Remote work is rebounding again because commuting to the office is too expensive

February 14, 2023, 7:36 PM UTC
Man working at computer
Remote work is on the rise again.
Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa—Getty Images

Some things are fads, like waterbeds or suburban kitchens designed in a Tuscan style. Other things are timeless, like a worn leather jacket—or, increasingly, remote work. 

Work-from-home policies have ebbed and flowed over the past year as companies ushered workers back to the office on either a full-time or a hybrid basis. While remote work persists, fewer workers have been working from home than they were at the start of the pandemic. 

But recent LinkedIn data shows that remote work might just be able to stand the test of time: Over the past couple of months, the gradual decline in remote work has reversed. In November, 55% of employees were onsite and 25% were working remotely. But that gap has closed a bit, with 50% of workers in the office and 28% working from home. 

This shift might partly be seasonal—people often feel more unmotivated or unable to commute during the winter months, George Anders, LinkedIn’s senior editor at large, tells Fortune. And workers are looking to cut out expenses like a trip to the office because of stubborn inflation.

“Many Americans also are watching their household budgets closely right now, with the down economy and inflation,” says Anders. “Working remotely is often a money saver because it reduces commuting costs to zero, while also making lunch, coffee, et cetera, much more affordable.”  

It’s a welcome change of the tides for those who prefer to make the couch their office. In the fall of 2022, the number of people interested in remote jobs outpaced the number of opportunities being offered. Remote offerings peaked in March 2022, sitting at 20% of listed postings according to a LinkedIn analysis from January. That number slumped to just 14% of job listings in November.

The waning availability of remote positions might stem from leaders feeling less pressure to accommodate their workers as they anticipate a shifting scale in power should a recession come, explains Fortune’s Trey Williams. But that doesn’t mean interest in remote-friendly jobs is gone—they were racking up as many as 50% of all job applications that LinkedIn measures.

Recession or not, bosses can’t bank on employees relinquishing their flexibility so easily. Layoffs across the tech and finance world aren’t enough to stop employees from quitting in search of what they want.  Perhaps that’s why remote work is coming back around.

“It’s also important to draw the distinction between the availability of advertised remote work, which is shrinking, and employees’ ability to find or invent remote opportunities, which in some cases is unstoppable,” adds Anders, explaining that sometimes hiring teams will not specify that a position is a remote one, but will later establish that an office isn’t needed to get the work done.

Either way, it seems remote work has proven to be appealing enough that executives simply can’t ignore its pull anymore.

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