Employees Are Happy to Be Back, But Crave Flexibility Above All Else

Catherine Tansey
September 14, 2021

After months of speculation on the return to the office, many companies are once again working in-person — albeit, some of the time. Progressive employers have overwhelmingly settled on hybrid models, striving to balance the demands of the on-going health crisis with the wishes of the workforce, not to mention the evolution of the workplace.

We wanted to better understand how employees are handling the transition, so we partnered with Wakefield Research to conduct the first post-return-to-work survey. Here’s what we learned.

1. Employees are happier than expected to be back at work

Two-thirds (66%) of employees surveyed in February expected to like being back at the office but 70% of those surveyed in July are enjoying it. For many, being stuck at home brought the simple joys of in-person work into focus, like the chance to catch up with a friend or socialize with a colleague. And after months of working from the kitchen table or spare bedroom — if you were lucky — it’s no surprise employees are enjoying access to a traditional workspace once more. In comparison to the February survey results, respondents in July say they are enjoying socializing with colleagues and access to a proper workspace more than they thought they would.

Socializing tops the list

Source: Eden Workforce Sentiment Survey

A space of one’s own

Eden Workforce Sentiment Survey

2. Overall, people think employers could be doing better — and most want vaccine mandates

Just because employees are enjoying the re-entry to the office, doesn’t mean they think companies have nailed it. And while vaccines have been a thorny issue for employers to get right, employees aren’t as torn.

  • Only one-third (36%) would give their employer an ‘A’ for how they’ve handled the return to work.
  • 57% want mandatory vaccine policies, while only 44% of employers have them in place.
  • 28% of employers requiring vaccines require proof while the rest rely on the honor system.

3. Workers want access to the office but the flexibility to WFH some of the time

For employees who first worked full-time in offices, then full-time from home, the question became: why choose? Employees want the flexibility that working remotely affords, while also having access to an office to brainstorm in person, catch up with a colleague, or work from a traditional desk space. One thing is clear: Today’s workforce craves flexibility above all else. 62% of respondents said hybrid workplace policies are the best way forward, and 85% of people want access to an office.

Source: Eden Workforce Sentiment Survey


For employees who have already returned to work, the biggest takeaway is that they’ve enjoyed it — surprisingly so. But they’re not budging on one thing: people want flexibility, and reiterate their support for hybrid arrangements. Businesses that take the time and devote the resources needed to implement a comprehensive hybrid workplace plan will reap the benefits of content and engaged employees — a must for any competitive employer.

For a deeper dive into our survey results, including breakouts by industry, gender, and job level, download our full report here.

Methodological Notes:

The Eden Workplace Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,000 US office workers, with “recently” being defined as within the past three months, between July  21st and July 27th, 2021, using an email invitation and an online survey. The data was weighted to ensure an accurate representation of US office workers who recently returned to the office, with recently being  defined as within the past three months

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