A recent study conducted by GoodHire shows that workplace productivity has either improved or remained the same since most employees began working remotely. Despite that fact, 75% of managers prefer employees to work in the office.

Not only that, a majority of managers believe that an in-office mandate is on the way — and 77% seem anxious to enforce that mandate. Of those surveyed, 77% said there would be consequences for employees who refuse to return to the office. These consequences could include pay cuts, loss of promotion opportunities, loss of benefits, and even possible firings.

Most employees want to work remotely

Managers who dislike managing remote employees may be frustrated because most employees don’t want to return to the office. Studies show that employees who have been working remotely aren’t interested in returning to the office full-time.

For instance, a Gallup survey shows that 60% of employees prefer a hybrid schedule, where they can work remotely at least part-time. Of those who want a hybrid schedule, 38% want to work in the office two to three days per week, while 29% want to be in the office fewer than two days per week.

And most employees are willing to change jobs to make it happen. 54% of employees working remotely full-time said they would look for a new job if their employer stopped offering remote options. 38% of employees with a hybrid schedule said the same thing.

But what’s interesting is why employees want to work remotely — the number one reason survey respondents gave is avoiding lengthy commute times. Most people don’t want to add in the time it takes to get ready in the morning and travel to and from work.

Most employees also have a strong desire to work when and how it suits them. After experiencing the flexibility that remote work brings, many employees aren’t willing to let it go.

How employers can encourage a return to the office

Although many managers may want to implement consequences for failing to return to the office full-time, that’s probably not the best course of action. The labor shortage has continued into 2022, and 60% of small businesses still can’t fill many key positions.

So if you want your employees to return to the office, it’s probably better to take a softer approach. Here are a few ways you can encourage employees back to the office:

  • Have empathy: It’s essential to show empathy for your employees’ feelings. Let them know you’re willing to work with them to find the best solution for everyone.
  • Highlight the social benefits: The Gallup survey also found that many employees want hybrid work arrangements for the social benefits. Highlight the ability to connect with other employees as a reason to return to the office.

Offer flexible arrangements: Finally, be willing to offer flexible arrangements. See if your employees are willing to adjust to a hybrid schedule initially. Over time, you may be able to increase the amount of time spent in the office.