Forcing staff to return to the office could be a new form of presenteeism, says Cate Murden, as it highlights the belief that the physical presence of an employee in the workplace equates to better deliverables.

A new report by PUSH, a wellbeing and performance company, warns that staff returning to work for the wrong reasons will be extremely damaging to the mental health of the workforce.

The survey found that, ultimately, over a third of respondents (35 per cent) felt that they did a lot more at home than in the office, showing their productivity has been heightened by homeworking.

As such, two-fifths (40 per cent) confessed they do not want to return to the office full-time, believing that working from home is better for their mental health.

This was even more prevalent for workers within industries such as IT (57 per cent) and media and marketing (59 per cent). Half of workers under the age of 35 (50 per cent) also felt that going back to the office completely would be bad for their mental wellbeing.

Despite this, over a third (36 per cent) believe that they will be made to go back full-time after the pandemic ends.

Two-fifths (40 per cent) of respondents stated their view that their employer would prefer them to return as soon as possible due to the belief that staff achieve less at home. Again, this was seen most among younger workers under 35 years of age (48 per cent).

Another common belief among staff was that returning to the office could be advantageous for career prospects. Almost a third (32 per cent) believe that those who return to the office are more likely to get promoted.

Cate Murden, founder of PUSH, suggested that this is a new form of presenteeism – with employers thinking that staff need to be in the office to reach optimal productivity levels. In light of this, employees also believe they need to return to work physically in order to ensure they do not miss out on opportunities to advance their careers.

The report ultimately states employers should promote environments and cultures of safety, experiment with different work models and evolve based on what is important to employees and set an agenda around expected behaviours and boundaries.

*PUSH’s ‘The Human Element’ report outlines all the above data. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3,037 employed adults in the private sector. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th – 16th April 2021. The survey was carried out online.