People want to return to the office, and they expect it to be safe

David Cocchiara
December 15th, 2020

Americans want to return to a safe workplace.

Months after COVID-19 brought much of the world to a standstill, it’s no surprise that the majority of employed Americans working from home due to the pandemic are eager to return to the workplace if it can be done safely.

To better understand the sentiments of employed Americans who are working from home around returning to the workplace, we commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct a nationwide online survey of 1,206 employed U.S. adults.


The survey found more than seven in ten (71%) are eager to return to the office. Currently, less than half of employed Americans (44%) go into the workplace each day, and about one in six (17%) have returned to the workplace on a staggered schedule.

Despite the eagerness to go back into the workplace, businesses and employees won’t consider returning until there are clear safety measures in place, in addition to hand sanitizer stations, mask requirements and social distancing protocols, the survey revealed.

Participants identified limited/reduced capacity in the office (40%), having to pass online health screenings before coming into the workplace (36%), and eliminating in-person meetings (32%) as the top needs for returning to the office. They also identified technology/tools such as a visual directory (18%), automated room booking (11%), and desk booking/hoteling (8%).

safe workplace with ppe mask

While we are anxious to get back to a sense of normalcy, there is a definite downside in asking employees to return too soon. Our survey revealed more than half of employed Americans working from home due to the pandemic (54%) would consider leaving their job if their employer required them to return to the workplace before they felt comfortable.

To say patience is a virtue in the current environment is a true sentiment. Companies that embrace technology to create better workplaces will find happier and more engaged employees who feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.

Not surprisingly, Americans miss the workplace and the personal interactions with colleagues. By and large, a majority (57% of employed Americans) are also tired of video conferences.

workplace mask ppe

Four in five Americans working from home due to the pandemic (80%) miss in-person collaboration with colleagues. Simultaneously, nearly three in four employed Americans (72%) feel more engaged when in the office, and a similar number (70%) feel more productive.

Businesses cannot presume a COVID vaccine alone will be enough to make their teams feel safe enough to return to work.

More than half of employed Americans (52%) say a vaccine would have a major to moderate impact on their confidence to return to/comfort being in the workplace. Meanwhile, roughly one in four (26%) say the vaccine would have no effect.


Today’s workplace is dynamic, and its complexities are continually evolving, and even forward-focused companies need flexible and agile solutions to manage the current environment. The same approaches that worked in the past may not work in response to the current pandemic.

Companies need new, innovative ways to manage their workplaces. They can’t be successful if their employees don’t feel comfortable and safe in their workspace.

Organizations have an opportunity to help their teams return to some semblance of “normal” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do you have the strategic tools you need to create the workplace you want and need at the moment? If not, we can help.


Photos: Erin Agius, Paul Hanaoka, airfocus