The debate surrounding return-to-office (RTO) policies has become a focal point of discussion. Proponents advocate for the restoration of a traditional in-person work culture to improve productivity, and critics champion the benefits of remote work.

To understand the impact RTO has had on productivity and other factors, in January, surveyed 833 business leaders at companies that were fully remote during the height of the pandemic but that now have implemented an RTO policy.

Key findings:

  • 63% of business leaders say RTO has improved productivity at their company
  • 59% say they believe employees spend more time working in-office vs. remote
  • 40% think workers want to be in-office 4 or more days a week
  • 46% believe workers should be required to work from the office at least 4 days/wk
  • 38% say their company plans to increase the number of mandatory office days by 2025

6 in 10 Businesses Leaders Say Productivity Has Improved Since Return to Office

According to this survey, business leaders have seen a lot of improvement since their company instituted a RTO policy.

Business leaders report the following have improved at their company overall with RTO:

  • Communication (65%)
  • Productivity  (63%)
  • Engagement (61%)
  • Mental health (53%)
  • Morale (52%)
  • Burnout (26%)

Business leaders at companies that require employees to be in-office five days per week were even more likely to say productivity improved since RTO. Among this group, 74% acknowledged a positive change in productivity.

On the other hand, for business leaders at companies mandating in-office presence only one or two days a week, the percentage reporting improved productivity with RTO was lower at 45%. Additionally, this group saw the least improvement in employee mental health, communication, morale, and engagement.

However, business leaders at companies that mandate employees work in-office just one day a week were the most likely to say burnout had improved.’s Resume and Career Strategist Julia Toothacre doesn’t necessarily believe return-to-office has garnered such improvements.

“In my experience, business leaders will report in a way that supports their initiatives, and I think that’s what we are seeing here with this survey,” says Toothacre.

“Given the amount of organizations doing layoffs or projecting layoffs, I’m not surprised that business leaders have seen a rise in productivity in the office. Personally, I think people are trying to prove themselves, whether they want to be in the office or not so they don’t lose their job. Similarly, the increase in communication is likely due to co-workers being able to drop in on each other when working in-person. However, the reality is that most organizations do official work communication through email, project management software, or chat software. Communication might be higher, but it doesn’t mean it’s productive. ”

6 in 10 believe employees work more in-office vs. remote

The majority of business leaders (59%) think employees spend more time working when they are in-office versus when they are remote. Conversely, 28% say the opposite, and 13% say they don’t believe there’s any difference.

Of those who think employees spend more time working remotely, they say this is due to distractions in the office (73%), leaving early to avoid traffic (65%,) arriving late due to commuting (61%), and being more fatigued (38%).

“How much employees are working really has more to do with the manager’s accountability of the employee and the employee’s work ethic than it does with their location. Business leaders keep shining a light on an employee’s location without discussing accountability. If the organization has strong accountability, then the work gets done regardless of where. There are many work environments that become more social time than work time. I would argue that most employees with a good work ethic are probably working more at home because they aren’t getting distracted as much. They will also make up time during other times of the day if something personal takes them away from work,” says Toothacre.

4 in 10 Think Employees Want To Be In-Office At Least 4 Days a Week

To their knowledge, 40% of business leaders say they believe employees, on average, want to be in office four (25%) or five (15%) days per week. Additionally, 28% say it’s their impression that employees want to be in-office three days, 16% say two days, 8% say one day, and 9% say they think employees generally want to work remotely.

Almost a majority of business leaders (46%) think their company policy should require employees to be in office four (22%) or even five (24%) days per week. The plurality (33%) believe the number of required days should be three, while 11% say two and 4% say one. Only 5% believe their company should allow employees to be fully remote.

4 in 10 Say Company Has Plans To Increase Days Required In-Office By 2025

The plurality (47%) of business leaders say their company doesn’t have plans to increase or decrease the number of days employees are required in-office. Currently, 22% are required in-office five days a week, 18% four days a week, 40% three days a week, 15% two days a week, and 5% one day a week.

On the other hand, 37% say their company has plans to increase the number of days required for workers to be in-office, while 16% say the company will reduce the requirement.

“For companies that went fully remote during the pandemic, I get the impression that they are testing the waters with RTO. For some companies, it will be a financial decision if they own or rent a building. They want that building to be used,” says Toothacre.

“Flexibility, however, I think is the name of the game here. Many employees in positions that can be done remotely want flexibility to be at home or at the office. Flexibility and clear expectations of employees will be a winning combination for organizations moving forward.”


This survey was commissioned by and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish. It was launched on January 24, 2024, and 833 respondents completed the full survey.

To qualify for the survey, all participants had to work at a company with at least 11 employees and have one of the following job titles: C-level executive, director, president/CEO/chairperson, owner or partner, director, senior manager, or human resources (HR) manager.

Respondents also had to answer that they’ve been at their current company for at least four years, the company operated remotely during the height of the pandemic (March 2020-21), and the company now requires employees to work in-office at least one day per week.

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