Like Claire, millions of employees across the United States have grown fond of telework since the Covid-19 lockdown and now companies are struggling to bring them back to the office. Before Covid-19, Americans workers had grown used to less-than-friendly job conditions, such as short vacations and little or no maternity leave, but the experience of working from home left them wanting more. “All of these practices that workers had become accustomed to in the US before have now then kind of disrupted by the pandemic,” chief economist Nela Richardson with the ADP Research Institute told AFP. American offices are still half-empty compared to February 2020, according to a weekly average calculated by Kastle, which manages the entry badges of 40,000 companies around the country. ‘The world is changing’ There are also wide disparities between different regions and cities: offices in California’s Silicon Valley, for example, have only recovered a third of their pre-pandemic occupants, compared with around half in New York and Washington, and as much as two-thirds in the Texas cities of Austin and Houston. “Collaborating and inventing is easier and more effective when we’re in person,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a memo to the company’s vast workforce back in February, ordering them to return to the office for at least three days a week. Many Amazon employees disagreed so strongly with the in-person working requirements that they took to the streets in front of the company’s Seattle headquarters last month to protest the move. “The world is changing, and Amazon needs to embrace the new reality of remote and flexible work,” the organizers of the demonstration said in a statement. Elon Musk, the billionaire boss of Tesla and Twitter, went a step further than Jassy, banning telework in the name of productivity and morality. “You’re going to (tell) the people who make your food that gets delivered, that they can’t work from home, the people that come fix your house, they can’t work from home, but you can?” he said in a recent interview. Half-empty offices A third of employees in the United States currently have complete freedom about where they work, compared with just 18 percent in France, according to a recent ADP study of 17 countries. “If I worked for an employer that required five days a week, I just don’t think that would be on the table for me,” Claire, the Washington-based consultant, told AFP. Claire, who requested anonymity to discuss her employment, goes to the office irregularly, usually once every two weeks, sometimes more often. And, given the upsides, she can’t see herself going back full-time.