Just 1 in 5 companies plans to work fully in person this fall

August 20, 2021, 7:32 PM UTC

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, only 19% of companies are planning to have their workforce operate fully in person this fall, according to a new survey from PwC.

The most popular office plan? A mix of options. About a third of the over 700 executives surveyed by PwC reported their companies are planning to have a mixed model that includes in person, fully remote, and a hybrid format with some days in the office and others remote.

“Hybrid work is going to be a reality for many organizations,” Bhushan Sethi, PwC’s global people and organization coleader, said Thursday.

The report surveyed over 1,000 working Americans and 752 business executives, including those leading their organizations’ finance, risk management, human capital, operations, and technology units. The executives were from both public and private companies—72% of which were Fortune 1000 companies—in six sectors: industrial products; financial services; consumer markets; technology, media, and telecom; health; and energy and power.

The popular hybrid model poses challenges, Sethi said. Many managers, for example, still believe that hybrid and remote models represent a challenge to corporate culture, with 36% saying it’s a major challenge and 36% reporting they believe it’s only a moderate challenge.

To offset this, companies need to identify how they can lead inclusively and manage concerns around the inequities faced by anyone who’s working remotely at least part of the workweek, Sethi said.

The other big challenge around hybrid work is the tension that still exists between employers and employees, noted Sethi. “Employers want people back at a faster rate than employees are willing to come back.”

Among employees, nearly one in five wants to work remotely even if COVID-19 cases fall. On the flip side, an almost equal number (22%) want to spend almost all their time in the office, with less than one day per week working remotely.

About 21% of workers say the nature of their job doesn’t allow for remote work at all. That squares with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that found 22.7% of U.S. workers employed in February 2021 teleworked or worked at home for pay because of the COVID–19 pandemic.

Yet many employees are looking for more leeway in their workweek. PwC found that 65% of U.S. workers are looking for a new job, with salary, benefits, career advancement, and flexibility ranking among the top reasons workers cite for their job hunt.

“The majority of employees want to have some form of hybrid,” Sethi said. “So organizations, if they want to drive retention and the right culture, they’ve got to accommodate all different working practices and work locations.”

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