Number of the day: returning to the office

The vast majority of employers have a tentative date to return workers back to the office, according to a new Aon survey. The professional services firm surveyed thousands of employers in the U.S. and globally and found a host of COVID-19-related changes in the workplace. The survey also found that 52% of companies said employees will return onsite in Q3.

What it means to HR leaders

The stat indicates that employers are eager for workers to come back into the office–even when other data overwhelmingly finds that employees, for the most part, don’t want to go back.

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Recent research from Total Brain found that two-thirds of American workers say they feel somewhat or extremely anxious about returning to work. Limeade research found that a shocking 100% of employees surveyed are anxious about returning to the workplace, citing concerns over exposure to COVID-19, less flexibility and commuting to work. And careers site FlexJobs, which surveyed more than 2,100 people who have been working remotely during the pandemic, found that 58% of workers say they would “absolutely” look for a new job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely in their current position.

Related: Requiring employees to return to the office? Get ready for them to quit

Yanina Koliren

However, notes Yanina Koliren, a partner in Aon’s global compensation surveys and solutions department, the 81% statistic doesn’t mean that employers are making employees return to the office full-time. “There can be a context to it; it can be one or more days,” she says.

She notes that most employers will embrace hybrid work models when returning employees to the office, especially because so many employees want the ability to continue working remotely, and the model has worked remarkably well for many organizations during the pandemic. “Very few companies are saying, ‘Everybody come back into the office full-time.’ But most are saying, ‘We’ll expect you to come back to the office in a certain way.’”

Still, Koliren notes, the angst and anxiety employees are feeling needs to be considered by company and HR leaders. “It’s important that [HR leaders] listen to employee preferences,” she says.

Related: New CDC mask guidance is upping employee anxiety. Now what?

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.