Execs Want You to Return to the Office — Even if They Get to Stay Home

·3 min read
Money; Getty images
Money; Getty images

Executives and managers want you to come back to the office, but they’re just fine phoning it in from the couch, thank you very much.

As calls for returning to the office intensify, new research suggests that the C-suite might not be practicing what they’re preaching. A new study from Future Forum, a research group run by the workplace messaging app Slack, found that non-executive employees are nearly twice as likely to be working in the office five days a week compared to the executives who oversee them.

Surveying more than 10,000 so-called knowledge workers across the U.S., Japan, Australia, the U.K. and Germany, Future Forum found a “troubling double standard:” 35% of non-executive workers are commuting to the office five days a week, compared to only 19% of executives. This is in spite of only 21% of both groups saying they want to work in the office full-time.

“Executives say they want to work from the office — but it’s their employees who are being told to show up,” the report states.

Future Forum defines “knowledge workers” as full-timers whose work deals with creativity, analysis, data or a combination of the three. Unlike service work or manual labor, these jobs can be performed fully remotely. And by “executives,” Future Forum means anyone either in the C-suite (like a CEO or CFO) or with a high-ranking title like president or partner.

The report joins a growing body of new research that suggests the return-to-work attitudes among employees and higher-ups are grossly misaligned.

In a recent survey from the employment-verification company GoodHire, 75% of 3,500 managers polled said they want workers back in the office full-time, citing the distractions of working from home as well as a loss of company culture and productivity. Yet in the same poll, nearly the same percentage of managers (73%) conceded that worker productivity and engagement stayed the same or even improved while working remotely.

Last month, job satisfaction fell to the lowest level ever recorded by the financial services firm MetLife.

Similarly, in the Future Forum study, fully in-office workers were found to be the least happy when compared to hybrid and fully remote workers. What’s more, their work-life balance declined at twice the rate of their partial or fully remote counterparts, and they also reported higher levels of work-related stress and anxiety.

Overall, this has resulted in the highest levels of work-related anxiety since the organization launched its first employee survey in the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, with non-executives suffering twice the levels of anxiety stemming from their jobs than executives.

Future Forum says that workers who are dissatisfied with their working location and schedule are three times as likely as satisfied workers to say they’ll “definitely” search for a new gig this year.

“Leaders need to move away from dictating days in the office and rigid 9-to-5 schedules,” Brian Elliott, executive leader of Future Forum, said in the report, “and focus instead on aligning their teams around a common purpose and leading by example.”

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