Digital Marketing Strategy

Report: 39% of employers will dismiss workers who refuse to return to the office

Company leaders cite a dip in productivity and the need for in-person collaboration as top reasons for the ultimatum.

We are on the brink of a dramatic workplace showdown.

On one side of the conflict, you have bosses, bigwigs, company execs and (micro)managers who are eager to get everyone back into the office ASAP. On the other side are workers—many of whom have come to depend on the freedom and flexibility afforded by remote work and would sooner quit than return to the daily grind.

Is there a compromise to be struck, or will companies simply choose to replace those who are unwilling to get back to office life?

A survey from Digital.com, an independent review website for small business online tools, products and services, reveals how American companies plan to proceed in a post-pandemic workplace. The survey garnered responses from 1,500 small business owners, who shared about their remote work experience during the pandemic and plans for resuming in-person work.

[RELATED: Learn strategies for adapting communications for the new workplace normal]

The research surfaced some startling takeaways—not least of which is that 4 in 10 employers plan to fire workers who won’t return to the workplace full-time in the coming months. Almost half of the survey respondents said most job functions at their company require in-person attendance, and 45% expressed concerns about a sharp dip in employee productivity while working remotely.

Business owners also cited other problems with remote work, such as low employee morale, lack of punctuality due to oversleeping and distractions, and increased miscommunication among staff. Of Digital.com’s respondents, just 10% of employers will make remote work mandatory, and 17% said employees will follow a hybrid schedule of onsite and remote work.

The survey does show that most business owners are willing to consider feedback from employees about work schedules. Sixty-nine percent of employers say they have asked or plan to ask workers for their input on post-pandemic work structure. But the data shows a strong preference for getting employees back into the office.

What’s the big rush to get people back into their cubicles? The top reasons employers cite center on productivity, collaboration and a strong belief that “most job functions must be performed in-person.”

“One crucial takeaway from this survey is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to post-pandemic workplace strategies,” says Digital.com’s small business expert Dennis Consorte. “Many business owners want mandatory in-person attendance. They need to get direct feedback from workers, mitigate fears about the virus, and demonstrate empathy about other concerns before making such a big decision.”

According to the report, 42% of businesses will require staff to get vaccinated before returning to the workplace. Fifty-five percent of small businesses will require workers to wear a mask, while 52% will prohibit or limit close interactions between employees. Of course, enforcing, tracking and following through on such measures will be quite another story.

In any case, we are in for a fascinating few months ahead, as we all find out together if employers will follow through on threats to fire employees who are unwilling to return to pre-pandemic routines—or if they’ll bend to accommodate workers’ post-COVID demands.

You can read the full report from Digital.com here.

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