According to a report published by economist Nick Bloom and coauthors in September 2023, in mid-2023, 28% of all full, paid workdays among Americans aged 20-64 happened at home. That is four times what it was in 2019 (and ten times what it was in the 1990s).

This steady increase has been in direct conflict with big companies such as IBM, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Meta that have tried to mandate that employees return to the office. While many did return in 2021-2022, with office occupancy increasing following the end of lockdowns, the increase flattened completely in 2023. This led economist Nick Bloom to declare the return to the office movement dead.

Unispace has reported that many employers seem to regret their hard line on making employees return to the office, as it has resulted in losing more employees than expected as they moved on to roles with more flexible conditions.

But the real question is, why don’t employees who have the opportunity to work remotely want to return to the office? Do they not miss the camaraderie and creativity that comes with working in a physical team? recently surveyed remote workers and asked them why they won’t go back to the office. Some of their findings reinforce what we already know, others are surprising, and a few are downright amusing.


Finding #1 – Freedom to Nap of Exercise During the Day

The survey reports that three out of four remote workers wanted the flexibility to insert more self-care activities into their day. This could be exercise, or it could be an afternoon nap. Either way, these are things that would be difficult to do back in the office.

That isn’t to say that these activities are eating into productive work hours. Respondents report engaging in these activities before or after work, on their lunch break, or during flexible time. But without the need to commute, or make themselves overly presentable after the activity, it is just much easier to fit into the day.

Read our exercise solutions for digital nomads here.


Finding #2 – Ability to Watch TV While Working

This is the kind of finding that employers are worried about, so is also not a great finding for the remote work community. The survey also found that 73% of respondents wanted to be able to multitask while working, and consuming media, whether that be TV, podcasts, or music.

Most respondents did not see this as undermining their productivity. Listening to music at high volume can help a person focus, and listening to relevant podcasts while doing routine tasks can be a great way to learn and expand our horizons. We definitely wish they had worded this one better.

Read our guide to deep work and how to excel in an increasingly distracted world.


Finding #3 – Concerns About Appearance

The survey says that 62% of people worry about their appearance returning to work. This isn’t just referring to having to shower and dress up every day. While some don’t want to be bothered, others really miss this about working from home. It is more that they changed during the pandemic, usually gaining weight or letting themselves go in some other way. The shame and pressure of looking a certain way makes the idea of going back to the office impossible.

This doesn’t just extend to physical appearance but also work appearance. People have become accustomed to doing things their own way, and they don’t like the idea of someone monitoring them and “breathing down their neck” deciding if they are “working hard enough” in the office.


Finding #4 – Desire to Stay Home with Kids and Pets

The desire to stay at home with children and spend more quality time with family members when they would usually be commuting, at lunch or between tasks is still the top motivation for people to stay home. But it isn’t just people with kids.

Pet adoptions spiked during the pandemic, and more and more people want to stay home with their pets. While many reference their pets developing separation anxiety, we all know that it is often humans who feel the absence of the animals that provide them with emotional support and comfort.


Finding #5 – Rather Quit Than Go Back

Another interesting finding is that 14% of respondents said that they wouldn’t go back to work, even if it was mandated by their employer. So, they would rather lose their job than go back to the office.

Respondents seemed to feel confident that they would be able to find a new position that allowed full remote work.


Finding #6 – More Productive at Home

More than half of respondents, 51% to be precise, said that they were more productive when they were working at home. This is something that has come up in most surveys of remote workers.

While employers worry about productivity, 98% said that they could create a better work environment with fewer distractions when working from home.

Read tips for increasing productivity while working remotely.


Finding #7 – Work From Anywhere

Over a third of respondents also acknowledged working from anywhere and being able to embrace the digital nomad or workation lifestyle was a significant priority in their desire not to return to the office.


Disadvantages of Working from Home

While the survey focused on the reasons why people wanted to continue to work from home, some disadvantages to remote working were highlighted in another 2023 survey published by Finance Buzz.

They found that around half of employees noted that they had greater difficulty forming bonds with their coworkers and feeling like they were part of a coherent team.

A similarly high number, 46%, reported feeling isolated and missing the general social interaction that comes along with going into the office.

Another high percentage, 38%, reported difficulty in being able to separate their personal and work lives now that the lines were blurred. It was harder to switch off at the end of the day, and ignore out-of-hours emails, and it was easy to just “quickly finish something off” in the evening or on the weekend.

Many employees, around 37%, also said that they missed face time with leaders to help them orient and prioritize their work.


Will The Work from Home Trend Continue?

It seems pretty clear that the verdict is in, remote work is here to stay and will probably increase as a share of the workforce in the years to come. Workers don’t want to return to the office, and as employers better adapt to managing remote and hybrid teams, the pros, which already seem to outweigh the cons, will more than tip the scales.

Read our tips for successfully managing remote teams here.