With lockdown restrictions easing, companies are turning their sights to having employees return to the office. However, business owners should consider whether their workers want to return to an in-office workplace before they get too far in planning.

Three recent surveys showed that most workers aren’t interested in returning to a full-time in-person workplace:

  • According to a Gallup survey, 44% of workers would like to continue working remotely after restrictions are lifted; only 39% want to return to the office.
  • A survey conducted by LiveCareer showed that 29% of working professionals said they would quit their jobs if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely.
  • A JLL survey found 25% of workers polled hope to return to the office full time, while 50% would like to keep working remotely at least 3 days a week.

Although the statistics of each survey vary, they show a clear trend: most employees don’t want to return to the workplace full time.

Despite this, choosing a model for new office arrangements isn’t likely to be all-or-nothing for every company. Some businesses are discovering that they have three types of employees:

  1. In-house workers, who are required to be on-site due to the nature of their job
  2. Remote workers, whose jobs will stay remote indefinitely
  3. Workers, whose jobs allow them the flexibility to work either in-house or remotely

Putting workers in the category that best relates to their job is fairly straightforward, but businesses with more than one category of employees will need to find solutions for some unique challenges. These companies will need to create policies and procedures that accommodate issues that can arise with a flexible (hybrid) workplace. Some examples include:

  • Fair and equitable treatment of in-house and hybrid employees who perform the same job function. This would include issues like ensuring both groups of workers receive access to the same training and promotions. Remote workers have concerns that in-house employees will have more face time with company leaders and, consequently, be more likely to experience progress within their careers. Business leaders will need to be trained on how best to assess team members within a hybrid workplace.
  • Understanding that there are some instances when one group of employees is going above and beyond and should be rewarded with bonuses or other forms of recompense. For example, during the pandemic in 2020, Wells Fargo Bank awarded all employees making less than $100,000 a year a pretax bonus of $600 for full-time workers and $300 for part-time workers; meanwhile, employees classified as “front line” received an additional $200 per pay period for up to five pay periods.
  • Having a detailed plan for what the office environment will look like once employees return, with consideration to catering to workers’ worries and desires. This includes factors like the spacing between desks, office cleaning, and work schedules.

Although some things will return to their pre-pandemic state, many will not—including the workplace. Workplaces that are fully in-house will also need to evolve, even if it’s with minor changes like offering hand sanitizer stations.

The good news is there’s no hard deadline for when workers need to return to the office, giving business leaders plenty of time to plan for a successful return.