The New Emerging Workplace Experience is Gaining Traction

    Posted by TASC Large Markets on Jul 6, 2021 2:50:44 PM


    Predictions that the pandemic would end onsite office work seem to have been greatly exaggerated. Some companies, including Goldman Sachs, have already made a full transition back onsite. Others have targeted the period between midsummer and early fall for a full (or mostly full) return.

    Bank of America, for example, has announced that it expects all vaccinated employees back onsite after Labor Day. The consulting firm PwC expects to have all its offices open by the end of September.1

    A study of ten big cities found that office visits in March 2021 had reached 26.1% of the level prior to pandemic, which suggests that companies have been gradually increasing the number of onsite employees over the past few months.2 Some employers are utilizing a hybrid system that allows employees to continue working remotely some of the time while reacclimating to the office environment. Ford is one such company. In July, the automaker is implementing a plan that allows currently remote workers to work from home when their tasks are more solitary and come into the office when the task at hand requires collaboration.3

    Although there’s no single consensus opinion on when or how to bring workers back onsite, there is agreement that thinking it through carefully and thoroughly is important. Here are some factors to keep in mind.

    Employee Attitudes About Returning to Onsite Work

    How reluctant are employees about returning to the office? The jury is still out. One study finds that, among currently remote workers, 69% say they are or would be comfortable returning to the office now.4 For this group, key motivations include in-person collaboration and being able to socialize with colleagues.5

    Another study found that 64% percent of workers were anxious and hesitant about returning to the workplace. Their concerns were around social distancing, having to wear a mask throughout the workday and using common areas like lunchrooms and bathrooms.6

    The question isn’t whether employers have the authority to call back remote employees. Generally speaking, employers are within their rights to require employees to work onsite (subject to city or state COVID-related capacity limits that might still be in place). The question is whether pressing for a full return too hard and too fast might backfire.

    There’s a groundswell of sentiment among workers to resist being forced back to the office until they feel safe. In fact, according to one study, almost half of all remote workers say they would consider leaving their jobs rather than return to an office they feel is unsafe.7 As we emerge from the pandemic, many workers are reevaluating their jobs and careers. A sense that they are being forced suddenly or unreasonably into a return to the office might motivate some of your most valuable employees to move on.

    Making A Successful Return to the Office

    It’s not just your decision about when and how to return onsite that matters—it’s also how you make it and socialize it. One step in a successful transition is getting employee feedback on the subject. Another is keeping them up-to-speed on your thinking and your decisions. Communication is key, not only about timing and flexibility, but also about what to expect when they return. In a May survey, 74% of nearly 700 larger employers said they planned to modify the onsite experience, including practices, policies, and how the office is used.8 The office may look and feel very different, with fewer persons working in a given space, a different use of common spaces and of areas for solitary work, and new rules and regulations. Don’t wait until employees walk through the door to let them know what the new experience will be like.

    You can also stagger your return to the office to help acclimate employees. If possible, consider allowing employees to work only a few days in the office for the first few weeks, as they adjust to the personal and professional changes. Some companies are platooning their workforces so that employees alternate their onsite days according to a set schedule. In addition to helping people get adjusted gradually, this strategy also helps maintain social distancing.

    In the office, having visible safety protocols in place can also help reduce anxiety. For instance, you can leave an empty desk or cubicle beside every employee, a practice sometimes referred to as checkerboard spacing.

    Preparing for the Future

    If your company is still finding its way back to the office, you’re not alone. A May survey found that only 33% of remote employees knew what their employer was planning to help manage a safe and productive return.9

    Whatever you decide, give it time to work. Remember that after a year or more away, it’s not going to be business-as-it-used-to-be on day one.

    Also, don’t be too quick to put the challenges posed by the pandemic out of mind. COVID-19 still poses a threat to the stability of onsite work, and some jurisdictions are maintaining the authority to shut down a worksite where there’s an outbreak. (In the case of California, that authority will continue for the rest of this year and all of 2022.10) Stay vigilant against COVID and realistic about the possibility that another pandemic could happen. That means a contingency plan for a “re-exit” should it become necessary at some point in the future.

    Editor’s Note: For workers working remotely, TASC offers a Home Office (Reimbursement) Account and separately, an Office Supplies Expense Reimbursement Account from more than 50 benefit offerings that can be instantly configured to create custom plans that meet employee needs; where they are in life.


    1. “When will office workers go back? Here’s what companies are saying,” New York Times, April 2021:
    2. “Workers are slowly returning to offices: Dallas takes the lead, while San Francisco and NY trail behind,” USA Today, May 2021:
    3. “When will office workers go back? Here’s what companies are saying,” New York Times, April 2021:
    4. “Tracking the Return to Normal: Work & Offices,” Morning Consult, June 2021:
    5. “Nearly 75 Percent of Remote Workers Eager to Return to the Office,” SHRM, May 2021:
    6. “2 out of 3 U.S. Workers Are Anxious About Returning to the Workplace...,”CISION PR Newswire, May 2021:
    7. “Tracking the Return to Normal: Work & Offices,” Morning Consult, June 2021:
    8. Nearly 75 Percent of Remote Workers Eager to Return to the Office,” SHRM, May 2021:
    9. “2 out of 3 U.S. Workers Are Anxious About Returning to the Workplace….”CISION PR Newswire, May 2021
    10. Cal/OSHA Proposes Sweeping Changes to COVID-19 Temporary Standards,” SHRM, May 2021: