An increasing number of companies are introducing rules for how staffers have to work more from the office now when covid is no longer considered a global health emergency by the WHO. Even Zoom, a symbol for remote work during the pandemic, has said staff should be at the office at least two days per week. But despite what CEOs say pushing for working from the office, they think remote work will keep growing, according to a new US survey presented by researchers writing in Harvard Business Review.
Executives expect both hybrid and fully remote work to keep increasing over the next five years, they write.
They say that remote work spiked during the pandemic, from about 6% of full workdays in the US to more than 50% in the spring of 2020. Since then, it’s steadily decreased and since early 2023 has hovered around 28%.
The Survey of Business Uncertainty is jointly run by the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, the University of Chicago, and Stanford University. It surveys senior executives at roughly 500 US businesses across industries and regions each month.
A question in one recent survey was: “Looking forward to five years from now, what share of your firm’s full-time employees do you expect to be in each category [fully in person, hybrid, fully remote] in 2028?”
- Fully in person at the office is today 75.7% while it in 2018 was 91.6%. Despite pushing for more staffers to work from the office, CEO’s expect it to be 72.6% by 2028.
- Hybrid work is expected to grow from 4.1% in 2018 and 14.1% today to 16.3% by 2028.
- Fully virtual/remote is expected to grow from 4.3% in 2018 and 10.2% today to 11.2% by 2028.
The researchers arguments for this development are four:
- Remote work technology is improving.
- Startups born since the pandemic are more likely to use it. As these younger firms grow, the share of jobs offering remote work will increase.
- The U.S. is well positioned for remote work. It has one of the highest rates of remote work of any country, behind only New Zealand and Canada among the 34 countries surveyed.
- Employees like it. Evidence suggests that working from home is valued by employees about the same as an 8% pay increase, on average. It’s a huge amenity and helps reduce turnover — in one recent, large study, by as much as 35%.
“Companies and their leaders should seriously consider the merits of working from home, at least a couple of days a week. Managed hybrid, where teams all gather in the office the same day or two each week, may well be the best of both worlds”, they write.
“It can be profitable for companies, popular with employees, and better for the planet due to less energy consumption.”
“While the future extent of remote work remains uncertain, there’s little chance we will see a big return to the office. Remote technologies will only get better, and employees will gravitate to firms with more flexible policies.”
“The biggest clue that the return-to-office push won’t work, though, is the fact that executives themselves privately predict that remote work will keep increasing.”
The report is written by Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University; Jose Maria Barrero, assistant professor of finance at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México; Steven Davis, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution; Brent Meyer, assistant vice president and economist in the research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Emil Mihaylov, senior economic research analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.