The potential for people to work from home and predictions of the death of the office have been vastly over- exaggerated, according to a study from the London School of Economics and Political Studies. Remote work was a rule during the pandemic and many employees want to continue working remotely while more and more employers seem to want the staff back at their desks.
Two extremes are Elon Musk and Facebook-owner Meta. Must at Tesla announced that “remote work is no longer acceptable” and when he had bought Twitter, he turned conference rooms into bedrooms for exhausted office workers. Meta, haid a totally different approach saying the company was recruiting people working totally remote and even based in cities where Meta does not have an office.
Meta said this strategy is increasing the diversity of candidates and workforce. 75% of staff is working from multiple locations.
A survey by Microsoft of 31,000 workers in 31 countries said 52% of employees are somewhat or extremely likely to prefer hybrid or remote work and 53% of employees are more likely to prioritize their wellbeing over work than before the pandemic.
Regardless of different views on remote work versus working at the office, a survey showed the average attendance in office is now no more than 26% with most people at the office mid-week. 88% work from home on Fridays.
Office attendance and desk usage is lowest in the tech sector and highest in the banking sector. The survey by consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates comprises close to 80 offices in 13 countries representing nearly 80 000 employees.
58% of organizations have at least some technician working in a fully remote borderless arrangement. This number has doubled in the past three years, marketing and research firm Gartner said in a report. 27% of leaders are exploring hiring borderless tech employees, the survey showed.
The survey found that among organizations that have borderless talent, 19% of their IT workforce is borderless. The top two areas of expertise that CIOs and IT leaders are looking at borderless talent for are software engineering/application development (62% of survey respondents) and application support (55% of survey respondents).
50% of organizations said they have fully implemented tools related to collaboration and productivity such as cloud office suites, workstream collaboration, meeting solutions and digital whiteboarding.
“This is no surprise that the rate of hiring borderless technology staff doubled in the last three years as increasing retention and hiring has risen to the No. 3 priority for CEOs 2022 and 2023,” said Gabriela Vogel, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner. “The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated borderless hiring, and what began as an exception, is no longer.”
India is the most selected country for recruiting borderless technology labour for European and North American companies. The survey found that Europe has a significant concentration of hiring inside its borders since Europe has favourable labour laws for hiring borderless staff.
A majority of news organisations have implemented hybrid working. 61% in a Reuters Institute survey say that their organisation has largely implemented it with new rules in place for staff. Anyway, 20% report that while their organisations are making some changes, they largely want to return to a pre-pandemic working model.
57% think their organisations are doing a good job with switching to flexible and remote working. 49% requires staff to be in the office for a compulsory minimum number of days a week/month. A further 29% of respondents indicated that their organisations follow a more voluntary approach, in which staff are expected to be in the office a minimum number of days of their choice.
Reuters Institute’s key findings:
- Having explicit rules, setting clear expectations and communicating them transparently – and, most of all, articulating the purpose of going to the office and making sure that the benefit of doing so is clear – helps when implementing flexible working models. But the jury is still out on whether employees actually want to be back in the office, with 39% of survey respondents reporting that their newsrooms are struggling to get people back, while 38% say they are not struggling.
- The office as a physical space has also changed: 47% of newsroom leaders said their organisations have already redesigned the office space to better accommodate hybrid working, with another 27% saying they are considering doing so. 31% report that their organisation has already reduced their office premises.
- 49% think that hybrid and flexible working has made hiring and retaining talent much or somewhat easier, while 65% think that hybrid and flexible working could increase their ability to hire diverse talent and have a positive impact on their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies.
- Looking at diversity, most of our respondents think their organisations are doing a good job with gender diversity (79%), but less so when it comes to ethnic diversity (47%), diversity from less-advantaged backgrounds (30%), and political diversity (27%).
- 33% of the leaders who participated in the survey indicated that gender diversity has been the single most important priority for their news organisations to change, while another 32% indicated it was ethnic diversity.
- One of the effects of the pandemic and hybrid working on newsroom culture that newsroom leaders worry about is a mounting sense of disconnect among employees, with 36% believing that hybrid and flexible working has weakened the sense of belonging to the organisation
The Institute for Gender and Economy and University of Toronto stressed that access to remote work is not equal. The ability to telecommute disproportionately belongs to higher-income, white-collar workers who are predominantly white and male.
“Those with poor access to housing and high-speed internet or who experience unsafe situations such as domestic violence cannot readily work remotely/”
“Remote work has mixed effects on well-being. It can reduce stress and exposure to microaggressions, increase motivation and job satisfaction, and allow for more time spent with family”, the institute’s report says.
“However, it may also contribute to increased exhaustion, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and other mental health challenges, particularly during crises such as the pandemic, and especially for people with caregiving responsibilities.”
After two years working from home, many employees want to continue working remotely, at least partly, but Microsoft’s annual work index shows a conflict with leaders wanting the staff back to the office. “The source of this tension is clear as business leaders seek a return to what once was”, the Microsoft report says.
50% of leaders say their company already requires, or plans to require, full-time in-person work.
This stands in sharp contrast to the data on the importance of flexible work to employees. Over half of respondents (52%) say they are likely to consider shifting to hybrid or remote work in the year ahead. And remote and hybrid jobs are still on the rise.
According to Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, in March of 2020, 1 in 67 U.S. jobs offered a remote work option. During the pandemic, this increased to about 1 in 7. And remote jobs on LinkedIn attract 2.6 times more views and nearly 3 times more applicants compared to on-site roles.
As the report said: “One thing is clear: We’re not the same people that went home to work in early 2020. The collective experience has left a lasting imprint, fundamentally changing how we define the role of work in our lives.”
The Microsoft report concludes that meeting employee expectations will require a mindset shift that considers the experience of the past two years.
50% of leaders in information worker roles said their company plans to focus on requiring full-time in-person work, while 52% of respondents say they are somewhat or extremely likely to consider going remote or hybrid in the year ahead.
The potential for people to work from home and predictions of the death of the office have been vastly over- exaggerated, according to new research from London School of Economics and Political Science.
“Before declaring that the office and our cities are dead, policy makers should be careful about seeing the world solely through the eyes of the metropolitan elite – whether they’re based in London, Milan or Washington. Not everyone is working from home, or can work from home, even if they want to”, says Riccardo Crescenzi, Professor of Economic Geography at LSE and one of the authors of the research paper.
The paper stresses that poorer regions and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been left behind by the digital revolution.
The research looked at data from Italy which shows that only 12% of workers were able to work from home at the peak of the pandemic in 2020. This contrasts with estimates, based on survey data, which project double this share of jobs could be done from home.
“Italy is the only advanced economy to have collected data on the remote working status of every single worker in the economy. However, the paper’s findings echo those of US research which measured remote work using information on commuting habits. It found that while working from home is common in large cities, less developed areas have a much lower share of people working from home”, LSE says in a summary.
“The UK needs to look at the signals that we are finding in the data from other countries. This tells us that there are practical barriers to the adoption of working from home for the less dynamic regions and sections of the economy. Remote working is not yet the force for inclusion and over-coming regional disparities that it is sometimes depicted as”, Crescenzi says.
“Current estimates of the adoption of working from home practices are based on the findings of widely used surveys which overly represent people who are working from home, because they are more responsive to online questionnaires. We should be careful about using this data to base important policy decisions on, such as the design and planning of urban infrastructure and transport.
The research found that remote working is more common among larger and more productive companies. 70% of large firms, with 250 or more employees, had at least one worker teleworking during the 2020 lockdown. Only 1%t of firms with fewer than 10 employees adopted working from home practices.
Companies that allow their employees to work from home also tend to be based in wealthier regions. In Lazio and Lombardy – home to Rome and Milan respectively – more than 21% of employees were able to work from home during the lockdown. This is in contrast to less than 2% of workers in the less developed, and poorer areas of Southern Italy of Calabria, Molise, Apulia and Sicily.
“Even after taking account for the different industrial composition of the regions – with more knowledge being based industries based in northern Italy – the gap between the estimated potential for people to work from home and the reality remains staggering”, according to the research.
Professor Crescenzi said: “If you are sitting in a small business in Newcastle, you may not have access to the technologies nor have managers with the right skills to make working from home successful in the way it can be for bigger, wealthier companies.
“If the government is serious about its levelling up agenda and supporting an inclusive transition to the digital economy, it needs to ensure that we have excellent broadband connectivity across all areas of the UK.”
Dr Davide Rigo, Leverhulme Fellow at LSE and co-author of the study, said: “Smaller companies need more support to train their workers in digital skills and knowledge, as well as help in adopting cloud technology – which is so essential for effective working between team members working remotely from one another.”