6 key steps to overcoming return-to-office resistance

There’s a new phenomenon taking the working world by storm. Return-to-office resistance, or FORTO (fear of returning to the office), is the newest obstacle facing companies looking for a path forward after the pandemic.

And it makes sense. During two years of intermittent lockdowns, we all got exceptionally comfortable with a home office. For a great deal of us — it’s proving hard to let go: a recent study revealed 91% of employees in the US aren’t willing to sacrifice the ability to work from home in the future.

So what’s behind return-to-office resistance? And how can you, as an employer, help your team rekindle their love for office work?

Let’s dive in.

We’re all still recalibrating to social situations and the idea of being surrounded by people so frequently can be daunting and anxiety-inducing.

1. Understand the causes

There are three main reasons behind return-to-office resistance:


The ability to work from home has been life-changing for millions of people. It’s given us unprecedented control over our work/life balance, our daily routine, and our commute (or lack thereof!) You can imagine why, therefore, returning to the office feels like a step backward for many people. Why should I sacrifice my newfound flexibility for a more rigid system?


Of course, much of this resistance—and indeed the protection of flexibility—comes down to the habits we built up over the last few years. Habits, once crystallized, are famously hard to shift.

With the home office as the go-to, many of us are resisting change, even when that change constitutes reverting to the norm.


We’re entering the worst flu season in 13 years and a lot of us are – for obvious reasons – still primed to avoid viruses and illness wherever possible.

On the mental health front—the world is also gradually recalibrating to social situations (of which we had a notable lack for a couple of years). The idea of being surrounded by people so frequently may—to some—be daunting and anxiety-inducing.

The truth is, your employees may be experiencing a combination of these. In the next step, you’ll dig a bit deeper into their exact feelings surrounding office-based work.

2. Kickstart the discussion

It’s time to be proactive about the return-to-office discussion.

Not only do you want to dig into the reasons for your employees’ resistance—but you also want to identify the degrees of support and resistance to hybrid work in the company.

Consider an all-hands open discussion on the topic, or send out an anonymous internal survey. Encourage team members to reach out personally if they have any concerns you might not have considered.

The goal is to get a granular understanding of each and every employee—their starting position, their concerns, and how they can be addressed.

Showing proactivity will assure your team that you’re taking their questions about returning to the office seriously, and leading the transition as responsibly and smoothly as possible.

3. Communicate the benefits

Once you’ve built up a clearer picture of your employees’ attitudes to returning to the office, you should refocus the conversation on the benefits of in-person work. And the benefits are numerous:

Being part of the company culture

The office is still undoubtedly at the heart of company culture. It’s where colleagues have those little water cooler conversations and engage in social interactions that just aren’t possible over Zoom.

Changing your environment

Getting out of the house regularly can do wonders for your mental health if you’re feeling stuck in a rut or finding it hard to motivate yourself. This is especially true for those who identify as “Integrators”—people less able to segment work life and home life.

Building relationships

One of the best parts about spending time in the office is that you immediately break out of your WFH work silo. Time in the office enables you to forge relationships with new colleagues—and in turn brings about new ideas, advice and opportunities to collaborate.

High-quality collaboration

In a world where everything seems to have gone online, we’re gradually starting to remember the joys of real-life collaboration. Online workshops were great as a backup, but there’s nothing quite like the real thing. A designer, a product person, an engineer, and a marketing specialist in the same room—that’s when the magic happens.

At Kadence, we see office work as yet another tool in our toolbox. It’s not a case of “two days in, three days out”—it’s ensuring the right team members are in for the right reasons. Done right—office work is fun, fulfilling, and productive.

4. Put well-being first

The causes underlying return-to-office resistance are completely legitimate. The pandemic has taken a toll on both our physical and mental health, with the WHO finding a **25% increase in prevalence of anxiety since the beginning of 2020.

That’s why you should make team members feel as comfortable as possible about the prospect of dipping their toes back into office work.

In terms of physical health: Flu-proof your office with disinfecting stations, good air circulation, and regular cleaning.

In terms of mental health: Aside from encouraging open conversations throughout the return-to-office process, consider a company-wide program with Mental Health Ambassadors or Champions who are responsible for checking in on employees’ mental well-being and cultivating a culture of psychological safety.

Before rushing to implement a system for hybrid work, you should make it clear to your team that you are putting their health and safety first.

5. Create a destination workplace

Your team needs to ***see why it’s worth coming into the office on occasion. Especially those who are resisting hybrid work the most.

That’s why creating an absolutely kick-ass workplace will be your biggest asset in the transition to hybrid.

Here are some of the hallmarks of a modern office equipped for hybrid:

  • Biophilic design (plenty of plants and natural features)
  • Collaboration hubs with interactive whiteboards and video conferencing capabilities
  • Open areas with cushy chairs and refreshments for chance encounters or impromptu brainstorming sessions
  • Focus booths and silent zones for undisturbed, independent work
  • Large desks that enable a certain base-level social distancing

The more your employees love spending time in your office, the more they’ll make arrangements to come in.

6. Invest in hybrid software

This is the step that I consistently see companies skip. Yet it’s probably the most important of all.

It’s all very well spending a ton of money on a beautiful office, but if there’s no tool to adequately manage your employees’ time—it could all be for nothing.

Remember—the goal isn’t simply to get people into the office; it’s to get people into the office when it makes sense for them to be there.

Luckily, software exists for this very purpose. Hybrid management tools help you coordinate your people, projects, and spaces, so team members are always on the same page with desk booking, room booking, and collaborative meetings.

Investing in hybrid software will assure your employees that—when they are ready to make the move back to the office—there is a solid plan already in place.



At Kadence, we’ve gone through all of the growing pains of transitioning to hybrid work.

That’s why we’re committed to helping companies struggling with the same core questions. What kind of work system is right for us? How can we encourage employees to use our office?

There’s no right answer and no one-size-fits-all, but if you’ve read this far you’ve clearly begun the soul-searching process for your company.

If you’d like to learn more about hybrid work, and tools that help you coordinate your team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’d love to hear your story and provide whatever help we can.

6 hybrid work personas your company needs to know about

… and what you can do to help them thrive.

The world of work has changed beyond recognition. Going into the office 5 days a week feels like a relic of the past, yet we’re also beginning to see the drawbacks of a fully remote system.

Thousands of companies are moving to a hybrid model. A recent study found that 74% of US companies had already implemented, or were in the process of implementing hybrid work—rushing to give their employees flexibility.

But what does it actually mean to give employees flexibility, when every employee is so different?

Knowing the types of workers that have emerged into the hybrid era is the first step to understanding how you, as an employer, can give them just the kind of flexibility they need.

Let’s dive in.

Old School Oliver lives and dies by the office. The mere thought of not having a permanent, dedicated desk space sends shivers down his spine.

1. Adaptive Adam

Adaptive Adam is the chameleon in the company. He’s just as happy getting in the zone at home as he is hunkering down at a desk in the office—and he recognises the benefits in both.

He expects a dynamic workplace culture that moulds to his needs, with meeting spaces for effective collaboration and focus booths or quiet rooms for deep work. As he’s always flitting between home and office, Adam desperately needs his company to provide a tool that helps him manage those transitions smoothly.

He still remembers that one time when his favourite desk in the corner was occupied by Angela from Marketing. But she always works from home on Tuesdays!

What does Adam need? A modern workspace with a variety of meeting spaces and focus rooms, and a hybrid management tool that enables painless and transparent room/desk booking.

2. Solo Sarah

Solo Sarah has taken to home-based work like a duck to water.

She’s fiercely independent and she thrives when she’s left to get on with things — with minimal distraction. Though she doesn’t mind coming into the office for a meeting once in a while, she will default to remote work whenever possible.

Perhaps she has a busy family life or she lives a long way from town— whatever it is, you’ll probably next see her at the company Christmas party.

What does Sarah need? Support to craft the ultimate WFH set up —but also the right incentives and encouragement to bring her to the office on days when she is a crucial cog in the machine.

3. Old School Oliver

Old School Oliver lives and dies by the office. The mere thought of not having a permanent, dedicated desk space sends shivers down his spine.

For him, offices are THE environment where he knows he can thrive. Sure, he just about got through two years of home office, but he did it kicking and screaming. It’s just not his thing. Nothing makes Oliver happier than the sight of a work station set up for him to succeed — cactus, coffee cup and all. That’s where you’ll find him — all day, every day.

What does Oliver need? A permanent desk. Simple as. If that’s absolutely not possible, then he’ll make do with a desk management tool that allows recurring booking.

Claire deeply appreciates the flexibility to work from home. That’s what makes her one of the 83% of workers who believe a hybrid model is optimal.

4. Cultural Claire

Cultural Claire is also a big fan of the office. Unlike Oliver, who relies on the office to enable his productivity, Claire seeks it out for the social rewards.

She comes in regularly for the feeling of human connection — Chris from Product cracking puns by the water cooler, Angela’s infectious laugh, Friday after-work drinks.

As much as she loves office-based work, Claire also deeply appreciates the flexibility to work from home. That’s what makes her one of the 83% of workers who believe a hybrid model is optimal.

What does Claire need? A destination workplace. Collaboration hubs, cosy open areas and biophilic design are just a few things that will make her feel fulfilled and happy at work.

5. Unpredictable Ulrich

The greatest mystery of all. Ulrich the Unpredictable.

You haven’t seen him in half a year, and suddenly he’s coming in every day. He comes in every day, then he disappears to the Azores, where he works from a goat farm for three weeks. He comes back from the goat farm and suddenly he’s dialing in from a café in Toronto.

You can try to understand him, but you might not get very far. Ulrich is… well, Ulrich.

What does Ulrich need? A hybrid workplace tool that can cope with even the most unpredictable work regimes. And a quick word from the boss, perhaps 😉

6. Stretched Selma

Stretched Selma is the poor soul trying to make all of this work.

Her role in operations has undergone by far the biggest changes in the company since the pandemic. Not only is she still having to oversee the day-to-day fundamentals of people and culture management, she’s also now been tasked with making hybrid work work for everyone.

She has a vision for how this can be done, but no time to execute her ideas. That means, for now, the team will have to make do with Google Calendar when it comes to scheduling and coordination.

What does Selma need? The Swiss Army Knife of hybrid work management systems. A platform that will cover the essentials of hybrid work—and, as a bonus, provide tools to maximise the potential of this new hybrid reality.

So what does this all mean?

It means that it’s more complicated than everyone coming in two days a week. A nuanced set of employees requires a nuanced approach to hybrid work.

The biggest challenge is not making sure everyone has a desk when they come into the office. It’s making sure that they are coming into the office for the right reasons.

Tools like Kadence go above and beyond basic facility management (i.e who has what desk). They empower team members to be 100% in sync with one another, so that the unique benefits of office-based and home-based work are properly taken advantage of.

When you get Claire, Adam and Sarah in a room together, great things can happen.

The office has become another tool for work. Let’s make good use of it.