With the vast majority of Americans having received at least one COVID-19 vaccination and millions fully vaccinated and boosted, there was widespread optimism among business leaders that 2022 would be the year employees finally returned to the office after 2 years of COVID lockdowns and remote work.
But employee resistance amid a tight labor market, recurring mini-waves of new infections, and other factors have hindered those plans.
Many Offices Remain Empty
“At the start of 2022, office occupancy stood at just over 23%, according to Kastle Systems, a security company that tracks patterns in employee key-card entry systems,” writes Trey Williams in an article for Forbes. While that percentage rose to 43% in April, it hasn’t risen much higher since then despite companies’ highly publicized attempts to get employees back into physical work settings.
As Williams notes, “Apple frustrated employees with its new hybrid plan, Goldman Sachs demanded staff to return five days a week, and Google put an end to working from home and started pulling workers back as well. The tech giant celebrated with a Lizzo concert for employees in its Bay Area offices.”
Making Plans for 2023
As employers look ahead to 2023 amid growing talk of a potential recession, there is likely to be increased temptation among the return-to-office crowd to capitalize on a potential shift in leverage in the labor market to make a renewed push for bringing staff back into the physical workplace.
However, with each passing day, remote work becomes increasingly more entrenched in the culture and mindset of workers. Not only does this mean it is becoming increasingly difficult to convince staff to return to the office, but it’s also going to be an increasingly disruptive change logistically the more remote work becomes a familiar—and increasingly preferred—way of doing business.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.