The Resistance To Returning To The Office

A few years ago, it seemed like remote work was poised to become the norm, but fast forward to 2024 and it’s quickly becoming a sign of the past. Despite overwhelming enthusiasm and support for telework from workers, the trend is shifting and return-to-office (RTO) mandates are becoming more and more prevalent. In May, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (I-WV) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) introduced the bipartisan Back to Work Act of 2024 to bring employees of federal agencies back to in-person work. This legislation would limit telework to no more than 40% of days within an employee’s pay period and require agencies to report to Congress on the productivity of its telework activities.

Just like private companies whose workers threatened to leave their positions before RTO mandates, there is now similar data from government agencies. Here’s a look at a few:

  • An Environmental Protection Agency survey reveals 65.9% of employees indicated they would consider leaving the agency if telework and remote work opportunities were diminished. Additionally, 80% of respondents anticipated experiencing “personal hardships” if telework were reduced.
  • At the National Science Foundation (NSF), a survey revealed that 42% of respondents feel that being required to work in the office four days per pay period would significantly affect them. In addition, 27% of NSF employees view RTO expectations as “unworkable” and said they would consider finding new employment or retiring.

So, why are workers so dead set against returning to the office? Here are the most common objections:

  • Commuting: The time, energy, cost and stress that workers face before even stepping into the office is one of the biggest deterrents. Some people even moved during the pandemic to get out of the city and into a larger space. This means even more time spent on commuting.
  • Lost productivity in the office: People learned how to be more productive working from home and the experience shined a light on some of the inefficiencies of being in the office.
  • Childcare and pet costs: The pandemic really highlighted the struggles of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, as well as the cost of spending so much time in the office. So, it’s no surprise that childcare costs and having to leave pets at home were top reasons keeping employees out of the office.
  • Unenjoyable office environment: Noise levels will always be one of the reasons people may not want to work in the office, but workers also want to know when their colleagues are going in to work so they can avoid ending up in an empty office. Coordinating that overlap has proved challenging for many organizations.

How is your agency handling return-to-office mandates? Most importantly, how are your team members handling it? Like many leaders, you probably have concerns about recruitment and retention. It’s a challenging situation that can make you feel like you’re powerless. Leah M Joppy and Associates is ready to work with you to face the hurdles and develop RTO strategies for both you and your team members. Each department is different and faces a unique set of challenges. We’ll learn about yours and help you come up with effective solutions.

Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at to learn more.