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Bosses actually want to work from home more than their workers do, finds a surprising 3,000-person survey

It’s not just you grumbling as you make your way to the office the first week of the new year. Your boss likely isn’t all that happy taking a post-holiday commute, either.

Managers aren’t as keen on returning to the office as they might seem. Despite being higher up on the ladder, many are actually more in favor of remote and hybrid work than their employees are, finds a survey of 3,000 American workers and managers from software company Checkr. The vast majority of managers (68%) said they’d like remote work to continue in the new year. Fewer employees (48%) feel the same. It indicates that our narrative about the RTO battle might have the sides all wrong.

In the years-long clash between those who favor the office and the new way of work, upper-level executives have increasingly pushed for return-to-office mandates, hoping for a return to normalcy or being able to at least better monitor their workers. They were met with some resistance from many employees who wanted to hang on to their flexibility, with young workers as the face of the resistance. Meanwhile, middle managers implementing the mandates were caught navigating the tension and becoming all the more burned out for it.

But Checkr’s data shows that such roles are seemingly miscast. New surveys have also shown that the office-favoring cohort is actually younger than it seems; a large portion of Gen Zers feel that in-person work is more productive or offers more career development opportunities like networking. Other surveys also point to bosses not loving the loss of remote work; just 21% of executives and non-executives want to return to the office per Future Forum’s April 2022 Pulse Survey. The big fish, too, are looking to work from home; research from McKinsey finds that one-third of employees earning over $150,000 would quit if they had to return to the office full-time.

It seems as if management wants flexibility as much, if not more, than employees do in general—Checkr finds that 52% of management would prefer a four day work week over a pay bump in 2024, compared to 38% of employees (That discrepancy might be in part because management is already often paid more than other employees.).

If managers don’t want to haul themselves to the office any more than their workers, then what explains the disconnect between how they feel and the mandates that are being enforced? It could be that said middle managers are simply executing their bosses preferences or that CEOs are at the will of their boards. But perhaps monitoring employees outweighs their desire to work from home. When Checkr asked if managers would like to return to office because worker supervision is easier in-person, most managers (70%) agreed with the statement, while 63% of all employees felt similarly.

Even if they agree with employees, bosses seem to be skeptical of those who are staunchly anti-office. More than half (56%) of managers find passionately anti-RTO sentiments to be a “red flag,” per Checkr. That’s compared to just 38% of employees who feel similarly.

Either way, it seems as if bosses and employees are more aligned than they thought walking into the new year. The jury is out, though, on whether that will change the tides.

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