One third of senior execs plan to ditch roles over return to office mandates

Return to office concept image showing workers talking while in an open plan office space.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One-third of executives plan to abandon their current roles if forced to comply with return to office (RTO) mandates, according to new research from Gartner.

This survey, which fielded responses from 3,500 employees, also revealed that 19% of those in non-executive roles would leave their organization due to RTO rules, highlighting rising tensions between employees and employers. 

“Organizations must weigh the benefits and risk of onsite requirements on employee attrition and engagement,” Gartner said.

Gartner pointed out that organizations and prospective employees are “misaligned” on RTO, with senior members of staff often leaving or avoiding roles with strict on-site requirements.

The firm found that 36% of executive job seekers who have faced RTO demands said it influenced their decision to leave the role, while a third stated that employers had discontinued hiring processes over the last year owing to “expectations that employees would return to a physical workspace”.

“Retaining key talent has become harder due to mistrust between employees and employers, employee burnout and disengagement, and fiercer competition in the labor market,” senior director at Gartner Caitlin Duffy said.

“With RTO mandates influencing the job-seeking and loyalty of senior-level candidates and employees, organizations that force workers to come into the office are likely to weaken their leadership bench and complicate succession planning,” she added. 

Return to office mandates causing friction

Citing a previous survey of 170 HR leaders, Gartner mentioned some of the areas in which workforces are seeing a rising demand in office attendance and penalties for unfulfilled on-site rules.

63% of respondents reported an increased expectation to spend days in the office, while 13% said that the consequences of not meeting requirements had intensified.

 “While 58% of executives with a mandate to return to the office said their organization provided a convincing reason for the decision, many senior leaders are unwilling to come back into the office,” said Gartner’s Caroline Ogawa.

Gartner included the key ways in which employers can begin to remedy this problem, referring to the need of businesses to “motivate rather than mandate” by encouraging feelings of capability, autonomy, and connection via hybrid office spaces. 


Employers should also look to create reasons for on-site attendance, such as brainstorming activities or offsite events, as well as ensuring employees themselves are part of the decisions to shape the RTO requirements.  

If employers want to retain staff, they also need to give a clear reason for RTO - Gartner cites that employees who understand why their employers are demanding RTO show greater levels of engagement, effort, and retention. 

George Fitzmaurice
Staff Writer

George Fitzmaurice is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a particular interest in AI regulation, data legislation, and market development. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, he undertook an internship at the New Statesman before starting at ITPro. Outside of the office, George is both an aspiring musician and an avid reader.