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All bosses ‘secretly’ want workers back in the office—but they’ll have to wait years, major business group leader says

By Chloe Taylor,


As the return to office debate rages on, many bosses have made it clear that they want their staff back at work in person.

Some employees, though, have resisted return-to-office requests , insisting that they can do their jobs just as well from home—which is unsurprising, given that one in four workers would rather get a root canal than go back to working in the office full time.

But according to Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry—the U.K.’s biggest business group, which represents 190,000 companies—most workers will eventually have no choice but to work from their company’s headquarters.

“You ask most bosses, everybody secretly wants everyone to come back into the office,” he told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast .

However, he conceded that it was unlikely companies across the globe would suddenly be demanding their workers return to full-time office work, and speculated that the debate around working patterns would continue for some time.

“I just don't think that's going to happen overnight,” he said. “I think we are all coping with this...but we're going to be talking about this for a few years.”

Asked about senior executives and corporate board members only working three-day weeks and playing golf on Fridays, Danker admitted that “the whole world of work [has] totally gone crazy.”

“We have no idea where it's going to land,” he told the BBC.

Will more workers be returning to the office in 2023?

While offices gradually became much busier throughout 2022 , there appears to be a growing “mismatch” between the expectations of workers and their employers.

Of the private sector employers who allowed their staff to work from home when COVID-19 broke out, around 60% said they expected to keep remote work options in place as restrictions were eased, according to 2022 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . However, recent research showed that just 14% of job openings on LinkedIn were promising to allow teleworking.

A slew of big-name corporate leaders , including the CEOs of Disney , Apple , JPMorgan and Alphabet , have demanded workers spend at least part of the working week in the office now that COVID restrictions have eased.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s conference in Davos, Switzerland, last week , Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said the location in which staff worked was “not an employee choice.”

“They don’t get to choose their compensation, they don’t get to choose their promotion, they don’t get to choose to stay home five days a week,” he said.

The widespread push for fully remote work to transition to hybrid work has been met with some resistance, however. Goldman Sachs and Starbucks have both struggled to get workers to comply with their back-to-office rules, while a group of Apple employees launched a petition against the company’s hybrid working mandate last year.

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