With productivity on the rise, workers question return to office
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

Concerns about returning to the office no longer center primarily around COVID-19 exposure, a recent survey from The Conference Board notes, as 43 percent of workers question the wisdom of returning to the office at all.

These concerns are particularly acute among Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996), with 55 percent finding the idea of a return to the 9-to-5 unwise in the face of increased productivity (and a greater emphasis on mental health) while working remotely over the past year-plus.

The findings represent a big jump from The Conference Board’s previous survey back in January, where only 31 percent of respondents questioned how a return to the office would impact productivity—arguably because work-from-home orders may have still seemed like a short-term prospect at the time.

The latest poll (conducted between May 28 and June 4, 2021) also highlights that the longer a person has been in the workforce, the more comfort they find in the trappings of an office. For members of Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980), for instance, just 45 percent had doubts about going back, while 36 percent of Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) had apprehensions.

While “exposing family members to COVID-19” or “contracting it personally” were the top concerns in September 2020, those fears dropped by nearly half in June, to 28 and 24 percent, respectively. One-quarter of respondents also noted concerns over the deterioration of mental health; a 13 percent increase from September to January.

“Among the generations, Millennials are the most concerned about their health and psychological well-being,” said Rebecca L. Ray, executive vice president for human capital at the Conference Board. “Companies would be well served to be as flexible as possible.”

Rethinking the network for hybrid work

This stance aligns closely with the findings of our recent Future of the Internet Outlook survey, which dug into the challenges and attitudes of workers who have relied on the Internet to get work done over the course of the pandemic. While there are certainly struggles that companies have had to overcome in making the unexpected (and largely forced) rush to WFH succeed, establishing these workflows will be a given for businesses that want to attract talent going forward.

“As companies look to embrace work from anywhere or hybrid work models, there should be a greater acknowledgment of the non-office based challenges employees may be having,” Matt Stevens, CEO, AppNeta, said in response to the Future of the Internet Outlook findings. “With many organizations rolling out their post-pandemic work model in the coming months, our proactive customers are already hard at work ensuring their networks are ready for a hybrid-based return to office, and delivering the best possible end-user experience for their employees regardless of where they work.”

The biggest issue, affecting 49 percent of respondents, was slow load times for websites, while challenges with video calls, often lauded as the answer to building remote culture, were the second highest pain point for users, with 34 percent experiencing freezing during video calls, causing 37 percent to go off video during calls due to poor connectivity.

As a result, the report found that 18 percent of those surveyed were unable to complete work tasks due to poor internet connectivity and 14 percent experienced issues connecting to business applications.

The good news? All of these challenges are ones that enterprise IT teams can overcome if they rethink their network management strategy with an eye toward hybrid work. By thinking beyond the traditional walls and boundaries of the office when considering network stakeholders and the tools used to manage performance, teams can better support the inevitable work-from-anywhere future.


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Filed Under: Industry Insights

Tags: hiring , SaaS , cloud , future of work , return to office , baby boomers , Gen Z , millenials , pandemic , covid , hybrid office , hybrid work , work from home , work from anywhere , remote work , network performance , network monitoring , network management