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The real reasons why your team won't return to office

Ollie | January 31, 2024

‘If you’re trying to force employees back to the office, you are your own worst enemy. Do it with honey, not vinegar’ (HR expert Liz Ryan)

We wake up to daily tug-of-war over the best ‘workplace’. Home vs office. And it’s getting fiery – with companies proposing pay cuts for remote workers, and some employees threatening to quit if forced to return to office.

Workers and company leaders are butting heads over workplace mandates (see Google); meanwhile most companies’ back-to-office incentives are not enticing enough to turn the remote work tide.

In this blog, we cut to the eye of the storm – revealing crucial reasons why your team won’t return to office (and what you can do about it).


Why is my team avoiding the return to office?

Heads up: They may be reading this from the sofa.


Comfort, cost and personal commitments

working from home in bedImage by @garett3 from Unsplash

Working from home during the pandemic brought an unprecedented comfort to our workdays. Dashing for the commuter train stepped aside for more sleep and slower mornings. Home cooking. Accepting deliveries. Loads of washing on lunch breaks. Yoga in-between deadlines. Driving kids to school. And quality time with partners, pets and family. Understandably, many don’t want to compromise on these comforts and personal commitments by returning to office.

Moreover, the weight of living costs is rooting people at home. In a survey of 1,262 UK hybrid-workers, 67% said they want to WFH to cut commuting costs. Therefore, all managers intent on a workplace culture must be mindful of this – and consider covering the cost.

Discover More: Want your employees back? These return-to-office incentives actually work


Quiet quitting

lazy cat sleepingImage by @madhatterzone from Unsplash

Quiet quitting is another reason people avoid office returns. This is when workers ‘check out’ mentally and don’t engage meaningfully with their jobs. Disinterested employees would prefer to coast under the radar from home, rather than risk being exposed in the office.

As a business owner – the challenge is to get everyone engaged. We recommend creating a culture that breathes belonging and inspires your team.

Discover More: How can coffee promote an inclusive workplace?


Workplace anxiety

Calling attention to anxiety in the workplace. Record numbers of people are out of work, partly to protect their mental health. While 69% of people in-work feel more workplace anxiety since the lockdown and are afraid of being ‘on show’. They feel closed off, avoidant and safer sheltered at home.

It’s clear all leaders need to nurture a safe space where vulnerability is normalised. Instead of leading by fear, managers must champion a softer, more mindful approach that soothes anxiety at work and lifts spirits.

Discover More: Mindfulness at work starts with coffee
Discover More: Catering for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the office


Burnout and overwhelm

workplace anxiety on return to officeImage by @elisa_ventur from Unsplash

Over 4 in 5 UK employees say workplace burnout is weighing on their mental health (Reward Gateway). Simply: we’re tired – and returning to the office feels like a drag. Meanwhile, companies must be conscious of this and put their wellness initiatives on a pedestal. We recommend providing incredible coffee, team social days, therapy options, yoga classes and regular check-ins.

Discover More: What’s the world of work looking like for 2024?


Many can do their jobs working from home

working from homeImage by @mikeyharris from Unsplash

Professional marketers, graphic designers, coders, data analysts, recruiters, sales professionals (and others) will argue that don’t ‘need’ to be in the office to perform well. Whereas companies will reply that employees working in different places can fragment their work culture. And rather than being ‘pointless’, workplace days can bring a happy sense of belonging, activity and inspiration.

So how do you do that?


Return to office mandates don’t work

empty officeImage by @joselosada from Unsplash

Do-or-die return to office mandates will throw a log on the debate’s fire. We suggest a more subtle and nuanced approach using ‘honey, not vinegar’ to turn your workplace into a bubbling hub.

Being clear on hybrid expectations is worthy, too. Blurry, ever-changing hybrid policies only add to confusion – leaving employees to pick and choose their office days without much purpose – and find half-empty seats when they walk in.

As a business owner – 2024 is your chance to give your workplace and workforce a new direction.


Get in touch

Talk to our team today to discover coffee’s vital role in your workplace culture. Give us a call on 020 7553 7900.