Economy

Full return to office is ‘dead,’ experts say — and remote is only growing

The return to the office once seemed inevitable. Now, it’s remote — forcing employers into a "bend or break" moment.

The rise of remote work, in what some labor experts are calling “the largest change in American working and living conditions since World War II,” is set to accelerate and become a more permanent fixture as of 2022, industry observers say.

The latest employment report, released on Friday, revealed a still volatile labor market with payrolls rising just 199,000 for the month of December, down from 249,000 in November and below expectations of 422,000. It was a cap. sizzling for a year in which millions of workers voluntarily quit their jobs each month.

So what awaits us in 2022, as companies and workers awaiting a final date back to the office must re-launch their plans on the air? With more unexpected interruptions as the only safe bet, remote working is already taking the lead. By various measures, workers have more influence than historically, amid rising wages, a record number of open positions and “the Great Resignation.”

Employees have more cards than usual. One ace they have is a two-year history of working from home without a drop in productivity, with many reporting an increase. Workers want remote options so they can reduce commuting, do their best both at home and at work, have more flexibility in caring for children, and reduce current concerns about Covid exposure. It is a reckoning for employers.

“Those most reluctant to face the new reality will have to experience significant pain to catch up,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter job site, referring to companies. “Many can close the stable doors after the horses have escaped.”

Jobs specified as “remote” already receive 300 percent more applicants than jobs that are not, according to site data analysis.

While the remote boom started most strongly in the tech sector, the best positioned and most predisposed to embrace it, it is also spreading to other office clerical jobs whose workers spend most of their day in front of computer screens and at work. one telephone.

Jobs specified as “remote” already receive 300 percent more applicants than jobs that are not.

Now, lists of hospital administration jobs that say they allow remote work get 92 percent more applicants. HR job listings that offer permanent remote work receive 70 percent more applicants.

“The idea of ​​total return is dead,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University who studies management practices.

The change in attitudes can be recorded in the survey he has been conducting with employers on the planned number of “post-Covid” work-from-home days. From June 2020 to November 2021, the number of days has increased steadily, from 1.4 days a week to more than 2 days.

“Businesses have become increasingly positive about working from home as the pandemic drags on. They have adapted their administration, organization and IT to operate more effectively with employee work from home, “said Bloom. “Additional delays in returning to the office are likely to further increase long-term work from domestic levels.”

“This is an underlying permanent change that people are not taking seriously enough,” said Marc Cenedella, executive director of the Ladders online job search service, in a statement. “It is the biggest change in the living and working arrangements of Americans since World War II.”

“Since people can work from anywhere, they can live anywhere, which will have a fundamental long-term impact on everything from who is in the local PTA to who runs our local cities and how and where we live,” he said .

By the end of 2021, the number of permanent remote positions available doubled from 9 to 18 percent, according to data analyzed by Ladders. That could rise to 25 percent by 2022, according to the analysis.

Several organizations that had some of the most favorable positions on the office have softened their positions in recent weeks. Goldman Sachs, whose chief executive officer called remote work an “aberration,” told its bankers last week to work remotely until January 18 due to rising infection rates. JPMorgan Chase has extended its return-to-office date to February 1.

In June, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman drew a lot of attention for telling workers that he would be “very disappointed” if they didn’t get back to the office before Labor Day. “If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come to the office,” he said during a webcast of an investment conference.

Now those same New York City restaurants are closing in droves due to confirmed and suspicious Covid exposures. Gorman has changed his tune.

“I was wrong about this,” he told CNBC last month, when omicron began sweeping the nation. “I thought we would have been out after Labor Day and we are not.”

Remote pressures are mounting … with significant numbers of positive tests, employees with the virus, and schools staying remote.

“I think we’ll still be at this for most of next year,” Gorman said. “Everybody keeps finding their way and then you get the omicron variant; who knows, we will have pi, we will have theta and epsilon, and eventually we will run out of letters of the alphabet. It is still a problem ”.

Other large companies, including Citigroup, DoorDash, Google and Uber, have said they are “halting” return-to-work plans until conditions improve.

“No one really knows when offices will reopen to pre-omicron reopening plans, but most employers expect this to peak sooner rather than later,” said William F. Ziebell, chief executive officer of the human resources division. from Gallagher Consulting.

Disease experts predict that the omicron wave will peak in late January and reverse “substantially” in March.

“I think where we’re seeing this really steep incline, we may also see a precipitous decline,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday at a Press conference.

Meanwhile, “remote pressures are building … with significant numbers of positive tests, employees with the virus, and challenges for caregivers, such as schools staying remote,” Ziebell said.

Companies will have to become more competitive in 2022 to attract and retain talent, setting aside 3.9 percent of payroll for pay increases this year, according to the Conference Board, a private research group.

Corporate owners are investing in services, hoping to attract workers to their couches. Offerings include dry cleaning pickup, fitness classes, new retail spaces, and on-site babysitting. Luxury offices are positioning themselves with Covid-conscious design touches, with more outdoor seating and outdoor gathering spaces.

Above all, employers and managers are committed to creating a compelling reason for workers to return, HR experts say. Employees want to know that they will have intentional opportunities and needs to connect and collaborate, not to simply show up at roll call meetings or be stationed at a desk so their work can be physically supervised.

“Leaders must create a compelling environment that gives employees a reason to return to their workplace and convinces them of the benefits of being together in a shared physical space,” wrote the Gallup research firm.

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