Why Returning to the Office is Sparking a Mental Health Crisis

A Nonfiction Report Commissioned by Twill

For the past two years, most American office workers have been forced to grapple with a new reality of working from home. While some are excited to return to the office, many are suffering under mental health challenges as they march back into the office.

31% of returning American office workers admit that going back to the office has already had a negative impact on their mental health.

It doesn’t help that 53% of office workers feel that mental health issues are more taboo in the workplace than white collar crime.

Many office workers are looking for ways to avoid the office entirely:

more than 1/4 would, on average, give up $17k of their salary if it meant they never had to go back.

‍“We take a secret, back stairwell out, so that management doesn’t see that we’re leaving.”

- An American Office worker at a fortune 50 company, To Us.

But what’s making the office such a difficult place to be?
The problem is bigger than the office itself.

A major reason for the grind is because office workers can no longer tolerate:

helicopter-parent management

Employers are so focused on bringing people back into the old ways
of working that they've missed the biggest thing standing in their way:

TRACKED... That they are being treated like children.

“It’s like we were tricked into staying in a prison, and then the guards let us out for two years, but now they’re like, all right, it’s time to come back in!"

- Office worker of a top 3 US Financial company, to us (has never been to prison)

Successfully working from home, independently, through the pandemic has proven
to office workers that previous levels of managerial control are
simply unnecessary.



feel that their employer’s management style is imposing to the extent that it’s hurting their mental health.



the amount the average office worker would be willing to reduce their salary if they could guarantee they would avoid helicopter-parent management

nothing new...

It turns out, this management style infected corporate and professional culture for more than a century—dating back to the industrial revolution. But today’s employees have seen that they (and their employers) are more productive with more autonomy. This time, they’re prepared to quit if things don’t change.

Post-pandemic, helicopter-parent management hits differently.

American office workers say that they have become more sensitive to their superiors trying to control them since the start of the pandemic.

Employers aren’t blind to the mental health challenges of their employees.

In fact, we’ve seen them scrambling to offer more flexibility with new policies like hybrid schemes or flex-time. But what employees truly want and need in returning to the office isn’t just a shift in corporate policy: it’s a change that will have to run deep - to the core of the employer-employee relationship:

style management

They need an environment where the employer trusts the employee to do their job in the way that’s most effective and efficient for each employee.

This requires a shift in mindset from a mindset based in control to one based in motivation.

59% of American office workers believe that if their employer gave them complete trust and freedom in how they did their job, it would have a positive impact on their mental health.

Let me work remotely, or give me a strong reason to be in the office. I would love an office with a 4 day week, but that's a lot to ask.

I just want management that treats me like an adult.


This isn't just a factor for current employment though, it's a priority when looking for future roles too.

more than half

of American office workers say that this level of trust is a must-have for any future roles they would consider.

Companies that can exorcize industrial-era ghosts will not only find success with employees’ mental health, but will thrive in the talent war raging at their doorstep.

To read more of the unedited words of these office workers, and a vision for the future of work from an Extremaduran foie gras farmer, read Nonfiction’s full report here.