At the start of the pandemic, remote work allowed many workers, especially those without roles requiring on-site work, to keep working while staying safe from infection and caring for their families. Offering this opportunity became a necessity for many companies. It was the only way to keep moving forward amid workplace challenges.
Now that the pandemic’s impact on teleworking has lessened significantly, these businesses are faced with an important decision — keep remote work indefinitely, adopt a hybrid model, or force their employees to come back to the office.
On-site and remote work both have advantages
By now, employees who’ve been working remotely have solidified their feelings about it. Some employees have such a strong preference for remote work that they’re willing to switch jobs or accept lower pay to keep it. Others have a list of things they miss about being in the office.
As for which is the better option, there isn’t a clear winner:
- Productivity: One study found that work-from-home businesses saw a 3.3% productivity increase from early 2020 to early 2022, while productivity decreased by 2.6% for in-person services. Another study, however, found that remote workers, particularly employees with children at home, are less productive yet work more hours.
- Communication and connection: Though 48% of workers say the remote work environment makes communication more challenging, it doesn’t necessarily inhibit their experience to make human connections. On-site workers (42%) are more likely than hybrid (36%) and fully remote (22%) workers to feel a lack of connection.
- Work-life balance: Working remotely often allows employees more time to take care of at-home tasks, run errands, and care for family members. But, for some, being at home is more distracting. Caregivers and workers with children at home are more likely than on-site workers to say that those family demands impacted their ability to work effectively.
- Career development: Even if they spend a significant amount of their time in Zoom meetings, remote workers often miss out on promotions. More than 75% of business leaders admit that their in-office workers are more likely to receive promotional opportunities. And 44% of remote workers say it is more difficult for them to get recognition for their work.
- Commute and travel: Remote workers were already benefiting from the ability to skip the daily commute to and from work, but rising gas prices have made this even more of an advantage. They generally also have more freedom to travel and work from abroad.
Remote work still desirable, but less of a priority
Remote work hasn’t fallen out of favor — the majority of employees (87%) have taken advantage of the opportunity to work remotely if their employer offers it. More than half (58%) of Americans have been able to work from home at least one day a week, 35% of whom have been working from home five days a week.
Younger workers, those with more education and higher incomes, and those in knowledge work professions are most likely to receive remote work opportunities. But even those with occupations that require direct, on-site work have been able to do at least some tasks remotely.
That said, remote work isn’t necessarily a must-have among today’s job seekers — higher pay and career advancement opportunities are deemed more important. So while the ability to work from home may attract more candidates across a broader geographic area, it’s not the primary reason most are looking for a new job.
Gen Z workers, in particular, may not be as interested in remote work as one might expect. Only 23% consider remote work “very” or “extremely” important to their next job, and mentorship and career growth opportunities prompt them to prefer on-site work.
Gen Z also tends to prefer in-person training and onboarding. That’s not surprising, given the additional onboarding challenges cited by new remote employees. Seven in 10 face difficulties getting required software and office equipment and the same number cite challenges getting to know their co-workers and manager.