Are People Really Going Back to the Office in 2022?
Year two of the global pandemic. From Spring 2020 running strong into 2022, working remotely has become an acceptable and even expected part of most industries. But, what do people really want: to go back to the office, work a hybrid model, or work from home exclusively?
The answer to this question depends wholly on who you ask. What “people generally want” is so open to perception, the only way to truly know is with data.
Organizations are scrambling and struggling to find a working model that is sustainable and satisfactory for all employees, all the time. Rather than asking what the future of work is, or what employees expect of employers, companies should be asking how to bring the best out of their people to unlock their true potential.
What are the benefits of hybrid working?
For the majority of American workers, a well-balanced hybrid working model allows employees the freedom and flexibility that they need and allows companies the cohesion and collaboration that they need. When a company provides hybrid options, employees tend to feel happier and more loyal to their employers.
Here are some key hybrid work statistics:
- 87% want to work remotely at least one day per week.
- 70% would prefer a more flexible working model than they have at present.
- 68% say that the ability to work on-site or remotely is the perfect workplace model.
- 65% want in-person time with their teams.
- 63% of high-growth companies have already adopted a "productivity anywhere" workforce model.
- 58% want more remote options open to them than are currently available.
- 50% of employees would like to work remotely 3 or more days per week.
How can companies create an optimized hybrid working model?
According to McKinsey & Company, companies that set clear expectations and equip their teams for success will experience the results they want.
Communicating clearly when teams are expected to be online, gathering insights and responding to feedback about what is and is not working, establishing guidelines for documentation and information sharing all make for a quality hybrid working model. Additionally, investing in standardized and integrated virtual collaboration tools, providing training on digital technologies and tools, and providing reimbursement for home-office equipment and costs will help normalize flexible working and create equal opportunities for both in-office and remote workdays.
What are the benefits of working in the office?
39% of employers in the U.S. are requiring employees to work in the office full-time and are not offering flexible arrangements.
A survey of more than 30,000 Americans since May 2020 and supplemental research data from Harvard Business Review indicated that 21% of people never want to spend another day working from home.
There are three main reasons that some people prefer to work in the office:
Culture - Having your team in the office is one way to make sure your employees remain aligned with your core values.
Collaboration - Fostering collaborative relationships among team members can reduce workplace frustrations by making it easier to ask for help when needed, especially for more junior employees.
Purpose - Feeling connected to the organization improves overall job satisfaction and sets apart a career from earning a paycheck.
According to Forbes, the sense of belonging and social identity we have experienced since the days of the Industrial Revolution comes from solving problems together and using our talents in our professions as sources of personal happiness and fulfillment. Technology helps us connect with others, but it cannot serve the emotional health and physical wellbeing of connections with others.
What are the benefits of working remotely?
32% of the people surveyed say that they never want to return to working in the office full-time. In another study, 48% of people expressed the desire to be fully remote indefinitely.
Per the research:
- 90% of responders were as productive or more productive working remotely when compared to the office.
- 82% said that remote working was better for their mental health.
- 46% would leave for a job that offered remote work.
- 61% would take a pay cut (5-15%) to continue working remotely.
- 57% who returned to the office preferred working remotely full-time.
- 55% worked more hours remotely than they did in the office.
- 33% worked the same number of hours remotely as they did in the office.
Over half went on to say that working from home provided a break from the pressures of working in the office and from office politics. Returning to the office will mean re-learning how to navigate these waters all over again.
45% of workers now view being in the office as less important and have adapted well to remote working.
Most of the focus is on the quality of a given workday and lifestyle shifts rather than the work itself, with feeling stuck in one place and changing their routines at the core. Covid-19 has altered our comfort with being surrounded by other people, let alone all day rather than in the comfort of our own homes.
A report from MIT Sloan shows that remote employees are more innovative because of the requirements of virtual communication, perceptions of distance, and other factors that support better big-picture thinking: Activating the higher-construal thought process.
Some other benefits of remote working through virtual platforms include:
- Reduced production blockers - fewer interruptions and distractions from being in the office environment lead to increased productivity when coupled with good time management.
- "Brainwriting" - an adjustment from brainstorming, employees can write down their ideas or queries to discuss with their teammates together, which reduces self-censorship and promotes honest feedback.
- Virtual and technological work tools allow for sharing of information and opinions without the fear of group influence.
- Better individual input - virtual meeting platforms allow only one person to talk at a time, making it easier for less vocal or robust team members to have their opinions heard.
- The option of recording meetings creates documentation of information, allowing those who missed the session to catch up and others to review previously discussed ideas.
Are people applying for in-office jobs?
The pandemic has not only shifted how a company’s employees work, but how they hire talent. Companies who do not offer remote or flexible working options are unable to compete for the top specialists in their industries, and are having to offer highly tempting salaries to compensate.
According to sources:
- 94% of survey respondents communicated that their salaries should be based on their skill rather than their location.
- 85% of American workers would only apply for jobs that offer remote or hybrid working.
- 83% would leave a job that compensated remote employees differently than on-site employees.
- 30% would not even consider applying for a job that requires them to be present in the office 5 days per week.
- 60% would uproot and move to another city to avoid working in the office full-time.
Key Takeaways About 2022 Workplace Models
- Employers that don't embrace hybrid work models are living in the past and will be left in the dust.
- The decision to embrace hybrid work should not come from what the leadership prefers, but what the employees need.
- People are, for the most part, just as productive at home as they are in the office.
- Asking people to come back to the office full-time is a big deal.