As many as one in three U.S. employees labored at home during the COVID War. Work got done, even though managers were unable to keep eyes on their staff.
For many, that autonomy will continue.
Of 91 companies surveyed by real estate consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield, 78 have adopted hybrid work models, enabling employees to be home a few days a week; the rest allow their workers to stay home full-time.
However, companies that demand employees spend five days a week at a central office are having a hard time gathering their workers. 
To motivate them, those companies are finding ways to take attendance to ensure employees are complying with the order.
Goldman Sachs keeps a spreadsheet showing which staffers have swiped their entry cards. Bloomberg workers can check an internal attendance record to see which of their colleagues are on site. 
Software company SmartRecruiters sees which employees have reserved desks and follows up with workers who are spending too much time at home. It will hire a manager to take attendance, Janae Kashka, the company’s “head of employee experience,” told The New York Times.
Goldman has tried to boost attendance by scheduling meetings with people on days they typically stay home, especially on Mondays and Fridays, unnamed employees told the NYT.
Many workers who became accustomed to the COVID era’s autonomy bristle at being monitored like children at school, the NYT noted; companies implementing employee surveillance systems—often referred to as “bossware”—risk a toxic workplace culture, management specialists said.
“If you have to force employees to do something you think is in their benefit, it’s not in their benefit,” Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom, who studies remote work, said in a NYT interview.
“Next thing, there’s going to be a teacher at the front of the office throwing chalk at people who aren’t working,” one employee said to the NYT. “It feels like you’re going back to eighth grade.”
TREND FORECAST: Companies that do battle with employees to force them into a central office full-time will lose many of their best and brightest, as we noted in “One-Third of U.S. Office Workers Will Quit if Forced to Return to the Office” (9 Mar 2021).
“Workers have come to realize that flexible work—both in time and location—can be convenient and productive,” public relations consultant Ed Zitron wrote in a Business Insider analysis.
“Unless employers wake up to this reality, reluctant managers are going to miss out on employees who will instead find companies that allow them to do their best work, regardless of how and where it gets done,” he warned.
Thirty-nine percent of workers will not consider a job that forces them to commute five days a week, according to a Rippling poll we reported in “Remote Work: The New Bottom Line” (22 Mar 2022); 65 percent of workers would take a pay cut if it allowed them to keep working from home, a poll reported by Bloomberg found (“Americans: Rather Work at Home and Earn Less,” 10 Aug 2021).
Of course, some of this is bravado; many workers already have returned to jobs they left during the COVID War.
However, enough white-collar knowledge workers have the leverage to push back against employers who want to return to a pre-COVID five-day office attendance scheme.
The irreversible trend toward remote work also strengthens our past forecast that commercial office real estate faces a shrinking market.
With the economy in recovery and the COVID threat fading, only 42 percent of office workers are in their cubicles on any given workday, as data above shows.
This indicates that the troubles for commercial office landlords will only deepen. 
Even if most workers will congregate at central offices on the same day, businesses already are shedding office space and will continue to do so, as we have detailed in articles such as “Corporations Continue to Shed Office Space” (13 Jul 2021), “HSBC Endorses Remote Work Model, Slashes Travel Budget” (14 Sep 2021), and “Deloitte Abandons More London Office Space” in this issue, among others.
In our “Real Estate Industry Update” of 13 April, 2021,we reported Fitch Ratings’ calculation that allowing the nation’s office workers to spend a day and a half at home each week would reduce office space needs enough to cut landlords’ profits 15 percent; three days a week would slash 30 percent from profits, Fitch said.
At the back of the line, after office occupancy shrinks and retail shops and commuter-dependent businesses close, are the cities themselves. Empty storefronts and less-valuable office towers shrink the tax bases cities need to pay for services—and fewer services make a city a less-desirable place to live, driving residents out (as happened during the COVID War) and reducing municipal revenues even further in a downward spiral.

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