39% of Small Businesses Will Fire Workers Refusing to Return to Full-Time Work Onsite

39% of Small Businesses Will Fire Workers Refusing to Return to Full-Time Work Onsite

Nearly half of these responses were from business owners in white-collar industries
coworkers back in the office

As companies begin to think about what their post-pandemic workplace will look like, many are divided on what expectations to set for their employees.

A new report from small business resource review site Digital reveals that nearly 4 in 10 (39%) small businesses expect all of their employees to return to full-time work onsite. Another 39% say they are willing to fire workers who refuse to come back to the office under these conditions.

Supporters of onsite work may be influenced by their own perceptions of remote work

Digital discovered that 17% of respondents have plans for a hybrid work setup for their employees, and 10% expect to make full-time remote work mandatory for the entire company. Meanwhile, 20% of small businesses will allow their workforce to choose the work arrangement that works best for them.

The survey also revealed that of businesses that say they will fire employees for not coming back to the workplace, 47% are in white-collar industries, such as:

  • Computer and information technology (17%)
  • Business and finance (16%)
  • Advertising and marketing (14%)

As to why business owners want a mass return to the office, nearly half of all respondents say that most job functions require in-person attendance (49%) and that productivity drops when telecommuting (45%).

Interestingly, Digital points out that the business owners pushing for full-time work at the office are more likely to have an unfavorable view of remote work and struggle to stay productive while working from home, too. Specifically, the survey found that:

  • 59% of respondents that want in-person work see remote work as less productive, compared to 39% of respondents that consent to remote work setups
  • 45% of respondents that want in-person work have struggled with productivity at home, compared to 33% of respondents that consent to remote work setups

"COVID-19 lockdowns didn’t create the move towards a remote workforce — it just accelerated the inevitable," explains Dennis Consorte, Digital's small business expert. "Companies that focus on physical location and hours worked will be behind the curve. They should focus instead on the value produced by their extended teams. Otherwise, their most valued employees may seek out remote opportunities elsewhere."

Indeed, a different survey from FlexJobs showed that 58% of remote workers would "absolutely" look for a new opportunity if their employer wouldn't provide work-from-home options after the pandemic. Meanwhile, another survey from Ivanti discovered that at least half of all telecommuters would be willing to sacrifice a pay raise or promotion to continue working from home.

Dedication to onsite COVID-19 safety protocols affected by company work arrangements

Digital's survey results also highlight other ways that employers plan to keep their onsite workers safe during this transitory period. For instance, many businesses plan on implementing protocols like:

  • Wearing masks (55%)
  • Prohibiting or limiting close interactions between employees (52%)
  • Hand-washing (51%)
  • Requiring staff members to get vaccinated before returning to work onsite (42%)

The report indicates that employers who want their employees to return to full-time work onsite are more insistent on vaccinations (54%), while those rolling out hybrid work setups are more lax on this requirement (35%).

However, the work-from-home proponents are the most likely to implement additional pandemic-related safety practices, such as limiting the number of workers onsite and requiring those with possible coronavirus exposure or symptoms to stay home.

Methodology: Digital.com used an online survey from Pollfish to gather data from 1,500 American small business owners between April 7-8, 2021. Companies with a mostly remote workforce before the pandemic and those with mostly in-person workforces during the pandemic were screened out of the survey.