Companies and workers face off in return-to-office battle as employees air their grievances on social media
In Tuesday’s State of the Union, President Biden urged workers to return to the office. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again. People working from home can feel safe to begin to return to the office.”
Employers are also encouraging employees to return after a series of delays over the past nine months as the country battled the Delta and Omicron surges. Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai recently announced that most employees will return to the office three days a week. Microsoft, Wells Fargo, and Meta Platforms Inc. have also introduced hybrid schedules for employees to start coming in and brushing the dust off their desks this spring.
But not everyone is excited about taking off their sweatpants and resuming their commute to the office. The possible end of remote work has become a polarizing issue for many employees who argue they are safer, more productive, and yes more comfortable working from home.
Twitter and TikTok have been filled with posts pointing out all the terrible things about working in an office and celebrating the best bits of working from home. Comedian Ely Kleimendahl tweeted, “Have people pushing for return-to-office considered that work is one million percent better from bed.”
Most of us can agree that being wrapped in a duvet is more comfortable than struggling to get the armrests on your office desk chair to lower to a respectable level.
Elly, who posts TikTok videos to an audience of more than 50,000 under the name @1corporatemillennial, points out how drab the office can be. In a video with 44,000 likes, she shares classic pictures of the worst kind of office: gray toilet stalls, a stark office kitchen, and small, cramped cubicles. They don’t exactly elicit feelings of joy.
Remote workers are also lamenting the loss of freedom. Returning to the office means worrying that your boss could be looking over your shoulder at the most inopportune time.
TikTok creator Laura (@loewhaley) has a 15-second video that beautifully sums up some of the benefits of working remotely: Without her camera on, Laura can participate in a meeting on her own terms, donning a comfy bathrobe, no pants, and hair curlers. Employees got used to working from home over the last two years, and many took multitasking to a whole new level, tackling household chores while attending meetings.
Not everyone is complaining about return-to-office plans in a light-hearted way. Some people are skeptical and frustrated about having to return to an environment where they feel less safe and more micromanaged.
There are also employees across the country managing chronic illnesses, which make returning to a workplace during a pandemic seem dangerous, unnecessary, and anxiety-producing.
And in some cases, employees are simply quitting so they don’t have to go back to an office. According to a GallUp survey published in October 2021, “three in 10 employees working remotely say they are extremely likely to seek another job if their company eliminates remote work.”
Politicians and CEOs across the country are facing an uphill battle as they try to encourage people to return to the office. Time will tell whether there’s a kernel of truth in all the social media jokes, and if the office reopening will only add more fuel to the Great Resignation fire.
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