What does going “back to work” mean in a post COVID-19 world?

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the way we all view work. For many employees, this was their first experience working from home. While companies are scrambling to return to the office as soon as possible, employees are not as rushed. According to a survey conducted by PWC, 61% of employees want to remain remote until July and nearly half want to continue to work remotely a few days of the week.

Before outlining a detailed return to office plan, it is important for companies to take what they’ve learned during this pandemic and reevaluate the importance of having an office. Have your employees been more productive working from home? Does your industry require an office? Can your employees do their work effectively from home? As companies reflect, we want to define what the future of work could look like and what the different versions of hybrid work may plan out to be.

According to BuiltIn, there are four types of models:

  • Office-first
  • Office-occasional
  • Office-occasional, remote allowed
  • Remote-first

Let’s break down each model and determine which plan is best for you:


What used to be considered the norm, the office-first approach is simple: everyone works in the office. In this model, employees all return to work to a dedicated headquarters for both solo work and team collaboration. All-company meetings and important discussions are all held in-person. Employees are expected to commute to their respective offices and stay in the office for their standard 8 hour work day. In this scenario, the office is an actual dedicated workspace for employees only. Employers are expected to provide the necessary work equipment and can provide additional benefits such as free lunch, office snacks, childcare, and more.


Office-occasional is similar to offering flexible work from home days. All employees are still required to come into the office but can do solo work at home. In this scenario, the office is still a dedicated workspace for all employees to use for meetings and team collaboration. An office-occasional approach is great for its flexibility but will require more work from managers to pre-approve work from home days. Organizations may run into scheduling and coordinating issues as different people choose to work in and out of the office. This can be resolved with set required days in the office such as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and only scheduling big meetings during those days.

Office-occasional, remote allowed

This situation is similar to office-occasional except with the added option to be remote permanently. In this scenario, employees whose job requires them to be in office will have the office-occasional plan. Employees who choose to work remotely can work from their homes and are not required to ever enter the office. This is great because it provides even more flexibility for employees who prefer to work from home or wish to live in a different city than the office. However, to manage a system like this, People Operations and HR will need to take extra measures to ensure that the remote employees feel connected and equal to in-person employees.

Read more: These 10 techniques can help you build trust with remote employees


Remote-first is most similar to how business was run during the COVID-19 pandemic – everyone works from home. In this situation, the office may not even exist, video conferencing rooms and business communication platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams become the new digital workspace. Some in-person meetings could happen in the form of annual all-company meetings in rented office spaces or local gatherings in coffee shops. If the budget is tight, there may never be a dedicated office, and all solo work is done remotely.

There is no perfect formula for your organization, no matter how many different strategies a consultant or a management agency can offer. The best way to determine which system works best for your organization is to gather honest feedback from your employees. By conducting surveys with your employees, you can find the balance between in-office and remote that works best. By finding this balance, your organization can maximize employee productivity and well-being while minimizing office management costs.

Poll Everywhere is great for gathering feedback and insights from your employees. From a quick consensus with a multiple choice question to an in depth anonymous survey, you can discover what your employees want. Once you’ve collected the information you need, you can easily share the responses or run a report to share with key decision makers. Create an account and try Poll Everywhere today!