This list won’t be surprising to anyone who has worked in the office and worked remotely. But it’s necessary to get it down in list-form in case any presuming CEO thinks they’re on to something with calling workers back to the office.
What it basically comes down to are two things: 1) time and 2) money.
Surprise to… no one. Probably not even those presuming CEOs. But they are also worried about their money.
Workers are rightly guarded over their time and money too. Long have been the times when the general public doesn’t have much control around these two items. Now that there is some variation of control, it’s hard to give up. And the rationale isn’t too convincing either…
The sweet freedom of more time when remote work became the norm.
And then the added bonus of saving money. Unbeatable.
So… why would we want that to change?
Newsflash: We don’t. And we haven’t even gotten into all the office politics & nuances that can make in-person work life a little bit miserable. If remote work can tune all that out, what gives?
Read on for 10 reasons we don’t want to return to the office.
Table of Contents
1. The commute
We have collectively saved so much time by not commuting to work. Whether it’s driving, public transport, or a combination of a few methods, saving time getting to work is a game-changer.
If people don’t have to sit in traffic, why would they?
Not to mention the bonus of saving so much money on transportation costs like gas or public transport funds. Which is significant over the course of a year. “Research shows that employees working remotely can save $4,500 on commuting costs annually” (Waltower, 2023).
Wow. Do you want to save $4,500 per year? Because I do…
Beyond the cost, what about happiness? Work contentment?
Research has stated for years that the longer your commute, the more diluted your happiness is. And then remote work came around and we get this bogus article titled,“Hate your commute? It might actually be good for your mental health, scientists say” (Guenot, 2023).
We are not buying it…
In the article’s defense, it seems the headline was taken out of context (aren’t they all these days?) & the foundation of the article was to find time to “unplug” – which people *potentially* & formerly did via a commute (while many probably also did not – traffic is f*&king stressful). Why you couldn’t find any other avenue or method other than a commute to unplug is… beyond me. The article is on shaky ground at best.
Commuting is a main & obvious reason people definitely don’t want to return to the office.
2. Time spent getting ready in the morning
Speaking of time… the time it takes to get ready in the morning is now much reduced via remote work. This is likely specific to women, but doesn’t necessarily need a gender associated with it.
The time it took to 1) shower 2) get ready (longer for many women than men with hair, makeup & outfit expectations, etc. – if you think these are false, keep reading), 3) make & eat breakfast 4) any other morning items.
Many of these items are now reduced because they can now be combined with working.
Grab your cup of coffee and sit down to your email.
Shower and throw on makeup before a meeting if need be. Or go completely without. This used to be unheard of in office-world. Many men don’t know this. Many women are so over this.
And don’t tell me that these (hair, makeup & other personal care items for women) aren’t must-haves. You live in this society. You know what the stakes are.
And if you don’t, educate yourself. And also skip to point #6: Being judged by our appearance / just commenting on our appearance / having appearance expectations.
Time spent getting ready in the morning is by far a huge reason people don’t want to return to the office. Time is money and time is valuable. Value our time.
3. The office temperature
If you’ve ever been in an office environment, you know this is a heated (pun intended) topic. Or… maybe I should say “frigid” topic.
The office temperature is set a *certain* demographic of people’s body temperature and not for other people’s. I hate to say this is gendered, but it largely is. Many men thrive in a freezing cold office while women shiver away the day.
It’s not uncommon for women to have space heaters, coats, even gloves on in the office.
Biology plays a part
Let’s look at the research. “In general, research has shown that women tend to feel colder than men do at the same air temperature. One study found that men tend to prefer rooms at 72℉, while women tend to prefer 77℉. Body size and fat-to-muscle ratios are generally the reason why” (Kuligowski, 2023).
So there’s true biology behind the rationale. So how do we choose where to set the thermostat?
Let’s look at the research for that too: “The discrepancy dates back to the 1960s and ’70s, when scientists and regulators set workplace indoor climate standards based on the metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man weighing 70 kilograms (154 pounds),” (Guilford, Kuligowski, 2023).
And alas, we find that we almost *always* defer to the men’s body temperature and not the women’s… it’s a little bit of a contentious topic.
Surprise, surprise. Office spaces, kitchen counters, seatbelts, and almost everything else we encounter in the world around us was made / set up for men.
To dive even deeper into office temperature, there’s no office temperature requirement, but OSHA “recommends that employers keep the thermostat between 68℉ and 76℉,” but this “recommendation” is usually sidelined by the powers that be (Kuligowski, 2023).
Powers that be
And newsflash, those “powers that be” are… men. Look at your c-suite. Look at all the CEOs. Wow, they all look the same.
If you didn’t think a toxic workplace could be toxic based on temperature alone, then maybe you don’t work at Meta where Zuckerburg keeps the “thermostat at a numbing 59℉” or Briggs Acquisitions who, “intentionally kept at 65℉ to increase employee productivity and concentration” (Kuligowski, 2023).
Hmm.. apparently our finance bro CEOs are now scientists and productivity experts….
When women report wearing “snuggies” in the office, I think some things need to change (Kuligowski, 2023).
Sure, it’s easier to layer-up (put on more layers) than to layer down (take off layers). But can’t we find a happy medium? No? Not once in the office history of the last 75+ years?
Okay, no problem. We’ll just prefer to work remotely where we can choose the temperature of our domain. Problem solved. Remote work it is.
Do you see why workers don’t want to return to the office yet?
This is a biggie. It may seem like a smallie but it is definitely not. It’s a biggie.
Getting to eat at home is a big deal.
This is a double-whammy of time & cost & also a third element, so stay tuned.
Time: The time it takes to pre-prepare breakfast, snacks, lunch & more snacks is time consuming. Do you have to? No. But if you don’t, it’s probably going to be a heck of a lot more expensive to be eating around or at your workplace. That’s where the money part comes in. Not to mention be tempted by some of the desirable yet undesirable office treats laying around.
Some people meal prep for the week to manage the time it takes. That’s great. But we’re still managing time. And buying individually packaged granola bars and pretzels and probably still going out to buy snacks to 1) get out of the office and 2) get a sugar-high at the 2pm dip.
But preparing food for work every day is time consuming. There are only so many minute-meals you can buy before you have to switch it up if you’re not bringing left-overs to work.
If you don’t/didn’t bring your meals to work then that was mooooney. If you didn’t think about the money, you’re probably fine and can discontinue reading this (wait, if you’re a CEO – stay, read, learn). If you did think about the money, maybe you managed it in a way that makes sense to eat out for $13 every day for 1 meal, grab coffee for $6 and a couple snacks for $6. And there’s $25 a day. Or $125 per week. Or $625 per month. Or around $6,875 per year (subtracting 4 weeks of vacation that you hopefully get).
If you don’t buy everyday an you forgot or didn’t have time, then there’s your $25 per day on a random Tuesday because you were too tired after Monday to meal prep.
Overall, it’s time and money to eat at the office whether you’re bringing it in or buying it there.
And, I know. Life costs money. Of course. But… we just figured out a way to significantly reduce these costs (eating at home, not commuting) and our wages are decades behind inflation so… unless we’re all getting a 40% raise sometime soon… let’s hang on to these savings.
Bonus: I promised you there’d be a bonus to the eating at home item and here it is.
Eating at the office isn’t just about preparing the meal or buying it. It’s about *eating* it too. How many times has Carol or Simon or Maria commented on your meal when you just wanted to eat in peace.
Some comments are kind and inviting. Maybe you even got a cool new recipe to try from a coworker or a Trader Joe’s rec.
But if you’ve eaten in an office, I’m sure you’ve experienced the latter too.
- “What even is that?.”
- “Are you on a diet? Is that why you’re eating salad each day?”
- “I have a carb-free recipe for that.”
- “Do you know how many calories are in 1 cupcake?”
- “Don’t you get tired of eating that?”
Can we just eat in silence some days? Please?
And that’s not even getting into the biweekly office donuts to either indulge in or avoid. Or Brad’s steamed fish smelling up the common area.
Eating at home is not only good for our wallets and time we get back, but also for our sanity.
Getting to eat at home is a huge unintended perk that really gets to the stomach of why people don’t want to return to the office.
And that’s not even counting “working lunches” in the office or only getting 10 minutes to eat between meetings. When you’re the boss of your own time & schedule & don’t have to run from one conference room to another, eating can be much more enjoyable.
5. Money spent on office wear
Speaking of spending money, not having to have an updated office-wardrobe is a huge plus and financial savings. Not having to have the latest trending item and if that was never your thing, even just replacing older office clothing items. What a relief.
Business on the top and yoga on the bottom. Never have we been comfier while working. Why would we ever want that to go away?
That has to be a factor in why remote workers are more productive. Because they are comfy enough to just focus on their work!
Not only the money, but the time and effort to pick out what work-wear you’ll wear tomorrow, does it go, does it clash, do these shoes match, will I be warm enough in the arctic tundra of the office. It’s exhausting. To not do that is… amazing.
And that brings us to the next item of not wanting to return to the office… appearance judgment.
6. Being judged on appearance
Being judged on appearance, just commenting on appearance, and just having appearance expectations is a huge obstacle in the workplace.
This goes hand-in-hand with work-wear.
Now that we don’t have to be around people all the time… we also don’t have to dodge unwanted comments on our appearance. Which happens/happened waaaay more than you think.
Hopefully most of it was appropriate, but there was always a lingering comment that made you wonder… was it though? Did I take it *that* way but they meant it another way? Why do they even have to comment on my appearance?
Appearance comments are much reduced in remote settings. It’s mostly more neutral comments on the background you chose. A much needed reprieve from appearance comments.
The “unsaid” comments
And let’s not forget to point out an item that’s even worse in this appearance conversation… being judged by appearance without the comments.
We know this takes place because the comments remind us that not everyone makes comments, but definitely may have thoughts. The research points to being judged by appearance in other ways not voiced.
Exhibit A: “Heavier women tend to earn less… These penalties have not only increased over the past few decades, but continue to increase as women age… However, men don’t seem to face a similar weight bias. Some studies even found that white males seen as overweight actually earn more. However, the wage penalty for women seen as overweight was consistent in each study” (Gogoi, 2023).
Just grand. And unsurprising. But oh so disappointing. But… increasing bias?? That’s too far. And that’s only 1 area of appearance. That doesn’t even get into hair style, hair texture, makeup or non, work-wear, style or cultural preferences, etc., etc., etc…
How many have faced the – “You look tired” – on a day when less or no makeup was worn. Not dead, Frank. Just not wearing any makeup.
And don’t tell me women aren’t expected to wear makeup. They are. Look at the research.
“Social science research shows that a person’s physical appearance has a meaningful impact on their life experiences and opportunities” and many women know this all too well (Kjerstin Gruys, 2019).
Research continues to back it up and can be seen in stark monetary gains: “Attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness” (Wong & Penner, 2016).
And we know that men don’t seem to face a similar bias (Gogoi, 2023).
Women have many standards for “being attractive” in our society today. These are hard norms to break and the reality is they haven’t really been broken yet.
The standards of appearance have been reduced in the land of remote work. So is it any surprise that we want to stay there?
It’s a toss-up: be judged for how you look and return to office or stay remote.
Hmm, tough decision.
Add it to the list of why so many don’t want to return to the office.
It wasn’t created for us. It was created to hold us back.
7. Awkward small talk
Not having to deal with awkward small talk… huge bonus.
So. Much. Awkward. Small talk. Maybe this says more about the individual than the office work-space but… I feel like a lot of people are on my side. How many times can you pass someone in a corridor with a “hi”. Do you say “hi” every time? And if it’s not just a “hi” well.. There goes 15 minutes of work-time.
Which is fine. But… it’s confusing when you try to pit “productivity” against remote workers when there’s a lot of socializing going on in the office. Which is not a bad thing. But is it a productive thing? It could lead to productivity… but it also.. Could not.
I know, I know, collaboration, connection, human contact, all of the above. All good things.
But beyond just speaking more candidly with coworkers, which is typically a good thing (typically). There are just so many awkward situations avoided.
Is awkwardness the essence of life we’re missing? Will we all have an existential crisis because of it? Well.. in a few decades we’ll find out. Until then, those who are so awkward in so many social / work situations may live a little easier.
So all those who fall in the category of “awkward” are probably very relieved and is a big reason why a return to the office mandate would be anxiety-inducing.
8. Over being over-stimulated
So over being over-stimulated
Socializing is one thing. And is a good thing. But the office environment is arguably over-stimulation for many people. There needs to be more research on this, but being completely burnt out and “out of battery” by the time you get home each day from the office is not really ideal or okay.
Needing “silent time” and “alone time” for 30 minutes to an hour of not speaking to loved ones is not attainable all the time. Or the opposite & not ever getting that and being completely depleted until you hit the pillow at night.
Some people arguably like the office because they get more “silent time” at the office versus at home. Some home lives are hectic and chaotic. So wherever that “calm” place is, may just be the preference.
Different for different generations
But for many us, (and can I just hypothesize that it’s probably many millennials and GenZ – many don’t have these large, hectic families… Hell, we barely have kids), it really isn’t an issue for us like it is for so many older generations.
It’s the office that causes the over-stimulation and anxiety, not our home spaces. Home spaces are the safe & calm spaces for many of us.
There needs to be more research on the over-stimulation that takes / took place at the office, but maybe that research won’t take place because we’ll remain safely remote. But the office does cause over-stimulation for a large swathe of people. And remote work does not.
So add it to the list of why many don’t want to return to the office.
9. Wasn’t helping us get ahead anyway
Let’s look around at who’s running companies. Who’s in the c-suite? Who’s upper management? Who’s calling the shots?
We hear again and again that we need “face-time” to get ahead.
Nope. That hasn’t worked for the better part of a century so, why would it work after 3 years of being remote?
We were all in the office all the time before and still saw the same people hanging out in the c-suite and going golfing afterwards
Look around… Jim, Mike, Joe, John, James, they’re still running the show.
Again, look to the research for evidence:
“C-suites in Corporate America are still disproportionately white and male. We see severe under-representation of women, Black, and Hispanic/Latino executives in most C-suite positions. Asian leaders experience a 25% representation decline from P&L leadership to the CEO role whereas Whites experience a 10% increase from P&L leadership to the CEO role. The lack of equity at the top isn’t due to a pipeline problem. The US workforce is diverse. Yet a lack of equity in assessing, developing, and promoting talent is undermining representation at the C-suite level. Addressing top team imbalances requires revolution, not evolution. Without concerted effort, diversity imbalances will continue and grow as underrepresented groups don’t see role models they can aspire to be” (Harvard Law, 2023).
The c-suite continues to be white and male. We write about this every year. Going back to the office isn’t going to fix that. It didn’t before.
In-person does not help those under-represented become more represented. It’s a myth that’s debunked by research.
So don’t even dare to use it as a reason to return to the office. Don’t even go there.
And this article doesn’t even get into the discrimination that takes place in in-person environments. That’s a stand-alone article for another day.
10. We get more work done at home
The crux of it all. The argument of arguments. The item CEOs & workers are going back and forth about: Productivity.
Despite what high-paid CEOs are saying, the research states that remote workers are 13% more productive than their in-office counterparts (Forbes, 2023).
This is for a multitude of reasons.
“Work from home resulted in a 13% performance increase, due to a combination of fewer sick days, and a quieter and more convenient work environment. Those working from home had improved work satisfaction and a 50% lower attrition rate” (Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, 2023).
Let’s keep doing that then. Higher productivity means more money for those CEOs.. so what gives?
I wonder if they own commercial property…
*Business Insider: “Hate your commute? It might actually be good for your mental health, scientists say” (Marianne Guenot, 2023).
*Nevada Today: “How does appearance affect our success?” (Interview with Kjerstin Gruys, 2019).
*Science Direct: Jaclyn S. Wong, Andrew M. Penner, “Gender and the returns to attractiveness”, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Volume 44, 2016, Pages 113-123, ISSN 0276-5624, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rssm.2016.04.002.
*Business News Daily: “How to resolve the office temperature debate” (Kiely Kuligowski, 2023).
*Quartz: “Men are literally freezing women out of the workplace” (Gwynn Guilford, 2015).
*Harvard Law: “How to fix the c-suite diversity problem” (Tina Shah Paikeday, and Nisa Qosja, Russell Reynolds Associates, 2023).
*Business News Daily: “Working from home increases productivity” (Shayna Waltower, 2023).
*Forbes: “Workers are less productive working remotely (at least that’s what their bosses think” (Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, 2023).
*Forbes: “While CEOs blame remote work for decreased productivity, here’s the bigger picture” (Jack Kelly, 2023).
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