We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. By using this website you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more.


Return of the Remotes? Not So Fast, Say Essentials

COVID-19 Weekly Culture Pulse Survey: April 27-May 1, 2020

Image Component needs to be configured.

Last week’s pulse survey looked at when and how remote workers think they should return to the workplace. But for many organizations that’s not even half of the story. In fact, across the entire workforce, nearly two-thirds of employees—those labeled essential—have continued to work in the same offices, stores, factories, distribution centers, healthcare facilities, or other environments that they did before the pandemic.

So this week, our survey asked 1,426 of these workers, the ones holding down the fort, many of the same questions. Essentially, when should their remote colleagues come back? The consensus among frontliners, and between them and their laptop-toting peers, is remarkable.

Now is too soon

An overwhelming 91.4% of non-remote employees believe their organizations should wait to have remote workers join them. When would the ideal time be?

Image Component needs to be configured.

That makes almost 77% who say the separation should last at least another month, compared to nearly 72% of their remote associates who felt the same way last week and more than 66% who share that opinion this week.

When asked why, the rationale was also similar. If remote workers don’t need to be on site yet, frontliners say, then it’s not worth the risk. Verbatim:

“Let things calm down more. Why risk additional people or risk that they don’t have any symptoms but have the virus and can get all of us sick?”


“They don’t have to be at work to get their job done. Why risk others when they are doing just fine at home?”


“I don’t want virtual workers here. There isn’t a reason for them to be here other than to say ‘we returned to work.’ One of them will bring the virus here and then we will all be out of work.”

And then there’s how

Many non-remote employees are just as concerned about how their organizations will reintegrate as when. Specifically, they want to know what new safety measures will exist, and how those measures will scale and be managed when supplies and people are already stretched thin.

“I already have to leave 30 minutes early to get to work, take my temperature, sanitize, put on a work mask. I can’t imagine what this is going to be like when we ask the other employees to come back. We are going to be lining up across the building just to get a temperature check, which isn’t safe either.”


“I don’t think we have enough masks for the non-remote workers. How are we going to mask all the remote workers?”


“My company thinks they can bring back everyone next week. But what about the hand sanitizer that is out? We barely have enough gloves. No masks. Where are the 300 other people going to go in the building with social distancing? Nothing is thought through.”

Another recurring theme was comprehensive testing. As one respondent put it, “I think everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Weekly tests if they go into the office. But our city cannot even test the amount of people it needs to normally. Nothing should change until we can test more.”

Keeping our eye on the questions

In organizations that employ both remote and non-remote workers, there’s always been a divide. And this once-in-a-century crisis continues to underscore how different the employee experience is for these two groups.

However, as with any challenge-wrapped opportunity, organizations should acknowledge and confront this one. Just because the two experiences are different doesn’t mean they can’t both be positive. The key will be helping each side appreciate the other—and feel appreciated—more.

If that sounds like some less-than-prescriptive advice, it is. This is a difficult question with no easy answer. In world were everything will be new for a while, organizations must consciously take steps toward more equitable cultures.

Fortunately, when it comes to deciding the right time to reunite, employees already share a lot of common ground and perspective.

Stay tuned to our COVID-19 weekly culture pulse surveys for insights that will help your organization to weather the storm.

* Please make sure to fill out the required fields.