September 18, 2023
13 min read
During the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world’s workforce — particularly corporate work spaces — shifted to remote work. A few years later and employees find themselves returning to the office, often against their personal preference.
If you find yourself being forced to return to in-person work, there will definitely be a transition period. Working from home is very different from working in person in an office on many levels, and it can be difficult to uproot your work life once again.
If returning to the office is something your employer is mandating, we’ll tell you everything you need to know, including which companies are imposing these mandates, the pros and cons of both work environments, and the top tips for making the transition as smooth as possible.
Thinking about going back to working in an office after working from home for years can feel overwhelming or even scary. Still, it doesn’t have to be.
Here’s everything you should know about returning to the office.
It’s pretty likely that remote work will continue at least in some form. Brands that have created return-to-office mandates often request or prefer hybrid schedules — work schedules where an employee might work from home on some days and come into an office on other days.
Even though many companies are requiring employees to come into the office in person, much of the workforce got a taste of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic and found a better work-life balance, among other benefits.
That being said, there’s no telling exactly what remote work might look like next year, let alone in a couple of years.
Still, including remote options is a prime example of how to better provide diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as offering remote work allows more people with disabilities to do the jobs they want to do.
Although they may be harder to find, there are still existing work from home jobs out there for you to explore.
Some employees are returning to the office because they prefer a work environment where they can have in-person meetings and see coworkers in person. Other staffers have returned to the office due to recent return-to-office mandates requiring employees to come in person.
Although many large, Fortune 500 companies in particular have mandated returning to the office, most in-person workplaces are only 50% full in comparison to levels before the pandemic.
The majority of employees don’t want to return to the office for one reason or another. In fact, only about 6% of employees want to work full time in an office, according to Gallup research.
Some employees who have been requested to return to the office after working from home for some time have wondered if they can push back or refuse. The short answer is, it’s complicated.
A majority of companies requiring staffers to return to the office have official policies in place. If that’s the case and an employee refuses, they could potentially lose their job. Legally, employees don’t really have the power.
Still, some remote workers have used this as a bargaining chip, especially to offset a lower salary.
If your employer has mandated staff returning to the office, don’t panic just yet. Although it’ll definitely be a transition, returning to the office after working from home is completely doable.
Here are five tips for returning to the office to get you ready.
One of the perks of working from home is that you can wear what you’d prefer, whether that’s athletic clothes, sweatpants and a t-shirt, or pajamas. That being said, if you haven’t worked in an office for a while, there’s a chance you’ll have to buy a whole new wardrobe, which can be pretty expensive.
Even if you did have an existing collection of professional wear, after a few years, there’s a chance your previous pieces don’t fit any more (or don’t fit like you’d like them to).
To cut costs on professional wear, try tips like:
Impromptu speaking is unavoidable in an office. Whether it’s water cooler talk, team lunches, or in-person meetings, you’ll face situations where you haven’t prepared what you’re going to say yet, and that can feel overwhelming.
To best prepare for these scenarios, try working with a speech coach app like Yoodli. Yoodli is a program that uses AI technology to analyze a person’s speech and provide them with actionable feedback.
For this purpose, you can practice with Yoodli’s interview simulator, which provides you with impromptu speaking prompts. Yoodli will show you the prompt and record your response in real time, so it can analyze your speech and offer helpful insights, like if:
For example, if you end up using too many filler words too often, Yoodli might suggest you slow down and think about what you want to say before you try to say it. These types of tips can help you make a good first impression at work, too.
To practice impromptu speaking, type in a few sample questions that could come up at work. These can be seemingly simple questions to spark everyday conversation, but if you’re out of practice, even the most straightforward question will have you wondering what the best way to respond is.
For example, trying answering practice questions like:
Whether you have your own corner office, a cubicle, or another type of work environment, try to make your space more personalized to your tastes.
For example, you can bring in a few plants, such as succulents, which tend to do well in office settings.
This can go beyond decor, too. To make your work area feel more at home, considering bringing in things for your space like:
There’s a chance you might never have been to the office you’re “returning” to. If that’s the case, make sure you’re very familiar with your commute.
For many people, that means reviewing where exactly the office is located, how much time it’ll take, if there’s parking available, and other logistics. Doing a test drive to the office is never a bad idea, especially as traffic patterns and routes could’ve changed during the past few years.
For others, however, it can be even more complicated. If you rely on public transport, for example, check the train and bus stops near you and their respective schedules. Have a backup plan for if the train or bus doesn’t come, or if you miss it.
Even if you used public transport in the past, check the schedules again. Many train and bus routes changed during the past few years during the pandemic. In most cases, they don’t run as often as they used to.
If you’re having trouble finding a way to work, consider reaching out to other coworkers to see if there’s a carpool group established.
Many people enjoyed the benefits of working from home, especially caregivers. If you provide childcare or eldercare and now have to return to the office, make plans to address these as soon as possible.
Finding both childcare and eldercare options can be difficult for anyone, but especially for those who suddenly need to return to work. There’s a lot of demand for these two services in particular and it can take time and dedication to find reputable facilities for your children or your parents.
For example, many day care centers across the U.S. have closed and childcare is more expensive than ever.
Leaning on friends and family for support when available is one option.
There are many motives as to why companies want employees returning to the office.
The most commonly cited reason across the board that companies emphasize is “in-office collaboration.”
For JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who’s a famous critic of remote work, in-person staffers do better work in larger quantities.
Other executives mention fears of decreased productivity and less innovation with remote work. Many leaders also cite the desire for “office culture” as a reason for wanting employees to return to the office.
“As business leaders, we’re not saying come back to the workplace simply to be punitive. We’re returning to the office because we are in an uber-competitive environment on the verge of an economic downturn, and we need everything going our way,” SHRM president and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. said in a SHRM release.
There are plenty of companies enforcing returning to the office through return-to-office policies.
Although the assumption is that it’s mainly small or more traditional businesses requiring their employees to come back to their physical location, a majority of the shift comes from large, Fortune 500 companies.
Here are some of the main players forcing employees back into the office, be it full time or a hybrid schedule of a few days a week.
For Google employees, the forced return to office began in 2022. People who worked in the San Francisco Bay Area and other locations around the U.S. were instructed to come into the office for a minimum of three days per week.
Earlier in 2023, corporate Amazon staffers were required to spend at least three days per week in the office starting in May.
Amazon’s leadership team, particularly the CEO, Andy Jassy, cited their belief in in-person collaboration. Jassy said he believes working in an office can both boost the brand’s culture while also making it easier to collaborate.
However, many Amazon employees didn’t share the same sentiment. Thousands of workers openly discussed their thoughts in a Slack channel after the mandate was made and filed a petition to reverse the decision, according to Business Insider.
As JPMorgan CEO Dimon has continued to be outspoken against remote work, the company required about half its staffers to return to the office full time, five days a week. The other 40% of employees were mandated to come in a few days per week.
The company collects data and information on the activity of its employees, and tracks attendance as part of this.
JPMorgan’s stance on in-office work and harsh criticism of remote work could transform “Wall Street’s work-from-home rules,” the Business Insider reported.
Like many of the other companies on the list, Apple’s upper management and leadership teams informed employees that they’d have to come into the office at least three days a week in August.
Just like Amazon and others on the list, Apple CEO Tim Cook cited “in-person collaboration” as the reason for return-to-office policies and mandates.
However, as with other companies who have tried to initiate the same change, Apple workers organized and questioned the mandate. Pretty quickly after the back-to-work change was announced, employees issued a petition against it.
The CEO of Disney, Bob Iger, is yet another CEO who chose to mandate employees returning to work.
Staffers were forced to return to the office four days a week, which began in March. Not surprisingly, not all employees wanted nor accepted that choice. Some Disney employees are now actively fighting that mandate.
There are tons of other big-name companies that have mandated for some, if not all, of their corporate employees to return to the office. Other companies include brands like:
As employees are returning to the office, much of the workforce is left wondering if in-office life is better than working from home. As you might expect, it depends.
There are definitely pros (and cons) to both.
Returning to the office after years of working from home, which is becoming more common by the month, definitely has some advantages.
For example, when you work in person, you can:
However, there are some definite drawbacks. These include aspects like:
Similarly, there are some specific advantages to working from a home office, such as:
Working from home has also resulted in more people having the time to be physically active during the day.
Still, it isn’t all a perfect world. Working from home can have a few notable disadvantages, such as:
Although many people think returning to the office is better for mental health, that’s not guaranteed to be the case.
In fact, working from home can actually improve a person’s mental health, as in-office life and exacerbate any mental health challenges. This is exactly why offering remote work as an option for people with disabilities, such as mental health conditions, is a great way to promote DEIB at a company.
However, for others, working at home can create feelings of isolation.
Mental Health America recommends flexible work options for people with mental health conditions, caregivers, and employees at large.
Whether or not it’s “worth” going back to work is totally dependent on the person. For some, the idea of being forced to return to the office isn’t worth it and prompts them to search for new opportunities.
For others, returning to the office is preferable to working out of the home.
Not everyone will enjoy returning to the office, especially if it’s out of their control. Still, there are things you can do to feel more in control of your career and professional life.
There are plenty of pros and cons to working from home vs. returning to the office, but whatever your situation, Yoodli can help improve your speaking skills, whether you need to practice conversational chatting or an upcoming presentation.
Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.