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Survey: What would make employees return to the office?

Whether you prefer your Monday to Friday in the office, at home, or somewhere in between, the great workplace debate around attendance that intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic still rages on.

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Survey: What would make employees return to the office?


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Whether you prefer your Monday to Friday in the office, at home, or somewhere in between, the great workplace debate around attendance that intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic still rages on.

Earlier this year, we found that fully remote jobs have decreased by a quarter since 2021, with eight in 10 worried about their organization mandating their return to the office (RTO). Whether utilizing office space or developing closer collaboration between teams, CEOs have their reasons for bringing people together for work.

But increasingly, it seems businesses are going to greater lengths to entice employees into the office. A KPMG survey of 1,325 CEOs found that 87% are willing to reward staff who make the effort with favorable assignments, raises, and promotions.

But what exactly will the workforce need to ditch remote working and return to the office? To find out, Ringover has surveyed 1,038 U.S. adults who currently or until recently worked as remote employees about their experiences of RTO mandates, and what they would need to meet their bosses' demands.

Key findings

  • Just 3.7% of people would be unwilling to accept their employers' RTO policy irrespective of offers or perks
  • Eight out of 10 employees would be encouraged back to the office if their commute was paid for by their organization.
  • An average pay rise of $7,500 annually will make most people (48%) return to the office
  • Majority of remote workers (77.6%) expect a pay increase of some sort but 67.4% would be willing to quit in order to negotiate a deal
  • More than two-thirds of people (68.1%) said that their employer has implemented an RTO policy where attendance is mandatory or heavily encouraged by management.
  • Seven in 10 (71.6%) workers are willing to attend the office twice or three times per week, closely aligning with their employers' RTO policies.

How common are RTO mandates in 2024?

Before we look into the needs of employees when it comes to returning to work, it’s important to understand the landscape of return-to-office (RTO) policies in the current climate. 77% of Fortune 100 companies have adopted a return to the office since 2021, with most staff in for three days per week.

If you have faced a Return to Office mandate, was it optional or mandatory?

Our research shows that around three in 10 workers (29.8%) have been subjected to a mandatory RTO policy, with a further four in 10 (38.3%) saying that the policy was “heavily encouraged.”

In the U.S., around 22 million people continue working remotely in 2023, according to the Pew Research Center. While almost 40% of jobs can be performed without attending an office–thanks in part to technology like business phone systems–our research shows that around a third of people still work from home.

What would make people return to the office?

96.3% of employees would return to the office but want a change before they do

For 3.7% of remote working employees, no amount of salary increase or in-office perks are enough to convince them of a return to the office. However, for the remaining 96.3% who see a middle-ground, there are various conditions and offers they'd look for in order to make an RTO mandate more palatable.

Naturally, the most obvious challenge with any RTO policy for workers is the daily commute. For the average American, this is around 27 minutes, and many U.S. cities have seen a reduction in commute times in the remote work era.

However, the remote worker would argue that this is a precious extra hour of their day which remains theirs, and that longer commutes can disrupt a work-life balance, leading to burnout.

Our survey shows that commutes remain a major sticking point for workers. 83% of respondents said that they would be willing to return to the office if their organization paid for their commute.

While businesses do subsidize commuter expenses with company cars and other policies, the average American now spends $8,466 per year on trips to the office, up from $6,500 annually in 2019. From this analysis, it seems staff wish their organization would go further.

What would make people go back to the office?

Other perks that workers believe would entice them back into the office include a paid-for on-site gym (77.1%), more time with co-workers they are friends with (76%), increased charitable contributions by their organization (75.7%), and a four-day work-week (74.1%).

The four-day policy has been discussed since the 1970s, but a UK-based trial found that 92% of employers adopted it permanently after noticing the improvements to employee wellbeing and productivity.

Of all the employees happy to discuss a return to the office, or have already, with their employer, 100% of them confirmed they want at least one change to their working agreement from above in order to do so.

Would salary raises entice office attendance?

Everyone wants to earn more money, right? Our survey reveals that 95% of people would be willing to accept a salary increase in return for adhering to an organization's RTO policy; around half of those agreed that losing the right to work remotely wouldn't come at any price.

How much extra per year would you have to be paid to come back to the office?

Almost half of people surveyed (48%) agreed that a raise of $5,000-$10,000 would be enough to return to the office–an average of $7,500 overall. One in 10 (12.6%) respondents were looking for more than $10k in compensation for losing the freedom to work remotely. This survey also shows that a higher proportion of men (53%) favor pay increases than women (46%).

What do employees think their bosses need from RTO policies?

Employees are divided on what they think their bosses stand to gain from their office attendance. The most common response to this question from our respondents was increased productivity (30.7), along with easier employee monitoring (26.8%).

With staff in close physical proximity, it becomes easier in theory to track individual performance. However, “virtual micromanagement” surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the negative second side to the coin.

Why do you think employers want their employees back to the office?

On a more positive note, employees believe that office attendance leads to a stronger company culture (28.9%) and supports individuals' training and personal development (27%). Despite this, a 2022 Gallup poll found that 23% of hybrid workers felt connected to their organization, more so than staff who attended the office full-time.

Will employees return to the office?

If organizations are adamant about returning to pre-pandemic levels of office use, how willing are staff to accept this? We asked our 1,038 respondents how many days their employers are asking them to attend, and compared this with the number of days they would be willing to work in the office.

Office days per week asked for by bosses

The results show a surprising overlap. Just 3.7% of respondents said they would be unwilling to follow an RTO mandate, and more than 7 in 10 (71.6%) are happy to adopt the hybrid approach of attending for two to three days per week.

This corresponds closely with the request of businesses with RTO policies, according to our respondents. 74.7% of people said that their organization would prefer them to attend twice or three times per week; only 5% of organizations demand staff work all five days in their offices.

Office days per week required by RTO mandate

Major organizations like Amazon, SAP, and X (formerly Twitter) continue to clamp down on staff who resist or protest RTO policies, highlighting the ongoing rift between corporate America and the needs of its workforce.

The debate has emboldened workers to fight to work on their own terms and to preserve a healthy work-life balance, in contrast to organizations like Goldman Sachs, which claim remote work is an “aberration.” The “great resignation” of 2022 and 2023 shows that employees, particularly those of millennial and generation-Z age, are serious about this.

However, our research suggests that while workers demand more perks from their employees to return to the office more regularly, staff are fundamentally willing to attend on the days requested by their employers, showing once again hybrid work is the new norm in the work week.


Between 02/22/2024 and 02/28/2024, a total of 1,038 U.S. adults were surveyed about their experiences and attitudes around organizations that adopt return to the office (RTO) policies. We surveyed respondents who confirmed they work remote currently or within the past 12 months, and have experienced an RTO mandate.

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