5 REAL Reasons CEOs Want Workers Back in the Office

Remote employees forced back to the office.
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You’ve seen the headlines in the last few years (and even presently)…

  • Company Name is mandating workers to return back to the office. 
  • Company Name is requiring remote employees to come back to the office a few days a week or face termination. 
  • Company Name CEO states that it’s time for employees to be back in the office permanently. 

Even though most of these organizations have record profits, no decline in productivity, and generally happy employees who have work flexibility.

So why are many organizations pushing for a return to office, especially when most have seen success with remote employees?

Often the reasons behind this push back to the office falls on excuses around productivity, visibility, collaboration, or some other word acting as the scapegoat. 

But those aren’t the real reasons CEOs want workers back in the office. And below, you’ll find out what they are and why. 

Reasons Executives Want Employees Back in the Office

According to a survey from Resume Builder of over 1,000 decision-makers, 90% of companies plan to urge employees back to the office by the end of 2024. 

And almost 30% of these leaders say they will threaten to terminate employees who don’t oblige with the new return-to-office plans.

So unfortunately, the headlines will continue. 

But why is this happening? Are the reasons most CEOs or company executives have presented publicly for a return to the office actually true? 

After following the news, different mandates, seeing the trends among these companies – it’s pretty safe to say what the REAL reasons are currently. 

Let’s dive in. 

1. Money spent on commercial real estate. 

Typically, everything comes down to money and what was spent and where. 

While remote work can certainly save companies A LOT of money, they still have expenses to justify. Hence, calling remote workers back to the office.

There were companies spending millions on new offices prior to the pandemic in 2020. And there are many companies tied to long commercial real estate leases for offices that are barely being used. 

So even though the company might have solid profits, they still need to justify the huge commercial office space expenses. 

While I understand here at the loss of real estate expenses, that doesn’t justify calling people back to the office who were never informed their work situation could change. 

2. To mask upcoming layoffs and downsizing.

Not every company is having record profits. 

But even companies not struggling are looking to make drastic cuts in saving money. Often due to the leader’s oversight in overhiring previously, but that’s another article in itself. 

However, forcing a return to office enables leaders to give employees the option to quit on their own merit. Which means, not having additional expenses and even not having to pay out severance. 

This also looks good for their actual layoff numbers, if they can shave off employees ahead of that announcement. So yes, the “return to office” movement can be a disguise for layoffs. 

That might be particularly important to those companies that are public and want to best protect their stock price as much as possible. But even then, remote workers are still more likely to be laid off.

Again, it comes down to money.

3. To regain and maintain corporate control. 

I don’t know what it is, but some companies and executives have serious trust issues with employees.

The way I see it, if you can’t trust the employees at your company then that’s a hiring problem. But regardless, often this is a real reason CEOs want workers back in the office.  

Even though they aren’t monitoring every employee pending company size, it’s still all about control over people. It’s often an ego thing from what I’ve seen with those executives being very aggressive about return to office policies. 

Of course they can put spyware on work computers for remote workers to monitor screen time, keystrokes, mouse movements – but it’s often not enough for them. 

P.S. Please don’t work for a company that has aggressive spyware on your work computer or forces you to leave your webcam on all day. Seriously, the webcam thing was happening often and it’s a bit weird.

4. Do not feel comfortable managing remotely. 

Over the years, I’ve noticed some companies that went remote try to manage employees and use policies already in place from being in the office. 

However, there needs to be changes in management style, culture, and policies to adopt it effectively. Working with a distributed workforce is very different and requires new approaches. 

Call it naivety in the approach or maybe just laziness in learning, but executives and managers often do not feel comfortable with the change. 

And instead of putting in the work or looking at great examples of remote handbooks out there, they say remote work is failing the business. 

We all know change can be hard. But taking the easy road and falling back into old ways isn’t really the answer. But often a reason that employees are being called to return to the office.

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5. It’s actually just their work preference. 

Often, CEOs or executives won’t just come out and really admit why they are stopping flexible work options. But one real reason that we can’t ignore is that it might just be their work preference. 

Although these company leaders should be thinking about what’s best for employees, it’s not always the case. 

And many would respect more CEOs’ decisions for returning to the office if they did just flat out say the truth or that it’s their preference. 

Sure remote workers can disagree and still be disappointed, but at least it was a real truthful answer. 

Being the CEO runs the company (or even is a founder), they do have every right to dictate the work style of the company. But what annoys remote employees is the lack transparency. 

Instead, the excuses revert back to that productivity is suffering (it’s usually not at all) and seeing everyone in-person creates energy, better results, etc. Some blanket statements to cover the fact they just aren’t a fan of working remotely. 

And nothing wrong with some in-person work together either. That’s why remote-first organizations often have yearly or bi-yearly retreats. It can be refreshing and energizing to meet your co-workers in real life for some team building time.  

Final Thoughts

Look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to work in the office, whether hybrid or fully five days a week. Everyone has a preference and we have options of where to work. 

But the push back from remote workers is because executives are pulling back on empty promises from going remote. 

Most organizations with return to the office mandates are pulling the “Sorry you moved to a more affordable area, but you need to come to the office 2 -3 days a week or else!” 

Do threats really build productivity, camaraderie, and trust in a workplace? 

Instead, if a company wants workers back in the office, they should offer options for them. This could include:

  • Relocation support, expenses, and help for those willing to come back. 
  • Generous severance and job search support if chose to resign instead. 
  • Longer deadline periods to allow remote employees to think and plan. 

There probably are some organizations offering some of the above and kudos for taking the initiative. But so far, many are in the camp of “Return or lose your job.” 


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About Todd Kunsman

Todd is the founder of Remote Work Junkie and has been featured in numerous publications like Business Insider, HuffPost, CNBC, and more. He’s been a remote work advocate for close to a decade and has been working remotely full-time for 5+ years. He’s also a marketing, personal finance, and music nerd 🤓

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