- Small businesses that did not operate remotely before the pandemic are divided on how their workplaces will look once it ends — and how they will deal with employees who refuse to return to the office, according to an April survey of 1,500 small business owners by Digital.com, an online review service.
- More than one-third, 39%, of respondents said that all employees must return to on-site work full-time after the pandemic, despite the fact that 30% said all employees have been working remotely since the pandemic and 18% sent some employees home to work remotely. Thirty-nine percent said they would fire employees who refused to return to the office full-time, while an equal share said they would not do so.
- Asked why on-site work is necessary, nearly half of respondents said most job functions could only be performed in-person, particularly those operating in information technology, business and finance and advertising. Slightly fewer, 45%, cited better interaction with clients, while 40% said employees were more productive on-site.
Multiple large employers have made headlines with plans to boost workplace flexibility following the changes adopted during the pandemic, but Digital.com's survey captures a small business perspective on remote and hybrid work that may differ significantly.
Still, the decision to bring employees back on-site permanently moving forward is not likely to sit well with some segments of workers. A March survey by Prudential and Morning Consult found more than two-thirds of U.S. workers, 68%, preferred to work in a hybrid model post-pandemic. Additionally, 87% of those who worked remotely during the pandemic wanted to continue doing so at least one day per week moving forward. Plans to be pulled back into the office elicited hesitancy; 42% of remote worker respondents said they would seek a different job if their employers took remote work off the table long term.
Even in research that has demonstrated some agreement between employees and employers on hybrid work, gaps have appeared. A May survey published by law firm Littler Mendelson showed that while 71% of employees preferred a hybrid model and 55% of employers said they would offer such a model, a majority of employers were at least "moderately" or "somewhat" concerned about resulting workforce management issues.
Employers that support hybrid work moving forward may try experimenting with different strategies to implement such models post-pandemic, such as creating different transition timelines for separate teams, sources previously told HR Dive. Others may need to update their employee handbooks to reflect which positions are eligible for remote or hybrid work as well as expectations around employees' hours.