Back to the Office? Professionals Weigh in on Plans for Return, Safety and Remote Working in New Korn Ferry Survey


Only 14 Percent Say Returning to the Office Every Day Will Be Mandatory

As employers across the globe consider options for bringing workers back to the office, a new Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) survey shows that even though professionals are not afraid of returning, many will choose to stay at home.

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents say they are not afraid of returning to the office and 74 percent feel their colleagues will follow safety guidelines (wearing masks, social distancing). However, 53 percent say it is either only somewhat likely or not likely that they will return when the offices re-open.

The majority of respondents (58 percent) say they are more productive when working virtually, even if there are distractions such as a spouse and children at home.

“A vast majority of professionals have spent the last several months working from home, and for many, the new routine has in fact made them more productive,” said Sarah Jensen Clayton, Senior Client Partner and Lead, North America Culture & Change. “But it’s still incumbent upon employers to create new, virtual ways to maintain organizational culture and employee engagement.”

According to the survey, employers recognize that a virtual work environment or a hybrid approach of working from home and the office may be the new long-term norm. Only 14 percent say returning to the office every day will be mandatory.

While a little more than half (57 percent) of the professionals surveyed say they are most looking forward to camaraderie with colleagues if they do go back to the office, 23 percent say they are not looking forward to any part of returning.

“Regardless if the decision is to allow employees to continue working virtually or bring them back to the office, now is the time for employers to re-evaluate the employee experience,” said Clayton. “COVID has dramatically changed employees’ expectations and the future of work is being defined now.”

About the survey

The Korn Ferry survey of 1,329 professionals took place in late September 2020.

Are you afraid to go back to the office when it re-opens?

Yes                                                                                                                  28 percent                  

No                                                                                                                   72 percent

If your office is still closed, how likely is it that you will go back to the office when it re-opens?

Highly likely                                                                                                     47 percent      

Somewhat likely                                                                                              29 percent

Not likely                                                                                                         24 percent

How confident are you that your colleagues will follow safety guidelines (e.g. social distancing, mask wearing) when you return to the office?

Very confident                                                                                                 37 percent

Somewhat confident                                                                                       37 percent

Somewhat unconfident                                                                                   17 percent

Not at all confident                                                                                            9 percent

Will your employer make it mandatory for you to go back to the office when it opens back up?

Yes, every day                                                                                                14 percent      

Yes, but not every day                                                                                    41 percent

No, going to the office will not be mandatory                                                 45 percent

Are you more productive working from home (even if there are distractions such as a spouse or children) or from the office?

Home                                                                                                              58 percent      

Office                                                                                                              42 percent

What are you most looking forward to when you return to the office?

Having a dedicated work/office space                                                           18 percent      

Camaraderie with colleagues                                                                         57 percent

Dressing professionally                                                                                   2 percent

Nothing                                                                                                            23 percent

Do you think that post COVID-19 there will be more or fewer in-person meetings?

More meetings                                                                                                6 percent

Fewer meetings                                                                                              94 percent

If you think there will be fewer in-person meetings post COVID-19, how do you think that will impact productivity?

I will be much more productive                                                                       27 percent      

I will be somewhat more productive                                                               50 percent

I will be somewhat less productive                                                                 17 percent

I will be much less productive                                                                        6 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with clients to design their organizational structures, roles and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward, develop and motivate their workforce. And, we help professionals navigate and advance their careers.


Tracy Kurschner


Sign up for Korn Ferry updates


Dan Gugler
+1 310 552-1834

Asia Pacific:
Malte Weyhe
+61 2 9667 2604

Michele Lally
+44 7387 092650