Most Employees Still Reluctant to Return to the Office

64% want to wait at least a month before going back to the workplace
An empty office

As some states across the country lift stay-at-home orders and businesses prepare to re-open, a majority of office workers who are currently doing their jobs remotely aren’t convinced the workplace is safe enough for their return.

Remote working has surged in recent months as employers have sought to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A recent survey commissioned by Citrix Systems, a virtual workspace provider, looked at whether office employees felt ready to go back to working on-site.

The answer for most was “no,” with 64% saying they wanted to wait at least a month, and nearly a quarter (23%) saying they would rather wait three months or more.

Defining a safe workspace

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the workplace has been a focal point of concern, especially when it comes to open-office environments. Such fears have not abated, the Citrix Systems survey suggests. The findings show that in order for workers to feel comfortable returning to the office on a full-time basis:

  • 51% would want to see regular testing and health screenings put in place for all workers
  • 46% would want an effective vaccine to be available
  • 44% would want contact tracing apps to be used by their employer
  • 38% would want contact tracing apps to be used by the government
  • 28% would want their company to have a flexible sick leave policy

While the discovery of a vaccine or a treatment for the coronavirus is in the hands of scientists, office workers say there are steps employers can take to make them feel safer.

The most common request by respondents was for employers to require all employees to wear face masks, with 46% of workers feeling that way. Similarly, 43% of respondents would like all employees to wear disposable gloves, and 40% want all staff members to wear face visors or face shields.

Among other sanitary measures in the workspace, 42% said hand sanitizer should be readily available, and 32% want “regular and clearly documented” procedures for disinfecting or deep cleaning.

A sizable number of those surveyed called for further monitoring. For example, 41% said they would want coronavirus testing for employees every two weeks, and 35% said they would want employees to carry an app on their work-issued mobile devices to track their movements and allow contact tracing to be done if they test positive for the disease. Also, 35% would want self-temperature checks to be done by employees, with those showing a fever made to stay home.

The good news for workers is employers have been proactive throughout the crisis by amending their policies and benefits in response to the pandemic.

Employees drawing a line in the sand

Many workers were not willing to compromise when it comes to their health concerns. In fact, 45% said if their employer did not make safety concessions, they would work from home permanently.

Nearly a third (32%) said they would only go into the office when they needed to, and 5% said they would find another job that would let them work remotely on a permanent basis.

Some said they would prefer to work remotely even if safety procedures were put in place in their office. Specifically, 37% said they would want to keep working remotely even if all employees were required to wear a mask and glove at all times, while another 37% said they would only want to go to the office when needed. In fact, 3% said they would never want to work full-time in an office again in light of the pandemic.

Methodology: Citrix Systems commissioned OnePoll to survey 2,000 office workers between May 2-12. All respondents were working from home because of the pandemic.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.