- A different set of preferences is emerging between employers and their employees on how to continue work arrangements after the danger of the pandemic has passed, a survey released May 12 by employment law firm Littler has found. While 4% of employers estimated that most employees prefer to come back full time for in-person work, 28% said they expected to require such an arrangement regardless.
- For both employers and employees, hybrid work still appears to be the prevailing model of choice, with employers reporting that 71% of their employees prefer a hybrid model, and 55% of employers saying they will offer it. Employers are demonstrably wary of the workforce management issues presented by a split between in-person and remote workers, however, with 8% reporting they are “very concerned,” 65% reporting they are “moderately” or “somewhat” concerned, and only 28% reporting they are not concerned.
- In addition to its findings on worksite preferences, Littler’s report explored employers’ plans for changing office policy due to COVID-19 and their plans to encourage use of and gather employee information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Future workplace structure has been top of mind for employers as more employees become vaccinated against the coronavirus and the CDC updates its guidelines to clear fully vaccinated people to safely associate without social distancing or wearing a mask.
Over the past year, employees have repeatedly indicated that they would prefer to work from home at least a few days a week in the future, even after the widespread threat of COVID-19 has subsided. In April, one-third of respondents to a survey conducted by Robert Half said they would look for a different job if forced to return to the office full time. Also in April, a different survey from Morning Consult found that 87% of workers want to continue to work remotely post-pandemic at least one day per week, with close to half of remote workers stating they would look for a different job if not offered that option.
Many employers have already implemented hybrid work models, with more saying they plan to adopt such a policy by late summer. Early, publicized embraces of permanent remote work — in addition to the acknowledgment that the widespread remote-work experiment introduced by COVID-19 was a success — has helped shape employee expectations.
While the tide appears to have turned toward a future of flexible worksites, hesitant employers have reason to be uncertain about the changes such a policy would introduce if extended indefinitely. A February survey from corporate training company VitalSmarts found that remote work can have a harmful effect on workplace communication. Workplace culture has also suffered as a result of remote work.
Employers may face tension as they attempt to deliver on workers' expectations of flexibility while preserving positive workplace culture. They can set themselves up for success by developing a clear policy and conducting a cost-benefit analysis that considers how to sustain culture and networks.