Tens of millions of Americans have strong feelings about not returning to their offices full time—or commuting to get there.
Commuting notwithstanding, U.S. workers put other tasks ahead of going to the office full time. More than half of Americans (52%) said they would prefer to wash dishes, visit the dentist (33%), do taxes (30%) or host in-laws (27%). A third said they would leave their jobs if they were forced to return to their office.
The poll results send another message to business leaders about the obstacles and resistance they face in convincing employees to return to their offices.
RingCentral, a cloud-based communications company, conducted the U.S. research project that questioned 2,000 Americans as part of an international study in late August 2021 in collaboration with market research firm Ipsos. The margin of error was +/- 2.2%.
International Dislike For Commuting
Compared to the U.S., here’s what the international study found for what employees in other countries would rather do than commute to work:
4-in-10 full-time Australian employees would rather wash dishes than deal with a commute to work.
Around 3-in-10 would also rather clean the toilet, go to the dentist, or do their taxes rather than commute to work.
26% full time French employees would rather wash dishes than deal with a commute to work
18% would rather clean the toilet than deal with a commute to work
29% full time German employees would rather wash dishes than deal with a commute to work
20% would rather clean the toilet than deal with a commute to work
47% of UK workers would rather wash dishes than commute to work
37% would rather clean their toilet than commute to the office
‘The Time Suck Of Commuting’
It’s easy to understand why people feel the way they do about commuting.
Last month, Washington Post graphic columnist Sergio Peçanha wrote that, “In 2019, Americans spent an average of about one hour commuting to and from work each day. That may not have seemed like a big deal before the pandemic, but it has become a hard sell for many who’ve worked from home for more than a year now and learned that the show went on just fine from a distance.”
He created a calculator to help people “measure the time suck of commuting in your life.”
Losing Their Freedom To Work Remotely?
The RingCentral research project also found that while 80% of U.S. workers said they now have the freedom to work from anywhere, only 12% think they will continue to have this freedom in 2022.
Other Survey Results
RingCentral said the results of their study also bring to light disparities between business decision makers and workers on these issues:
46% of business decision makers felt isolated and lonely while working from home compared to only 34% of workers
47% of the business decision makers who feel lonely due to remote work believe it is impacting their ability to do their job
43% of business decision makers say they want to connect more with employees and therefore want to return to the office, compared to only 16% of workers
Meeting New Colleagues
59% of business decision makers claim that they are working with colleagues they have never met compared to only 36% of workers, rapidly driving the desire of business decision makers to go back to the office
74% of business decision makers are confident in their employer’s plan for return to office vs. 52% of workers
Advice For Business Leaders
Gunjan Aggarwal is RingCentral’s executive vice president and chief people officer. She observed that, “Although there is a push to get folks back in the office, if organizations are not careful and rock the boat beyond what is acceptable to their employee base, employees are likely to leave their organizations in droves—leading to a massive talent deficit.
“There is no doubt that the future of work will be hybrid, but what’s becoming clear is that employees will have a bigger say than ever before on what that flexibility and hybrid work means to them and suits their needs. It’s important to listen to them and have an open dialogue,” she advised.
Putting Things Into Perspective
RingCentral’s findings are the latest in a series of recent survey results about returning to the office.
In October, I wrote about the global Future Forum Pulse study, released by the Future Forum, that showed there is a wide gap about returning to the office between executives and non-executives. Failure to address the gap could create crisis situations for companies and organizations.
In September, I reported that 26% of employees surveyed by HealthEquity found they don’t plan to work onsite again, and that most preferred hybrid arrangements.
In August, I noted that a Blackhawk Network survey found that nearly 75% of respondents working virtually prefer to continue doing so as opposed to working in a physical workplace full- or part-time.
By Edward Segal