Bosses are winning the return-to-office battle—but it’s not over yet

In the constant tug-of-war of an office’s comeback, it seems the bosses come back with an edge.

There were more workers in the office last week than since the pandemic began, according to Kastle Systems, a security and data property management company that tracks key card entries. While office attendance isn’t where it was before the pandemic, it’s getting there: Kastle found that nearly half (47.5%) of workers who were in the office in 2020 before unemployed they were in the office from September 8 to 14. That’s a record for the past two years, as white-collar workers settled into their home offices and adapted to the new flexibility.

But this past Labor Day weekend, many employers drew a line in the sand and brought their employees back to their desks. With the coronavirus seemingly here to stay and the severity of the next variant unknown, companies like Apple, Comcast and Peloton have ordered workers back into the hybrid office in another push for a sense of normalcy at work.

The middle of the week is more popular with returning workers. Kastle data shows that about 55% of the pre-pandemic workforce returned to the office on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. This could be due to mid-week office perks such as office lunches and meals.

Solidly in their careers, many millennials are taking the morning train in larger swathes. Only 43 percent of 30- to 40-year-olds were working from home for most of their work week in September, according to Bank of America’s recent survey in its Home Work series.

But office attendance is still nowhere near the 100% that some managers are aiming for. Hybrid work remains a feature of the workforce; Data from Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom and Steven J. Davis of WFH Research found that employers have increased the number of days they allow their employees to work remotely. Bosses may have an advantage now, but workers still benefit from the new leverage they acquired during the Great Resignation.

And not all bosses are enthusiastic about their companies’ return-to-charge push; Younger managers are often more understanding of employees who want to maintain their new normal. Still, CEOs and high-profile bosses have blamed remote work for everything from an alleged lack of productivity to inflation. Control remains important to managers, with some now turning to productivity software to monitor what workers are doing on their work computers while working from home.

While productivity isn’t an issue when working remotely, some bosses are still a little obsessed with going back to the office.

“They don’t know any other way,” said author and professor Brian David Johnson the fortune. “Don’t go tell Steph Curry, ‘You should really stop shooting threes.'”

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