9 Statistics That Prove Return to Office Mandates Don’t Work

Company after company is calling staff back to the office, and ending remote work. This data shows why they've got it wrong.

Last August, reports surfaced of the internal response that SVP of Amazon Video and Studios Mike Hopkins gave when asked about the reasoning behind Amazon’s huge push for a return to the office following years of remote and hybrid work. As Hopkins put it, he had “no data either way” to justify the unpopular decision.

Perhaps if Hopkins had looked a little closer at all the surveys, studies, and government data that have emerged across the past few years, he would have found that missing data – data that indicates Amazon’s choice was the wrong one all along.

Remote work is certainly here to stay in some form. I’m fully remote myself, and I have been since long before the Covid pandemic. But as businesses increasingly push for a full return to in-office work, it’s worth highlighting all the benefits of leaving remote and hybrid workplaces open as an option for any workers who need them.

It’s not just charity, after all: Many statistics show that remote work is better, both for employers as well as employees. Here’s all the data you need to prove it.

1. Over 33% of Remote Workers Would Leave Their Job If Forced Back to the Office

More than one third of remote workers would leave their jobs if forced back to the office full time, according to a UK-focused report out last year from networking site LinkedIn. The data, culled from LinkedIn and from multiple worker surveys, also found that six out of ten workers were considering leaving their jobs. Of those polled, 52% said they either had already left or were thinking about leaving their current job due to a lack of workplace flexibility.

2. 40% of Office Workers Report Working Longer Hours When Remote Or Hybrid

Does skipping your daily commute leave you with more time and energy for your job? Whatever the case, it seems that working from home boosts productivity: A study from workplace wellness company Ergotron found that 40% of respondents said that they worked longer hours when fully or even just partially remote.

To be more specific, using data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, those remote workdays are about 48.5 minutes longer on average. That’s nearly 200 extra working hours during the year. But there’s more to the picture than just an increase in hours worked, as our next stat shows.

3. RTO Mandates Negatively Impact Women

Following a huge dip at the start of the Covid pandemic, the number of office hours worked rose back up to the pre-pandemic standard in 2022. Break the amount of hours worked down by gender, however, and there’s still a discrepancy: Women are working nearly 5% more now than they were before the pandemic, while men are working fewer hours.

That statistic is from UK government data, but other countries have turned up similar research. Last year, India-based IT services company TCS reported that more women were leaving their company than men in the wake of an RTO mandate. The glass ceiling is still around, and the loss of flexibility that comes with the return to a physical office makes that ceiling just a little bit lower.

4. Returning to the Office Is Not Increasing Companies’ Profits

An RTO mandate is ostensibly a hard-nosed business decision, aimed at giving profits a much-needed shot in the arm. But reality paints a different picture. Value and productivity don’t improve with returns to the office, according to a fresh 2024 research paper.

Researchers at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh combed through public RTO data from 137 S&P 500 firms and ultimately found that RTO mandates had no significant impact on either stock returns or profitability. The researchers instead theorized that managers can use RTO mandates (and those who don’t follow them) as narratives to justify poor stock performances.

5. Remote-Friendly Companies Show 16% Higher Revenue Growth

Further backing up the revenue benefits of remote work options is a recent study by tech startup Scoop, in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group. After matching the work policies against the revenue growth of 554 public companies, they found that fully flexible public companies grew revenue 16% higher than fully in-office companies. In addition, hybrid companies grew revenues 13% more than in-office companies.

Perhaps bosses are realizing that their own agenda isn’t working out for them, if our next stat is anything to go by.

6. 80% of Bosses Regret Pushing for RTO Mandates

One study from Envoy found that 80% of about 1,000 executives surveyed said they would have adjusted their return-to-office approach if their workplace data had been more accurate. That’s a big admission to make, given the ongoing unpopularity of RTO mandates in today’s globalized and very online world. According to the Envoy CEO, those decisions were “based on executives’ opinions rather than employee data.”

7. Gen Z Benefits the Most From Remote Work

Any companies trying to attract the youngest generation currently entering the workforce would do well to consider offering remote work options: Gen Z loves them. According to a National Broadband Ireland study, more than 55% of 18-24 year-olds say that remote and hybrid work had a positive impact on their career, a huge jump up from the 23% of 45-54 year-olds who said the same. It’s a clear indicator that the importance of remote work will only grow stronger in the future.

8. Remote Work Can Reduce Carbon Footprints by 54%

One underacknowledged reason why RTO mandates are a failure? They’re doubling carbon emissions when compared with the alternative. “Remote workers could have a 54% lower carbon footprint compared to onsite workers,” as one study out from the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) explains. Given our current climate crisis, any limits we can add to carbon emissions are sorely needed.

9. US Remote Workers Earn $8,500 More Than Office Staff

In the US, workers who are remote earn a higher salary, on average, when compared to those who work entirely in-office. Call center software provider Ringover analyzed 15,800 job listings across 30 major US cities, finding that the average remote worker earned $8,553 more annually.

What’s the takeaway here? While you might assume that remote workers are better and therefore earn more, the real lesson could be that higher paid positions have more leverage, and therefore are allowed a perk that most business leaders would prefer not to offer – workplace flexibility.

That would make sense when compared with another study that found smaller companies are more likely to offer hybrid options. A small company needs to offer perks in order to compete with larger, established competitors, and when those big companies push for RTO mandates, they’re setting themselves up to fail.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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