: Why It's Gaining Momentum in 2024

Here Are the Best Data-Driven Arguments for a Return to Office

By Jenny Barnes on Jun 28, 2024
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When it comes to in-office versus fully remote work, everyone has an opinion. Employers are often of the mind that their businesses can’t run as effectively if their team members aren’t interacting face-to-face. Many employees who have grown accustomed to their remote routines think otherwise. But what does the data say? 

In this article, we’ll explore what the current return to office trends say about the direction of the workforce in 2024 and beyond. We’ll also examine the best arguments for a return to the office and the data underlying these arguments. In the end, it’s important to remember every company will make a different decision: the one that’s ultimately best for them. 

RELATED: Forcing a Return to the Office: What Employers Need to Know >> 

Across the United States, workplaces are “thawing out” from the pandemic. The stay-at-home mandates of 2020 left workers frozen at home, and years after, employers were slow to force a return to office. It appears, however, that the tides are changing in 2024 and beyond, and employers are shepherding their teammates back in. 

According to a 2023 study by the Pew Research Center, only around a third of American workers who can work from home do so all the time—the other two-thirds are in the office every day or on a hybrid basis. The number of full-time remote workers is down significantly from the previous figure of 43% in January of 2022. It’s sunken even further from 55% in October of 2020. 

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Arguments for a Return to the Office

A Return to Office Benefits the Learning and Development of Your Employees 

For employees new and old, a return to the office can increase the quality of learning and development, for even the most tenured employees.

The benefit of in-person learning for new employees can’t be understated, either. Many managers believe in-person onboarding and training is far more effective than getting new employees up to speed while working from home. As part of its recommendations for best practices in onboarding, the Harvard Business Review recommends making at least some components of your onboarding in-person for hybrid workers, emphasizing that in-person training events “can help break down barriers” and “allow workers to feel more connected to their colleagues.” 

RELATED: Nurturing Talent: 7 Employee Learning & Development Strategies 

A Return to Office Improves the Strength of Your Company Culture

Let’s face it: it’s tough to have a strong workplace culture when there’s no one in the workplace. A recent Gallup study reveals that exclusively remote employees are the most likely to feel disconnected from their employer’s company culture, with only 28% of those surveyed indicating they “strongly agree’ that they feel connected to their organization’s mission and purpose.” According to the research, these employees’ relationships with their organizations are “becoming increasingly less loyal.” 

These problems can’t be solved with a return to the office, and forcing employees back to in-person work won’t fix a culture that is already broken. However, as stated in an article published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “meeting face to face is still important to creating and sustaining a strong culture. That's why many organizations are embracing hybrid work, where employees come in a few days a week, or hosting in-person sprints to facilitate connection.” 

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A Return to Office Fosters the Kind of Creativity and Innovation that Only Comes from In-Person Collaboration

There’s no denying that in-person collaboration often leads to spontaneous cross-departmental information sharing. When employees are working remotely, they’re less likely to communicate with coworkers who aren’t scheduled to attend the same virtual meetings or who aren’t working on the same projects as they are. 

Being in-office means surrounding oneself with coworkers from all departments and in all facets of the business. In environments like these, collaborative conversations come naturally, which in turn prevents information siloes within your organization. 

A recent study from Zippia, a leading online job board, shows that “people working from home in full-time positions spend 48% less time collaborating than they would if they were working from the office.” Collaboration, whether planned or not, is the bread and butter of innovation at your organization—it allows employees to think outside of the box and explore ideas in the broader context of your organization’s work. 

RELATED: Hybrid Work: A Fleeting Fad or a Fixture in Our Future? >> 

If Your Return to Office Isn’t All-Or-Nothing, Employees May Be Happier Coming In 

A return to office might feel like a big jump for employees who have gotten used to the work-life balance they’ve struck while working from home. But a return to the office doesn’t have to be all or nothing. 

The popularity of hybrid work has risen in large part because of its ability to serve as a compromise between the benefits of being in the office and the flexibility employees have enjoyed while working remotely, and current data reflects this setup as the norm.

As between fully remote, fully in-office and hybrid work arrangements, the greatest percentage of office workers are keeping a hybrid work schedule. Of these workers, 63% have indicated that their employers have set requirements for them regarding a specific number of days they should work in person each week or month. 

A well-executed hybrid return to office policy may be the answer for employers who can see the draw (and drawbacks) of both fully remote and fully in-person working arrangements. If you decide to implement a hybrid return to office mandate, you have every reason to feel confident in the popularity of your decision. Recent research reveals that “hybrid work reduces attrition rates by 35% and improves employee satisfaction,” according to MIT and the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

RELATED:Hybrid Work Statistics: What the Numbers Say About Today's Workforce 

Axcet HR: Your Partner for Building and Sustaining a Great Company Culture

If you need help piecing together a return to office strategy that will work for your unique company culture, you can count on the employee relations experts at Axcet HR Solutions At Axcet, we’re proud to work with our clients to understand the details of what makes their workplace unique. Then, we help to craft an employee relations strategy that has the ability to deliver real ROI. 

The experienced HR consultants at Axcet HR Solutions have the employee relations know-how to guide you toward success. From HR compliance and workplace safety to recruitment and retention, Axcet is your certified professional employer organization. Let us take care of the HR details, so you can focus on growing and scaling your core business. 

Interested in learning more about Axcet can help? Schedule a consultation with our experienced consultants today.

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Written by Jenny Barnes

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