Korn Ferry Survey Shows Negative Mental Health Effects of Returning to the Office

Commuting is What Professionals Are Looking Forward to Least

Los Angeles, March 15, 2022 – As more organizations solidify return-to-office plans, a new Korn Ferry survey reveals that most professionals don’t think returning will be healthy for them.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents say that going back to the office would have a negative impact on their mental health. And while it may have been a difficult transition two years ago to begin working from home, nearly three-quarters (74%) say it will be harder to get used to going back into the office.

Proximity to others is seen as a concern, as more than a third (38%) say that if they were invited to a meeting where they had to sit in close quarters, they’d ask that the meeting be moved to a larger space. Ten percent say they would skip the meeting entirely.

The survey found that being in the office doesn’t seem to be the biggest concern, as 74% of respondents say their commute is what they are least looking forward to when returning to the office.

“Returning to the office can bring up a lot of emotions for professionals, and while it may seem like a natural way to return to pre-pandemic ‘normal,’ organizations must be supportive of all of the issues workers will encounter as they make the change to once again being onsite,” said Korn Ferry Workforce Transformation Practice Leader Elise Freedman.

Survey respondents were not optimistic that returning to the office would make life at home easier. More than two-thirds (68%) say they will not have more of a daily routine (e.g. family dinners, exercise) when they return to the office, and 88% say returning to the office will make it more difficult to handle home duties such as childcare.

“Many organizations are planning for a hybrid model whereby employees can still interact with colleagues in the office for meetings and other in-person events on a part-time basis, while still having the option to work from home part-time,” said Freedman. “Companies and their employees need to be flexible to determine what works best for the company and the individual.”

About the survey: The Korn Ferry survey of 589 professionals took place in late February and early March 2022

Survey responses

What kind of impact would returning to the office have on your mental health?

A negative impact              64%                                                        

A positive impact               36%


What are you least looking forward to when you think about returning to the office? 

Commute                                                                         74%

Office politics                                                                   13%

Dealing with my manager in person                            5%

Sitting in long meetings                                                  8%


What was/will be harder to get used to, having to work from home at the start of the pandemic or going back into the office? 

It was harder to get used to working from home                             26%

It will be harder to get used to working in the office                       74%


What would you do if you were asked to join a meeting where people are in close proximity to one another?

I would ask that the meeting be moved to allow for more space    38%

I would go even if it made me uncomfortable                                    52%

I wouldn't go                                                                                        10%                


Will you have more of a regular daily routine (e.g. exercise, family dinners) when you return to the office? 

Yes                                                                        32%

No                                                                         68%


Will your return to the office make it easier or more difficult to handle home duties such as childcare? 

Returning will make it easier                                12%

Returning will make it more difficult                   88%


About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

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