Workers are gaining the upper hand in the WFH war

August 22, 2022, 12:00 PM UTC
Man laughing and smiling on video conference
Hybrid work isn’t going anywhere; employees like it too much.
10'000 Hours—Getty Images

Love it or hate it, remote work is the way of the future.

A slew of recent research points to the case. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York declared Friday that remote work is “sticking,” based on findings from its August service-sector survey. It found that the percentage of manufacturing and service work performed remotely in the region is still well above pre-pandemic levels, at 7% and 20%, respectively. (Service industries centered on office work, like professional services, saw a much higher level of remote work than industries that work with customers face-to-face, such as hotels.) Firms expect these shares to look relatively the same in a year.

The findings align with broader remote work forecasts. The latest from Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis of WFH Research, released last week, finds that employers are continuing to increase the number of days they’ll let employees work from home post-pandemic, now at 2.4 days per week. Hybrid work dominates among workers able to work from home, the research finds.

It’s a sign that some employers are surrendering in the return-to-office battle, recognizing that they may be better off allowing employees to work from home. More than three-quarters (77%) of business leaders across industries said offering remote or hybrid work will be critical to talent attraction and retention going forward, according to commercial real estate firm JLL’s recent annual survey on the future of work.

“Our research confirms beyond doubt that the hybrid model is now a permanent feature of the working landscape,” it states, noting that 45% of companies didn’t offer a hybrid work option pre-pandemic—a stat that has since dropped to 9%. Of the nearly 1,100 decision-makers JLL surveyed, 53% said their organizations will make remote working permanently available to all employees by 2025.

Offering a remote option is becoming firmly cemented as a must-have instead of a nice-to-have, the research all suggests. That means workers have the power, in spite of the long-held resistance from big-name holdouts like Elon Musk and David Solomon.  

The case for remote work, even if it’s part-time

Neglecting to make remote work an option may cause many more problems than it would solve. Namely, it could vastly up a company’s turnover rate—no small risk, particularly during the Great Resignation, when job hopping is no longer considered a red flag and company loyalty has become archaic. 

Research finds hybrid work can cut quitting rates at a company. Just look at Spotify, which instituted a work-from-anywhere policy allowing employee to work from home, the office, or both; it led to a 15% reduction in turnover compared to 2019.  

“People want that flexibility and that freedom,” Katarina Berg, Spotify’s chief human resources officer, told Fortune. “If you decide that you trust your people, and you took a long time to find them, and you want to treat them well and they want to be with you, it doesn’t matter where they work. Work is something you do and not a place you come into. As soon as we cracked that code…it was quite easy to do this.”

Hybrid knowledge workers are more likely than full-remote or fully in-person workers to report feeling productive, engaged, and optimistic about their work. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of hybrid workers said they felt a strong connection with their peers in a study by workplace software firm Citrix. That dropped to 63% and to 60% for in-office workers and remote workers, respectively.

“The rules of work have been fundamentally rewritten,” Traci Palmer, vice president of people and organization capability at Citrix, said in the study. “As our research makes clear, employees today prefer hybrid work, and perform better when given the flexibility to choose their location based on what they need to get done and where they feel they work best.”

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