Fewer Want to Work in Office 11/27 06:41
NEW YORK (AP) -- Justin Ryan Horton has two jobs. When he's not working
24-hour shifts as a firefighter, the 22-year-old is working as an
administrative assistant for a local community college from his home in
Firefighting is, of course, not a work-from-home kind of job. So when the
community college position gave Horton the choice to clock in remotely, he took
"I'm gone a lot being a firefighter," Horton said. "Instead of coming home
and then seeing my family for a few minutes before leaving to go to my other
job... I feel like I have just more time with (them) when I work from home."
The COVID-19 pandemic upended what working looks like for millions of people
all around the world. While many jobs can only be done in person, swaths of
employers shuttered their physical doors and moved their workplaces
Workers have since begun to return to the office in waves, at least for part
of the week, and navigating that transition is an ongoing and significant
hurdle for employers and workers alike. And many simply cannot fathom a return
to the pre-COVID status quo, changing how companies approach their staffing
Retaining employees who don't want to work in person is an issue for
companies, but relatively few employers (13%) have introduced new incentives
that would make employees more satisfied with it, according to a newly released
poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago.
About 3 in 4 human resources representatives say that retaining employees
who don't want to work in the office is a problem -- including 19% who call it
a "major problem." Another 54% of HR representatives call it a minor problem.
And only about one-third of HR professionals say employees at their workplace
are "extremely" or "very" happy about returning to the workplace.
"Once workers discovered that (remote work could be) less expensive and...
make their life a little easier, they just wanted to keep doing it, even once
the pandemic began fading away," Marjorie Connelly, senior fellow with NORC's
Public Affairs & Media Research department, told The Associated Press.
In both the HR survey and a separate poll of U.S. adults, researchers found
that the top factors behind employees' desire to work from home include their
prioritization of flexibility and work-life balance. Other HR representatives
and employees who work from home cite the length and costs of commuting as key.
Those are some of the main reasons that Megan Homis, 33, prefers remote
work. As a senior account executive for an advertising and marketing firm in
Southern California, Homis goes into the office once a month.
"With traffic, it's about an hour and 45 minute drive each way into the
office," she said. "And on top of that, I have two little kids -- so just
wrangling childcare for them with drop off and pick up is a lot."
Homis said the ability to work remotely will continue to be a priority for
her down the road. She would consider potentially going into the office more if
an employer offered sufficient incentives and support for in-person work, but
hasn't seen opportunities that would sway her in that direction yet.
Bill Castellano, a professor in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor
Relations, notes that flexibility is key -- particularly in giving employees
agency for scheduling their work.
"Employees really value more of when to do work vs. where to do work,"
Castellano, who was not involved in the NORC surveys, said. He added that this
is a key benefit for many remote workers today -- and could be duplicated in
physical offices with the right policy, such as having flexible start times.
There are some initiatives that could incentivize more employees to work
in-person -- or at least increase their satisfaction about already going into
the office -- the poll shows. Most hybrid workers (55%) say paying employees
more for their in-office work would provide "a lot" of encouragement for them
to work in-person more often.
Additional pay topped the list across respondents whether they were working
in-person, remotely (44%) or in hybrid (50%) roles. However, just 4% of HR
representatives whose companies have introduced new policies to get employees
back to the workplace say that higher compensation is among them.
Employees who are already going into the office -- either entirely or
part-time -- indicated that other incentives such as commuter benefits,
in-office childcare, free food and social gatherings could also add at least
"some" more satisfaction with returning to the office.
Those in-office perks had less sway among solely remote workers, Connelly
noted -- particularly social gatherings. "For example, I work hundreds of miles
away from the main office, so they can have a pizza party (and) all the pizza
parties they want, but I'm not going to be affected by it," she said.
Regardless, many U.S. employees have returned to in-person work, or had
never left. Most paid employees report that they work in person per NORC's
survey, and three-quarters of those in-person employees say they are required
by their employer to do so. About 1 in 10 indicate that they could work
remotely but prefer working from the office.
Meanwhile, about one-third of paid employees surveyed work remotely or in
hybrid positions. The majority cited convenience and work-life balance, as well
as a lack of in-office requirements, as reasons to do so.
The number of people working remotely has fallen significantly since the
peak of COVID-19 -- but is still far higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Estimates are mixed, but according to a Pew Research Center survey published
in March, 35% of workers with jobs that can be completed remotely were working
from home all of the time. That's down from 43% in January 2022 and 55% in
October 2020. Still, that's much higher than the mere 7% recorded before the
This coincides with dwindling work-from-home options from employers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 72.5% of private-sector
establishments, for example, had little to no telework in mid-2022 --- up from
60.1% a year earlier.
"I would think that this trend downward will continue, but I don't think
it's going to go down to zero... (or) where we were pre-pandemic," Castellano
said, adding that he believes the hybrid model will grow in popularity. "The
question is, what kind of schedule will that be?"