Do you have an in-person job?
How will more people returning to the office impact you?
After two years, Boston.com readers feel they’ve proven that the world will not end if they continue to work from home — and they want to keep it that way.
We asked readers if they’re ready to give up remote work as a growing number of employers announce their return plans. About a third of the 1,239 people who wrote in to our survey said their employers have let them know they’ll be expected to return in person soon, but the vast majority of readers said they had no interest in going back into the office full-time. In a separate poll, 65% of Boston.com readers said they’d prefer to stay in a remote-only role.
Readers who said they’d prefer to keep working from home or transition to a hybrid working schedule said they’re more productive and have a better work-life balance.
“Working from home is how it really should be. No commute, your own bathroom, no one being loud or rude around you, and you can eat lunch whenever you want,” said Nick P. from Barrington, N.H., who returned to the office on Feb. 14. “You can see your kids as they come home from school and you can share a few jokes with your spouse mid-day. Working in an office is pointless!”
There are some, like Daria from Holliston, who miss the office because of the social interaction it provides.
“I like being in the office,” she said. “I feel like people don’t realize how beneficial socialization is to our mental health. I think at least a hybrid approach is in everyone’s best interest unless you have major health concerns or childcare issues.”
But for most people, water cooler conversations and in-person meetings aren’t enough to sway them in favor of ending remote work policies.
“Who wants a commute?” asked Doug W. from Natick, who works in marketing. “I hear people say they want to return to the office because they miss being social. If the office is your only source of social life, I feel very sorry for you.”
Over the summer, when it was looking like companies would finally be able to roll out their plans for office return, we asked readers if they were ready to give up remote work. They were against it back then, and it seems time has only made them more confident in their pro-remote work stance.
A majority of people who can do their jobs remotely are still doing so, according to a survey by Pew Research Center, and sixty-one percent of people who have an office to return say they’re deliberately choosing not to go back in.
At the start of the pandemic, remote office work became necessary as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Now that cases and hospitalization rates are down and COVID-19 restrictions like mandatory masking and vaccine mandates are lifting citywide, some employers feel it’s time to call the workers back to their desks.
Many of the readers who have already been told by their employers that they must come back into the office, will return in the next couple of months barring any big changes in the pandemic. Some readers blame the push to return to the office on employer politics, not an actual necessity.
“It’s dumb that companies are even trying to do this,” argued Scott F. from Boston, who works in information technology. “It’s a control problem on their part, not a need.”
One of the most commonly mentioned reasons readers gave for not wanting to return to fully in-person work is the crushing commute.
Ann F. from Norfolk works in pharmaceutical management and said while she does sometimes miss the “collaboration and relationship building that comes easier in person,” she would still prefer remote work.
“I enjoy not dealing with the commute and the flexibility of getting things done around the house during the workweek,” she said.
We previously asked Boston.com readers in February if they were ready to start regularly commuting again, and most echoed similar feelings of dread about relying on MBTA or being stuck on a jam-packed highway at the early hours of the morning.
“Definitely prefer remote work going forward,” said Carlos from Woburn, who works in finance. “The main reason by far: terrible commute in Boston area traffic and associated time [and] cost. I cannot go back to that. I just can’t.”
Some in favor of returning to the office have made the argument that productivity is improved by being in an office environment. For the workers who are choosing to go into their workplace, that’s a primary motivation for them to miss out on the comforts of at-home work. Boston.com readers, however, have had the opposite experience.
“I discovered I am very productive at home, and can get a lot more done when I can flex my time rather than be in the office from 9 to 5. It allows me to log on and get things done at any time, day or night. I enjoy that flexibility,” said Allison W. from South Shore, a human services employee.
“For two years, we’ve proven we can work effectively from home,” said Meaghan from Boston, who’s awaiting a return date from her employer. “Many of us are far more productive from home. I’d rather be working than sitting in gridlock for over two hours per day. I also don’t want to waste two-plus hours of commuting to sit at a desk on video calls.”
Some readers are so adamant about staying remote that they’re willing to give up their jobs in search of other opportunities if they’re forced to come back into the office permanently. Millions of people across the country have quit their jobs in a trend called the “Great Resignation.” Workers have cited better pay as a reason to leave their jobs, and for Boston.com readers, remote work is also a big sticking point.
“I intend to quit and find a new position if I am forced to return to the office on a regular basis,” said Chase from Framingham, who works in the healthcare data industry.
J.M.S. from Wakefield works as an engineer and hasn’t been told by his employer if a return to the office will be mandatory. If the announcement does come, a resignation will follow.
“100% I will be looking for another job if called back to the office,” the engineer said. “I don’t care how long it takes to find one, but that will be my sole mission. I’m not giving up the freedom to go on walks and take breaks during the day just so some overly extroverted middle manager can feel good about himself. I collaborate just fine via Skype and Zoom.”
Ann from Metrowest was one of the more than 1,500 readers who preferred a hybrid workweek, the same reentry model that her employer recently announced easing some of her concerns.
“I am so much more productive working from home due to my specific ergonomic needs and the general comfort and flexibility it allows. My mood is not ruined by having to commute and some of the time saved means I start work earlier and/or end work later,” she said. “If my employer changes to requiring more office presence, I will absolutely be looking for a new employer.”
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.
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