Report: Working in the Office Doesn’t Improve Satisfaction with Company Culture
As employers have pushed for the return to the office, company culture has often been a key part of the rationale for getting employees back in the building. Working remotely, they argue, results in a loss of company culture. Alternatively, they suggest that an employer’s office is an essential component of their company culture. It seems plausible: when employees work from home, employers have less influence on their work environment and, therefore, less control over their experience.
But based on our findings in The 2023 Future of Work Report, this influence may do more harm than good. We asked fully remote, hybrid, and fully in-person employees to share how satisfied they were with their employer’s company culture on a scale of 1–7, with 1 being not satisfied and 7 being very satisfied.
One-third of fully in-person respondents reported that they were dissatisfied with their employer’s company culture. Another third said they were at least somewhat satisfied with it. Overall, fully in-person respondents gave their satisfaction an average score of 3.2 out of 7.
By contrast, 61% of fully remote employees reported being satisfied with their employer’s company culture, including 28% who were very satisfied. Only 17% were dissatisfied. On average, fully remote workers rated their satisfaction a 5.1 out of 7.
Interestingly, the group most likely to report being satisfied with their employer’s company culture was hybrid workers. Nearly three-quarters of hybrid respondents reported being satisfied (73%). Less than one in five hybrid respondents reported being dissatisfied (19%). On average, they rated their satisfaction a 5.2 out of 7.
Whether you’re trying to make a case for a return to the office or to create the best workplace you can, every employer should want to understand what causes this gap in satisfaction with company culture. What does sharing this physical space change about your workplace?
Here are some things to consider.
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Your work-from-home policy is part of your company culture
When employers push employees back to the office, the decision is a reflection of their company culture in itself. Some companies were clear from the beginning that working from home was a temporary solution to a global crisis. Others hired highly distributed employees with the expectation that they could work remotely forever, and then changed their stance. The impact that the return to office has on your company culture depends in part on what’s been communicated about remote work in the past, and what expectations your employees have had.
Pre-COVID, employees couldn’t take for granted that an employer—even a large enterprise—would allow them to permanently work remotely. But modern office workers have come to expect this flexibility for positions where remote work is possible. If an employer doesn’t permit it, workers will look for (and find) another that will.
A flexible work-from-home policy communicates several things about your company culture. It demonstrates trust by giving employees greater control over their work environment. It’s an acknowledgment that you’re confident they can get work done without a manager physically seeing them work. The exception to this, of course, is if you use performance management software to monitor remote workers’ activity.
Beyond trust, remote workers experience flexibility in ways in-person employees simply can’t. They may be able to dress more comfortably. Some can perform work duties between errands, caretaking, doing laundry, and other domestic responsibilities. Perhaps they can even set their own schedule. If flexibility is part of your desired company culture, allowing remote work is one of the clearest expressions of that, and not allowing it will create friction with this cultural aspiration.
Letting employees work remotely also shows that you value their time. In The 2023 Future of Work Report, a free-response question asked fully remote respondents to share what they appreciated most about working remotely, and 60% of the answers mentioned not having to commute. One respondent said, “One of the things I like most is avoiding the commute to work and back. When I’m off the clock, I should have that time to myself rather than spending it essentially doing a work duty.”
According to Business Insider, remote workers save an average of 70 minutes per day compared to their in-person counterparts. That’s more time to sleep, enjoy recreational activities, spend with family or friends, or do whatever they want—and it’s coming out of time that isn’t even spent on work itself. As remote work continues to normalize, employers can expect a growing number of office workers to see unnecessary in-person work as a lack of respect for their personal time, and, ultimately, themselves.
Remote employees are more insulated from problematic behavior
The free responses we reviewed in The Future of Work Report also revealed cultural problems that working in an employer’s office can amplify: racism and sexism. When sharing what they liked most about working remotely, a respondent stated, “I also like the protection. I have endured lots of racism and sexism in the office.”
This isn’t a new revelation. Women, especially women of color, have been far less eager to return to the office than their white male colleagues due to racism, sexism, and more frequent microaggressions. LGBTQ workers are more likely to favor remote work for similar reasons.
When marginalized groups have to physically encounter coworkers at the office, they’re more likely to be hurt or made uncomfortable by inappropriate interactions. And many employers don’t have the systems in place to effectively protect them from harassment. But when those interactions are fewer and take place over email, Slack, or a recorded Zoom call, there’s a greater sense of comfort.
On the one hand, this essentially suggests that remote work protects employees by hiding the problem—it makes it more difficult for problematic employees to reveal themselves by causing harm. But on the other hand, it’s literally protecting marginalized employees, and lessening the impact that inappropriate interactions can have on your company culture.
Granted, employers still need to create systems to stamp out bigotry in their virtual workplace. And some studies have even suggested that the layers of separation remote work adds between employees have actually allowed harassment to thrive. But when it does happen, you have a record—so it can’t hide.
See the full report
The 2023 Future of Work Report has more to say about the relationship between company culture and corporate office buildings. But that’s just scratching the surface of our findings. The report also examines common workplace challenges, work preferences, campus amenities, and desk-reservation processes, isolating responses by remote, hybrid, and in-person employees to highlight differences between these groups of modern office workers.
You can read the whole report for free, and we won’t even ask for your email.
Tango is a leading provider of Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS). Thousands of businesses use our tools to manage and optimize their space, facilitate office hoteling reservations, optimize their facilities maintenance processes, and organize their lease portfolios. Our customers include some of the most prestigious organizations in the world, and we regularly partner with leading corporate consultants to equip businesses with the insights they need to make informed decisions.