It's official - the "return to the office" boom is dead, this academic believes

Remote home working
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

A top academic has declared that the “return to the office is dead," despite many companies still trying to force employees back to the workplace.

Stanford Economics Professor and WFH Research cofounder Nick Bloom, referred to census, SWAA, and Kastle data to show that the number of people working from home has become as “flat as a pancake.”

The trend comes after two years of companies pushing workers to return to the office, with many citing improved productivity.

WFH really isn’t going anywhere

Data from the Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes shows a steep decline in the number of employees working from home toward the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 as companies got to grips with the pandemic and restrictions started to ease.

The number of workers WFH now compared to the height of the pandemic stands at roughly half, but figures look to have been pretty consistent since the start of 2022, representing around two years of continued remote working. 

Census and SWAA data vary slightly, but some figures even suggest increasing cases of employees working remotely this summer.

Similarly, Kastle data shows office occupancy rates rising throughout 2021 and 2022 across numerous American metropolitan areas. For the whole of 2023, occupancy rates have remained steady.

Analysis of these figures suggests that companies have reached an equilibrium where the workers who need to be in the office to do their job have returned, but those capable of carrying out their tasks remotely continue to do so.

This year has also been one of heightened employee-employer tensions, with protests and walkouts staged globally. Amazon and Google have each been subject to intense scrutiny by workers over their RTO policies.

Rising costs globally have also contributed to these figures, with workers finding it too expensive to commute and companies looking to reduce their office footprints to cut costs.

Between July and October 2023, nearly half (46.7%) of workers had adopted a hybrid working routine, with many spending between two and three days in the office. Only one in five (19.4%) were fully remote.

Looking ahead, WFH Research noted that not enough employers are offering flexible working setups, with worker demand proving to be higher. If the past year has demonstrated anything, it’s that businesses need to meet the wants and needs of their workers in order to maintain and increase talent acquisition and retention amid a global skills shortage affecting several sectors.

Via The Register

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Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!