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


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  3 weeks ago  •  12 comments

By:   Ben Popken

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

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

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 jobs report, released Friday, revealed a still-volatile labor market with payrolls gaining just 199,000for the month of December, down from November's 249,000 and missing expectations of 422,000. It was a fizzling cap to a year when millions of workers voluntarily left their job each month.

So what's in store for 2022, as companies and workers waiting for a definitive return-to-office date must once again toss their plans in the air? With more unexpected disruptions the only safe bet, remote work is already taking the lead. By several measures, workers have more leverage than they have historically, amid rising wages, a record number of available job openings and "the Great Resignation."

Employees hold more cards than usual. One ace they have is a two-year track record of working from home without a drop in productivity — and many report an increase. Workers want remote options so they can cut out the commute, be their best both at home and at work, have more child care flexibility and reduce ongoing concerns about Covid exposure. It's a reckoning for employers.

"The most reluctant to face the new reality are going to have to experience significant pain to catch up," said Julia Pollak, labor economist for job site ZipRecruiter, referring to companies. "Many may close barn doors after the horses have bolted."

Already, jobs specified as "remote" receive 300 percent more applicants than jobs that are not, according to the site's data analysis.

While the remote boom started the strongest in the tech sector, the best positioned and most pre-disposed to embrace it, it is also spreading to other white-collar office jobs whose workers spend most of their day in front of computer screens and on a phone.

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

Now, hospital administration job listings that say they allow remote work get 92 percent more applicants. Human resource job listings that offer permanent remote work receive 70 percent more applicants.

"The idea of a full return is dead," said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University who studies management practices.

The change in attitudes can be charted in the survey he's been conducting of employers about their planned number of work-from-home days "post-Covid." From June 2020 to November 2021, the number of days has steadily increased, from 1.4 days per week to more than 2 days.

"Firms have become increasingly positive on work from home as the pandemic has dragged on. They have adapted their management, organization and IT to operate more effectively with work from home employees," Bloom said. "Additional return-to-office delays are likely to further increase long-run work from home levels."

"This is an underlying permanent shift that people are not taking seriously enough," said Marc Cenedella, CEO of online job search service Ladders, in a statement. "It's the largest change in American working and living arrangements 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 on the local PTA to who is running our local towns to how and where we live," he said.

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

Several organizations that had some of the most pro-office stances have softened their postures in recent weeks. Goldman Sachs, whose CEO called remote work an "aberration," told its bankers last week to work remotely until Jan. 18 because of rising infection rates. JPMorgan Chase extended its return-to-office date to Feb. 1.

In June, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman drew wide attention for telling workers he would be "very disappointed" if they weren't back in the office by Labor Day. "If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come in to the office," he said during an investing conference webcast.

Now, those very New York City restaurants are closingin droves due to confirmed and suspected Covid exposures. Gorman has changed his tune.

"I was wrong on this," he told CNBC last month, as omicron began to sweep the nation. "I thought we would have been out of it past Labor Day and we're not."

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

"I think we'll still be in it through most of next year," Gorman said. "Everybody's still finding their way and then you get the omicron variant; who knows, we'll have pi, we'll have theta and epsilon, and we'll eventually run out letters of the alphabet. It's continuing to be an issue."

Other big firms, including Citigroup, DoorDash, Google and Uber, have all said they're "pausing" return-to-work plans until conditions improve.

"No one really knows when offices will get back to the pre-omicron reopening plans, but most employers are hoping for this to peak sooner versus later," said William F. Ziebell, CEO of the human resources division at Gallagher's consulting firm.

Disease experts predict the omicron wave will peak by the end of January and recede "substantially" by March.

"I do think in places that we are seeing this really steep incline, that we may well see also a precipitous decline," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday at a media briefing.

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

Companies are having to get more competitive in 2022 to attract and retain talent, setting aside 3.9 percent of payroll for wage increases this year, according to the Conference Board, a private research group.

Corporate landlords are investing in amenities, hoping to lure back workers from their couches. Dry-cleaning pickup, fitness classes, new retail spaces, and on-site child care are among the offerings. Luxury offices are being positioned with Covid-aware design touches, with more open-air seating and outdoor gathering spaces.

Above all, employers and managers are on the hook to make a compelling reason for workers to come back, human resource experts say. Employees want to know they will have intentional opportunities and needs to connect and collaborate, not to simply show up for roll call meetings or be stationed at a desk so their work can be physically surveilled.

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


jrDiscussion - desc
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  Buzz of the Orient    3 weeks ago

My daughter is the Deputy Director of a Lobbying/PAC organization in Toronto (who actually runs the show because the Director is just a "name" person) and has been working from her home in Toronto for almost 2 years.  She's quite happy with that arrangement.  The picture at the top of the article tells an important part of the story - she loves being home with her dog so the arrangement is good for both of them.

Junior Participates
2  Snuffy    3 weeks ago

My employer spent a lot of money to remodel the offices I work out of, but right before Covid hit.  We went to remote work shortly after,  but as I'm in IT it's an easy change as I can work anywhere so long as I have high-speed internet access.  I started working from home in late January 2020,  and since then have only been in the office once and that was due to my home internet being down for the day.  It saves me a lot of money also as there's no wear and tear on the car, no gas usage to speak of (I only have to go fill my take once a month now), no going out for lunch, dry cleaning, etc...

I can only hope it continues on for the next 76 weeks until I retire...

Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
3  Hal A. Lujah    3 weeks ago

I’ve worked from home since day one of the pandemic, for a company I just started working for six months before that.  The computer they gave me doesn’t even have a camera, so the only connection I have with any colleagues is their voice and email / IM.  I would struggle to even recognize the ones I worked in the office with, and have never even seen any of the new employees.  It’s a weird new normal.  Got an email yesterday from HR asking me to participate in a team building exercise that somehow involves a chocolate tasting, saying that they need advanced notice so that they can send me the chocolate.  Does not sound very functional.

Professor Principal
3.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @3    3 weeks ago
Got an email yesterday from HR asking me to participate in a team building exercise that somehow involves a chocolate tasting, saying that they need advanced notice so that they can send me the chocolate.  Does not sound very functional.

That's just weird.

Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
3.1.1  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.1    3 weeks ago

Yeah, I’ll take the chocolate but how do you effective team build when you can’t even see your team members faces, and can only hear multiple people talking at once?  We used to do team building exercises in the office, and they were kind of fun, but this is just a bad idea.

Professor Principal
4  sandy-2021492    3 weeks ago

My sister-in-law will be working entirely from home for the federal government.  She has worked for the government for years, out of a DC office, but has also been on a hybrid work model for years - most days at home, with a day or two per week in the office.  She lived in the eastern panhandle of WV, and was able to take a Metro train on her office days.  She went entirely remote at the start of the pandemic.

She and her family have moved to Ohio.  She thought she'd have to take early retirement, but the pandemic proved to her and her supervisors that she could work from home effectively.  I mean, she's been doing so completely for almost 2 years.  So long as she has good internet access, she can keep her federal job.

Freshman Silent
5  Dragon    3 weeks ago

I worked in IT for an Israeli company before retiring in 2014. Last 2 years I worked from home 90% of time due to interacting with different time zones nationally and internationally. It was standard for this company to have remote workers. I liked working from home except boundaries of personal and work time can get blurred. I sometimes found myself working on non-workdays like holidays, vacations, after hours. Still, I preferred working from home. 

Professor Principal
6  JBB    3 weeks ago

Being the only employee of my company in my state my business always required that I operate from a home office. Between 1990 and 2015 my sales territory grew from one million to one hundred million dollars per year. This was only achievable because I was able to quit being a traveling salesman. Computers and cellphones made exceptional sales growth possible. My predecessor spent at least two hundred nights a year out on the road. By 2010 I was seldom away from my home office, except for out of state corporate meetings.

Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
7  Paula Bartholomew    3 weeks ago

If a job can be done from home, then it should be.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
8  Buzz of the Orient    3 weeks ago

Being fully retired for the past couple of years, no more teaching private students which I had done at my home, it's no longer a choice or a problem for me.  Gives me more time to prepare movie quizzes. LOL.

Senior Guide
9  XXJefferson51    2 weeks ago

This is great news for rural and exurb America.  People can move to distant areas and work while the quality of life for their family goes way up. A big house on its own property, nice parks, better schools, a slower pace of life, close proximity to recreation and still have good medical facilities, and decent shopping.  Such remote work has contributed to the local growth here. The flight from bicoastal urban areas by people who once could only hope one day to escape has been given the 

Senior Guide
9.1  XXJefferson51  replied to  XXJefferson51 @9    2 weeks ago

(Cut off comment continued) 

means to do so.


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