Study Reveals No. 1 Motivation for Workers to Return to the Office

Study Reveals No. 1 Motivation for Workers to Return to the Office
Workers at the Vermont Health Connect call center talk to customers in Burlington, Vt., on Oct. 1, 2013. (Toby Talbot/AP Photo)
Naveen Athrappully

While companies struggle to get employees to work the office in lieu of working from home, recent research by Microsoft has found that the top reason that will convince employees to return to the office is the prospect of spending quality time with co-workers.

While 82 percent of decision makers at businesses feel bringing employees back to offices is a major concern in 2023, 73 percent of employees said they need a good reason to ditch their flexible remote work schedule, according to the Sept. 22 report. Though the uncertain job market might force some workers to spend more time at the office, a “more lasting, effective approach” will involve rebuilding social capital, it stated.

The research, based on a survey of about 20,000 workers from 11 nations, found that 84 percent of employees would be motivated to be in office by the promise of socializing with co-workers, with 85 percent motivated by rebuilding team bonds.

Employees said that if they knew their direct team members would be at the office, 73 percent would also come to the workplace. If their work friends attend the office, 74 percent said they would do the same.

Younger generations are particularly looking to connect with senior leadership (78 percent of Generation Z and millennials versus 72 percent Generation X and older) and their direct managers (80 percent Gen Z and millennials versus 76 percent Gen X and older) in person. Gen Z is particularly motivated by working in person to see their work friends (79 percent versus 68 percent of Gen X and older), the report said.

The report recommended businesses use in-person time to help employees rebuild their networks and team bonds and provide a digital community for employees to connect online.

Remote Work

Microsoft’s research comes after studies have shown that employees are reluctant to give up their flexible work schedules. One study (pdf) from August found that employees in the United States liked the option of working from home so much that they were willing to take a pay cut of 5.7 percent.

Employees surveyed said they expected to work an average of 2.1 “work from home” days per week but were actually working 1.6 days from home, which is double the 0.8 days of remote work that employers were planning to allow.

Over 40 percent of employees working from home for one or more days per week said they were willing to quit their jobs if they were asked to come back to work onsite for five or more days per week.

The proportion of office occupancy still remains below the pre-pandemic level according to data from Kastle Systems, a key card office security company. On March 18, 2020, office occupancy was at 50.3 percent. As of Sept. 21, 2022, office occupancy stood at 47.3 percent.

Though lower than the pre-pandemic level, occupancy is much higher than during the pandemic. On April 15, 2020, only 14.6 percent of offices were occupied. By March 2, 2022, office occupancy was at 38 percent.