Nearly half of remote workers ready to quit if forced to return in person


Corporate titans and coffee shop owners alike are scrambling to fill openings while also trying to convince staff to stick around as the United States reopening coincides with a massive uptick in Americans quitting their jobs. Indeed, the highest "quit rates" ever recorded were in April and May. 

Of course, the improved labor market—with head hunters offering enticing packages—is playing a role. But is there more at play? As employers reopen offices, is that pushing some workers to flee? To find out, Fortune teamed up with Momentive (formerly known as SurveyMonkey) to poll more than 2,000 U.S. adults between June 11 and 14.

The finding? Employers who go back to the old normal too fast should expect to see talent walk. Nearly half of workers (49%) who are still remote or hybrid say they'll look for a new job if their employer forces them back to the office after the pandemic ends. That pushback may explain why Amazon recently softened its back-to-work policy.

Our poll finds young staffers are the most likely to bounce. Among baby boomer workers, 32% say they'd look for a new job if their employer requires them to return five days per week to the office. But among millennials, that figure shoots up 25 percentage points to a staggering 57%. The very real threat of losing talent—especially young staffers—is why so many employers are dragging their feet when it comes to returning policies.

Some employers are even positioning themselves to benefit from this wave of resignations. While Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are implementing strict return policies, Citigroup is out touting its flexible policies as it recruits away talent from other financial institutions. For the majority of Citigroup's corporate staffers, their roles will be designated as a hybrid—requiring just three days a week in the office. For a New York-based big bank, that's groundbreaking.

While employers who force all their staffers to return to the office are at serious risk of losing talent, that doesn't mean the office is dead. Only 16% of workers told Fortune-Momentive that they'd like to be fully remote once the pandemic ends. While 82% said either always in the office (48%), or sometimes/hybrid (34%). Simply put: Most workers don't want to be fully remote—they just want the flexibility. 

The heads of Corporate America are largely on board with this mixed approach. In our May poll of Fortune 500 CEOs, 53% said two or three days per week in the office is the optimal set-up for "knowledge workers." While 39% said four or five days, and 3% said one day or less. 

*Methodology: The Fortune-Momentive poll was conducted among a national sample of 2,098 adults in the U.S. between June 11 and 14. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.

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