Nearly two and a half years into the pandemic, the debate around remote work versus returning to the office continues to intensify. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every business and all work functions. But one thing is clear, the way we think about offices, remote work, and employees’ workplace needs has changed.
Companies have adopted a range of options
Many organizations are working to bring their workers back to the office. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, sent an email to his employees on May 31st, telling them that anyone who wished to do remote work had to be in the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week. Not a fan of remote work, Musk believes it allows people to avoid hard work. Similar to Musk, when asked about remote-work arrangements, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said, “I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal.”
Other companies have put the choice of where to work in the hands of their employees. In October of 2021, 3M announced a trust-based approach called “Work Your Way” that allows employees to choose what works best for them—in the office, remote, or a mix of both. SAP, Spotify, and Twitter have taken a similar viewpoint by allowing workers to decide where and how they work.
Then, there are companies like Yelp that have embraced a fully remote workplace after realizing that their employees could thrive and be just as productive if not more working remotely. At the end of July, Yelp plans to close its most consistently underutilized offices in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Dropbox, Deloitte, and Slack have implemented a remote-first workplace. CEO and co-founder of Slack, Stewart Butterfield feels that, “Work is no longer a place you go. It’s something you do.” He went on to say, “When I see headlines about CEOs trying to lure employees back to the office, I feel like it’s probably a doomed approach.”
What employees want
McKinsey’s most recent American Opportunity Survey found that since the start of the pandemic, employees are embracing remote work, like the flexibility it provides, and want it to continue. The survey found:
- 58 percent of workers have the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week and 35 percent have the option to work from home five days a week. The interesting finding was that the respondents work in all kinds of jobs, in every part of the U.S. and sector of the economy—even jobs that were traditionally considered “blue-collar” positions requiring on-site labor.
- Almost everyone works from home if they can. When offered, 87 percent of workers take the opportunity to work flexibly at least one day a week.
- A flexible working arrangement is a top three motivator when searching for a new job. McKinsey states, “Employers should be aware that when a candidate is deciding between job offers with similar compensation, the opportunity to work flexibly can become a deciding factor.”
Remote work influences
The McKinsey survey also found that age, gender, and income influence a person’s options to work remotely. Key findings from the survey include:
- Gender: Men (61 percent) are more likely to be offered remote work compared to women (52 percent). However, when given the chance to work remotely, women do so slightly more often (3.1 days per week, on average) than men (2.9 days).
- Age: Workers aged 55-64 tend to work remotely more often (3.1 days per week) than their younger colleagues ages 18-24 (2.5 days per week). People who could but don’t work flexibly tend to be older (19 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds offered remote work didn’t take it, compared with 12 to 13 percent of younger workers).
- Income: 75 percent of employees earning $150,000 or more can work remotely, compared to just 47 percent of those making between $25,000-$49,999.
Remote work and attracting and retaining talent
There will always be people that prefer working in an office and industries such as food, retail, and construction that need on-site workers each day. However, it appears that remote work is here to stay and is critical to a business’s success moving forward. Employees want the flexibility and autonomy to decide when and how they work. Employers must find the right balance of in-office and remote work options to keep their employees engaged and happy. Organizations that achieve this balance will have an advantage over their competitors in attracting and retaining talent in today’s candidate-driven labor market.
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