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Onsite, Remote, Or Hybrid—Employees Pick For Now

American workers appreciate the ability to work from home, which saves them hours of commuting time. However, many believe that onsite work is more productive.

Photo by Luke Peters on Unsplash
Photo by Luke Peters on Unsplash

The pandemic has forced a change in preferences, perspectives, and plans regarding many facets of life. While much may return to the pre-pandemic normal, a lot will likely become the 'new' normal.

In the first phase of the pandemic-induced lockdowns, companies big and small struggled to keep operating. They were forced to allow employees to work remotely, often from their homes, to keep functioning. While the initial days were fraught with nerve-wracking tech glitches and funny/mortifying interruptions, most quickly found a new rhythm.

By the time pandemic restrictions and mandates were eased, many employers were forced to concede that remote work was possible, and employees were starting to enumerate the advantages. Some of the most common benefits were no time wasted on commuting to work, the flexibility of work hours and location, and increased family time.

As a percentage of the workforce resisted vaccine mandates, threatened to quit instead of getting the shot, and set off a spate of resignations, it became evident that returning to pre-pandemic job routines may not be a seamless shift. Strict instructions to return to the office were met with stiff resistance from many quarters.

To ease back into the routine and to retain staff, employers offered "hybrid" work options, a few days on-site (in the office) and the rest, remote (home or other location). The IBD/TIPP Poll conducted last month found that 55% of the survey respondents were employed, with 28% working onsite, 15% from home, and 11% using a hybrid model. 45% were not employed.

Current work status of Americans, Hybrid, remote, work onsite, do not work

Over the past two years, most of the workforce has adjusted to new routines and fallen into comfortable patterns. Many loathe the prospect of another change. The IBD/TIPP Poll asked the sub-sample of those working from home or using a hybrid model, "How likely are you to quit your job if your employer mandates you to work onsite?"

  • 38% Likely to quit
  • 51% Not likely to quit
  • 4% Did not respond

The responses reflect recent trends in the job sector. A closer look at the number further reveals -

  • 17% Very likely to quit
  • 21% Somewhat likely to quit
  • 19% Not very likely to quit
  • 32% Not at all likely to quit
IBD/TIPP Poll Results: Likelihood of Americans to quit if employers mandate onsite work

While close to a third responded that they would continue to work even if the employers required them to be on-site, a fifth was a little less firm in their decision. In some instances, companies, well aware of the sentiment, have been issuing on-site mandates in a move to cut down on staff numbers.

From the employees' perspective, remote work is no longer impossible or illogical. As the open letter from around 200 Apple employees to the management so eloquently stated, "Office-bound work is a technology from the last century, from the era before ubiquitous video-call-capable internet and everyone being on the same internal chat application."

For now, employees have the upper hand. Unemployment rates are at a historic low, and there are about two jobs for every applicant. A majority want to maintain their work-life balance, family time, and flexibility which the pandemic forced on them.

Despite a significant chunk of employees' reluctance to return to the office, surprisingly, a majority feel that the office environment is more conducive to productivity. When asked those employed, "Which is more productive?" the survey respondents opined:

  • 53% Onsite
  • 38% Home
  • 9% Unsure
IBD/TIPP Poll Results: Which is more produtive for American workers? Working onsite, from home, or not sure

Some companies, especially digital ones, are on board with the trend. META and Twitter are giving staff the option to choose remote work. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky went so far as to tell Time magazine, "The office as we know it is over. It's kind of like an anachronistic form. It's from a pre-digital age."

Such an outlook has companies trying to offload unused office spaces and save on overheads. Empty office spaces are now the bane of big cities like Chicago and San Francisco. Soon, the commercial real estate market will reflect a drop in demand and surplus supply, affecting prices in once prime locations.

With studies and surveys suggesting that a majority are healthier and happier while working from home and the pandemic having forced the shift, there are bound to be changes in how companies function and work is carried out. For now, it seems likely that the pandemic has taught most of us to be flexible.

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