The coronavirus pandemic has officially transformed the workplace, as many governments and companies shifted employees to working from home during the global health crisis. According to a recent survey by Gartner, more than half of organizations surveyed said that at least 81% of their employees are working remotely during COVID-19—and even after the crisis subsides, working from home may be here to stay.

Still, the economic toll of the pandemic, and its disruptions to daily life, are causing many to consider how—and when––companies can bring employees back to the office. President Trump, for instance, recently tweeted that he is focusing on “getting America back to work.”

Still, the uncertainty of the situation and the broad lack of testing are cause for concern for many workers. During a phone call with Trump, a group of business executives told the president that more testing was required before Americans “would be confident enough to return to work, eat at restaurants or shop in retail establishments.”

A whopping 86% of workers say it’s too soon to go back to the office, according to a new survey by O.C. Tanner of 1,581 employees in the US, Canada, and the UK.

“As part of our survey, we asked employees why it was too early to return to work,” said Alexander Lovell, director of research and assessment at O.C. Tanner. “The most common answer? ‘People are still getting sick.’ The virus is still spreading, and employees are monitoring these developments closely. They point to the evidence that people can be asymptomatic and continue to spread the virus. As one employee related, ‘What if I killed my 58-year-old co-worker? I might have it and simply not know.'”

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

As for when, exactly, workers should consider returning to work, the survey, taken April 19 and 20, shows:

  • 4% — this week
  • 5% — next week
  • 19% — in 2-4 weeks
  • 26% — in one month
  • 34% — 2-3 months from now
  • 13% — longer than three months from now

Some employees did not believe that it was too soon to return to work. Workers who did not live alone—they had a spouse, partner, or roommate—were three times more likely to fall in this category, suggesting that working from home with others might take a deeper toll or impact productivity.

Additionally, employees with school-age children who must now be taught from home were two and a half times more likely to fall in the camp of thinking it was not too soon to consider going back to work, according to the study. This also suggested that the office environment might be a welcome relief from a new life of working and homeschooling.

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