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A startlingly low number of remote workers want to go back to their office routine after the pandemic

March 11, 2021, 12:30 AM UTC

We got some good news last week: The White House announced that by the end of May the nation will have enough COVID vaccines “for every adult in America.”

As the pandemic winds down, we’ll finally get to see what the future of work looks like. While the forced WFH experiment has challenged the dogma that work can’t be achieved at scale outside the office, that doesn’t ensure that remote work will dominate in a post-COVID world. 

To get an indication of where we’re headed, Fortune and SurveyMonkey polled 2,616 U.S. adults between Feb. 11 and 16. Our margin of error is three percentage points.

We found that 36% of U.S. office workers say they’d prefer to always be in the office once the pandemic is over. Another 18% of office workers say they’d prefer to be completely remote, and 42% prefer a mix of remote and in-office work (a.k.a. the hybrid model) once the pandemic is over. 

But the top-line numbers are a bit misleading. Among U.S. workers, 39% are still working remotely. And they aren’t eager to return to the office full-time. In fact, only 9% of office workers who are still remote say they’d like to always work in the office in future, 56% prefer a hybrid model, while 34% want to always work remotely.  

That finding is stark. It suggests that Americans who are the most eager to return to the office have already found their way back. It also tells us the old normal probably won’t return.

But it doesn’t mean remote work will remain the norm. Sure, some tech companies like Twitter have already embraced a permanent WFH model. But corporate America at large will likely pursue a mixed or hybrid approach. Chris Glennon, vice president and chief real estate officer at Intuit, recently said at a Fortune event that his company will embrace hybrid work. The challenge, he explained, will be to make sure teams thrive and generate new ideas in this setting.

*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 2,616 U.S. adults between Feb. 11 and 16. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus three percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.

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