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What does rolling back the hybrid model mean for the working world?

What do return-to-office mandates mean for the world of work?

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Across the spectrum of industry, businesses are rolling back their offerings of remote or hybrid working models. Companies such as Amazon, Salesforce, Meta, Apple, Disney, Starbucks, and even Zoom - the video conferencing platform, which became synonymous with remote working - have ordered their employees back onsite for part, if not all, of the working week.

According to WFH Research, as noted by CNBC, as of July, 59% of full-time employees in the U.S. are back in the office full-time, with just 12% continuing to work entirely remotely.

But with over 60% of surveyed workers preferring a hybrid model, and only 6% desiring a full return to the office, why are employers choosing to order staff back onsite, and how is this mandated return going to impact the world of work? From effects on employer-employee relations to the quality and quantity of work performed, why is a compulsory full-time return to the office necessary, and what will be the fallout?

Why are employers bringing employees back to work?

Costly office spaces

During the pandemic, many employers lost money due to being unable to utilise expensive office spaces. Now, they are seeking to recoup these losses by making the most of their offices. According to a 2021 report , flexible office spaces in London cost approximately £523 per worker per month, while in New York, the cost is approximately $634 per worker per month. Understandably, employers are seeking to make the most of these expenses.

Culture and collaboration

Many businesses cite in-person chemistry and collaboration as a key factor for desiring a return to the office. Yahoo! Finance notes that a statement from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy in a memo regarding returning to work: "Collaborating and inventing is easier and more effective when we’re in person." Meanwhile, Citigroup recently mandated a return to work, accompanied by threats to dock bonuses and even terminate contracts if staff decline to present in person. Josephine Majewski, the bank’s chief administrative officer in Australia and New Zealand stated that this is due to “the benefits of collaboration, coaching, and increased social interaction” that come from in-person working.


A recent article from Yahoo! Finance points out that another reason employers may be forcing staff back into the office is a wish to downsize. By mandating a return to office, companies are aware that staff my resign from their positions. Therefore a company would not have to make staff redundant, thus avoiding paying out costly redundancy packages. Yahoo! Finance also notes that a number of large companies have mandated a return to work shortly before announcing large layoffs.

What are the impacts of bringing employees back to work when they do not wish to return?


While some companies may deliberately bring staff back to the office in a bid to trim their workforce while avoiding or limiting expensive layoffs, mass resignations can also, naturally, cause great difficulty for companies. A sudden lack of retention can have knock-on effects, such as further resignations from subsequently over-burdened staff members, reputational damage, and significant hiring expenses.

Weakened employer position

An August 2023 survey from Envoy of over 1,000 U.S. CEOs showed that over 80% of bosses regretted attempting to bring their employees back to onsite work prematurely. One reason for this was employee pushback, which - in many cases - forced employers to double back on their initial demands – thus weakening their position, and having initially caused their employees to feel let down and disregarded.

Strained employer-employee relations

Speaking to CBC Canada, McMaster University human resources and management professor, Catherine Connelly, notes that demanding a return to work across the board can indicate a lack of consideration and a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which damages employer-employee relations. “Once a bell has been rung, it cannot be unrung,” says Connelly. CBC Canada reports that over 20,000 Amazon employees signed a petition urging the company to reconsider its demand that employees return to work onsite.

How to retain talent

Working together with your teams, rather than dictating to them what is happening, is the best way to build strong working relationships and ensure that employees feel valued.

Staff members who have become accustomed to working from home may be saving costs on necessities such as childcare, eldercare, and transport. Acknowledging this and providing support with these expenses is one way to guarantee that employees feel respected and heard when encouraging staff to return to the office.

Creating a welcoming, comfortable space for employees to work in is also important. Ensuring your office space is inclusive and optimised to support all employees will make the transition back to in-person working smoother.

If you’d like advice on hiring abroad, compliantly managing your workforce, or expanding into new countries, contact our team of experts and we will get back to you shortly.