Bosses are demanding employees return to the office, but a new survey shows executives are staying at home themselves

April 20, 2022, 10:37 AM UTC

Corporate executives are demanding their employees come back to the office—yet a recent survey finds that the bosses are often staying at home themselves. Or, at least, working somewhere else.

After two years of remote work from the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are trying to return to in-person work. Corporate leaders, from Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon to JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, are trying to use carrots and, increasingly, sticks to get their employees back to their desks. 

Even President Joe Biden is exhorting workers to start commuting again, saying that “it’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again” at his State of the Union address in March.

However, a recent survey from the Future Forum, a consortium backed by Slack that conducts research on working culture, is finding that some executives aren’t walking the walk when it comes to returning to the office.

Future Forum’s April 2022 Pulse Survey of more than 10,000 “knowledge workers” across the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. found that 35% of non-executives were now commuting into the office each day—while only 19% of executives were doing the same. Future Forum defines “executives” to be anyone in the C-suite, or those with the title of “president.”

Future Forum found that just 21% of both executives and non-executives wanted to return to in-person work, which suggests that at least some non-executives who are back at the office don’t want to be there. Both executives and non-executives also reported that their work-life balance had deteriorated in the first quarter, although non-executives reported a decline in work-life balance at least five times greater than their bosses.

Non-executives also reported worse scores when it came to work-related anxiety, which Future Forum called a “troubling double standard in who is feeling the pain of return-to-office policies.”

Companies that publicly committed to bring workers back to the office have struggled to actually get their employees commuting again. Goldman Sachs, which initially demanded that workers return to the office in February, found that only half its workers showed up on the first day of the office’s reopening. JPMorgan is also letting half its employees work in hybrid or fully remote settings, despite CEO Jamie Dimon saying that work from home “doesn’t work for people who want to hustle” last year.

Getting the balance between in-person and remote work wrong could have dire consequences for companies. Future Forum’s survey found that workers dissatisfied with their level of flexibility are now three times more likely to say they will “definitely” look for a new job in the coming year. 

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