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The New Employee-Side Requirement: Remote Work

A woman working remotely from her deck

Joni Mitchell originally wrote the popular song, “Big Yellow Taxi” in the 1970s. One of the key lyrics within the song is, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Naturally, this can apply to many things. But in a post-pandemic world, it seems quite appropriate for many of today’s employees. Having experienced a remote work environment and a flexible work arrangement, many hate to let it go. And as more and more employers are requiring workers to return to the office, several are rethinking their options. In fact, it’s not uncommon at all for employees currently to insist on remote work opportunities from their employers.

While many employers are making moves to allow remote and hybrid work schedules, others are resistant. As COVID restrictions relax, a sizable number of businesses are requiring their employees to return in-office full-time. But as it turns out, this might be the kiss of death for firms struggling with human resources. Highly-talented workers are insisting on flexible work arrangements based on their pandemic experiences. And if their employer refuses, they’re seeking remote work opportunities elsewhere. Without a doubt, labor has a strong bargaining position in today’s market. Therefore, companies had better pay attention to these requests if they wish to secure the best talent available.

“I’ve found that working remotely has given me more space for long-term thinking and helped me spend more time with my family, which has made me happier and more productive at work.” – Mark Zuckerberg

The Numbers Don’t Lie

For months now, major surveys have demonstrated that most workers today prefer remote work opportunities. (Check out Bold Business’ very own survey on remote work here!) Based on recent updates, this hasn’t changed. Among today’s employees, nearly 60% want positions that are fully remote while almost 40% prefer hybrid schedules. Only 3% actually prefer a complete return to the office. This highlights just how prevalent these sentiments are. If employers aren’t offering flexible work arrangements, they are failing to meet key applicant job search criteria. In fact, more than half of those searching for positions today are only looking for remote work opportunities.

Looking at this from an employer’s side, the statistics don’t match up very well. Among business firms today, more than 40% are insisting that employees return to the office full-time. Likewise, slightly more than a quarter are offering hybrid options and flexible work arrangements. This bodes badly for many companies as many employees are willing to quit over the matter. It’s not that they necessarily want to leave their positions. It’s simply remote work opportunities offer them a higher quality of life. Surveys report a fifth of workers would actually give up vacation or take a salary cut for remote work opportunities.

“When you look at the jobs that are offering more remote opportunities, it’s positions that are self-paced, where people can manage their workloads without others present or monitoring them, and there’s no requirement to interact with people face-to-face.” – Jesus Ranon, Supervisory Labor Economist, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Conflicting Concerns Between Employer and Employee

During the pandemic, workers weren’t the only ones to experience new flexible work arrangements. Employers were also forced to create remote work opportunities as COVID restrictions increased. In many instances, companies realized they could save on office space overhead while still remaining highly productive. But at the same time, others worried about “time-stealing” and a loss of creativity and innovation. While collaborative tools online and videoconferencing improved, shortcomings persisted. Thus, despite maintaining a productive environment, long-term concerns still existed.

A nice graphic showing remote work
Remote work opportunities are increasing–mostly because remote work is becoming a necessity.

Employees, on the other hand, saw things quite differently. Flexible work arrangements allowed individuals to spend more time with their families and avoid an unnecessary commute. Remote work opportunities also let them enjoy better work-life balance. All of this resulted in less stress and more free time for life outside of work. And having had a taste of this, most prefer not to return to their previous in-person work lifestyle. They believe flexible work arrangements actually enhance their productivity and creativity as a result of these benefits. Depending on where one is sitting, the perspective about remote work opportunities can be quite different.

“It’s unquestionable: hybrid work is here to stay. But this environment will present new challenges, and leaders should carefully assess what they’ll need to empower their people and business as they move into the future.” – PricewaterhouseCoopers

Meeting Workers in the Middle

Despite these differences of opinion, businesses must realize that a return to full-time, in-person work environments is not likely. Rather than resist that change, it will be important for companies to adapt embrace flexible work arrangements. In doing so, they will naturally be able to attract a more qualified workforce. But at the same time, they enjoy the chance to develop a positive work culture that breeds innovation and productivity. Dynamic companies learn to adjust to new environments and market demands. And given that today’s workers prefer remote work opportunities, it’s essential that employers reconsider their point of view.

This is not to say that there won’t be new challenges along the way. Anyone who has tried to collaborate on Zoom for hours on end realizes that technology burnout is a real thing. Likewise, businesses will need to find new ways to promote company values with remote work opportunities. Remote work procedures must mesh well with the company’s mission and approach the same way in-person practices did. And of course, flexible work arrangements will require changes in management and leadership as well. Established best practices for these areas have yet to be defined. But by perceiving these as opportunities rather than obstacles, companies can evolve and thrive.

A Positive Work Culture Is a Remote Work Culture

In the past, businesses recognized that a toxic work culture was something to be avoided at all costs. Not only did such environments decrease productivity, but they also resulted in high employee turnover. Interestingly, many workers today consider a lack of flexible work arrangements a feature of a bad work environment. For today’s job-seekers, employee surveys show many won’t even consider companies that resist remote work opportunities. Behind low salary and micromanagement tendencies, this was the most common reason to move on. As a result, it’s essential that companies today appreciate employees’ needs when it comes to flexible work arrangements. Those that do will be best equipped to succeed in an increasingly mobile society.


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