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72% of companies have return-to-office mandates—but nearly half are seeing attrition spike

Luis Alvarez for Getty Images

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As companies create return-to-office policies, there’s been some employee pushback, even at the corporate level.

For example, some Amazon corporate workers announced they were planning to walk off the job on May 31 to take a stand against the company’s divisive return-to-office mandate and recent layoffs, according to reports. A global study released on Wednesday finds that return-to-work mandates are coming with a price—employee attrition.

Returning for Good,” by Unispace finds that 72% of companies surveyed say they have mandated office returns, and almost half (42%) now report a higher level of employee attrition than anticipated. In addition, 29% are struggling to recruit altogether. The study combines the results of an April survey of 9,500 employees and 6,650 employers from 17 countries and 14 industries, including banking and insurance.

Unispace is an architecture and planning company for commercial workplaces. Some of its clients include Boston Scientific, Tripadvisor, and Hugo Boss. The study examines the current habits and motivations of the workforce. It’s not necessarily that employees don’t like the workplace. For example, in the U.S., 81% of employees surveyed feel loyal to their current employer, and 34% said liking their peers is the main reason they stay with a business.

According to the survey, overall, the top feelings employees revealed they felt towards the office were happy (31%), motivated (30%), and excited (27%). However, all three of these feelings decrease for those with mandated office returns (27%, 26%, and 22% respectively). This highlights that staff are more open to returning to the office if it was out of choice, rather than forced.

Ray Montalvo, VP of real estate and workplace at BlackLine, said there needs to be alternatives to mandates. “BlackLine is driven by a culture of people, collaboration, and togetherness,” Montalvo stated in the report. “By embracing a more predictable hybrid working model, we can amplify the moments that matter most, forge stronger relationships within and across teams, and provide valuable mentoring and counseling to drive engagement and career growth.”

Hybrid working is “currently embedded in the workforce,” with the data showing that 50% of workers are in the office four or more days per week. The top three workplace "likes" cited by employees were the social interaction in the office (33%), the opportunity to collaborate (28%), and better IT facilities (21%).

Hospitality spaces

People still value the workplace, but the workplace needs to evolve to meet their needs—and employers are failing to recognize this, according to Unispace. Marco Brucato, e-commerce lead at The Kraft Heinz Company, said the company is making headway with attracting employees back to the office with an upgraded workspace and the ability to collaborate. "The beauty of the office has really influenced staff wanting to be in the workspace, in fact, we have people wanting to show off the space to family and friends," Brucato said in the report.

According to Unispace's report, 75% of the global business leaders surveyed said they have increased their real estate portfolio in the last two years, with companies across Asia Pacific reporting the highest rates of growth. This expansion includes talent attraction trends of creating hospitality spaces by 44% of firms, the survey found.

I recently talked with Marriott International EVP and CFO Leeny Oberg at the hotel industry giant’s new global headquarters in Bethesda, Md. “Pretty much everything in this building, and every decision, was all about how to make our people love where they come to work,” Oberg told me.

At the heart of the new $600 million campus is the 21-story, 785,000-square-foot office building. Each associate workstation comes with a view outside with natural light, a sit-stand desk, and an ergonomic chair. Among the amenities in the building are an 11,000-square-foot childcare center, a fitness center, and 7,600 square feet of outdoor garden space. Oberg said that 25% of the building is collaboration space.

There are 5,000 associates assigned to headquarters, according to Marriott. The company has a hybrid work policy. “We encourage folks to come in for in-person meetings, but there is a lot of flexibility,” she said.

Sheryl Estrada

This story was originally featured on

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